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Narrator and Point-of-View and Details

Who is telling the story? This is the narrator Whose eyes do we see the action through? This is the point-of-view. These work together to present a window onto the story.

There are four types of narrators: first person, second person, third person and the omniscient narrator.

In first person narration, the main character relays the story as seen by that character. For example, I listened at the keyhole in anticipation as Lord Frazzlefoo said, “Where are my suspenders?” Even though Lord Frazzlefoo has dialogue, it is the first person narrator who hears it and relays the conversation to the reader.

If Lady Poobob was in the garden painting Lord Frazzlefoo’s suspenders green at the same time, the reader won’t learn this unless the first-person narrator observes it or discovers this fact later. First person narration puts everything in the narrator’s point-of-view. This can be limiting. There is no overall grand sense to the story. However, it gives the story a sense of immediacy, as if the main character grabs the reader by the shoulders and shouts, “This is my story. You have to hear it.”

Second person narration is rarely used in novels. It addresses readers as if they are the main character in the story. It can be seen in role playing games or build-your-own-adventure books. It’s always told in present tense, as if the action is happening at the moment the book is read. You listen at the keyhole as Lord Frazzlefoo says, “Where are my suspenders?

Third person narration presents the characters as separate from the action. It can be told from the point-of-view of a single character or through the eyes of many characters. This is often seen in large, epic stories.

Detective Samuels peered through the keyhole as his heart pumped in anticipation. I’ve got you this time, he thought.

Inside the room, Lord Frazzlefoo rummaged through his closet. He was certain he put the suspenders away. “Where are they.” He wondered if Lady Poobob took them.

In the garden, Lady Poobob sat on a bench with Lord Frazzlefoo’s suspenders in her hands. She smiled as she dipped a brush into green paint and slathered it on the braces.

Here we see and hear the story and inner thoughts through the eyes and ears of the detective, Lord Frazzlefoo and the omniscient narrator who describes Lady Poobob’s actions. This is an example of multiple viewpoints.

In third person narration, we can add even more information known to none of the characters through the omniscient narrator who sees, hears and understands everything.

Lady Poobob was certain they’d fetch a hefty price in London. With the telephone out of service, everyone was unaware the market for green suspenders collapsed that morning.

Details are best remembered when given through the eyes of the characters.

Tom felt the cold steel of the railing as he descended the staircase will be remembered better than The steel railing was cold.

Descriptions give the impression of a place or objects. They shouldn’t be travelogues, as in:

Bright sunshine sparkled on the placid waters of the lake surrounded by tall trees whose green leaves were in dark contrast to the blue sky filled with fluffy clouds.

Unless these details are important to the story or character development, they should be condensed.

Sun sparked off the forest lake.

This may be all you need. It gives a feeling for the place. Readers will fill in their own secondary details.

Even in historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy, worlds that are in the past, have yet to occur or never existed, details should be carefully selected to enhance the story and character development. Let the details of a Victorian carriage signal the mood of a character or a social condition. Inform readers the threat an energy field protects a space ship from. Let an epic poem told by a bad in a fantasy story foreshadow events to come. Always put your details to work.

Read your work aloud

It’s easy to miss problems and mistakes when you edit your manuscript. Our minds tend to fill in words that aren’t there and skip ones that don’t belong.

I go through multiple drafts. The first draft gets ideas, situations, characters and relationships from my mind into a physical form. It’s in rewriting the second, third and subsequent drafts where a manuscript is crafted into a novel.

I write the second draft in a word processor. It’s easy to make corrections, shift blocks of prose around, delete sections and create new material. For the third or fourth draft, depending on how much grunt work I have to do, I print the manuscript out on paper and go through it with a red pen. Things stand out on paper that can be missed on a screen.

As well, writers use different parts of their brains when they type than when you write by hand. Typing tends to draw on the analytical brain and handwriting on the emotional side. I can’t write poetry directly on a computer. When I finish the edits on paper, I enter the corrections back into the word processor.

The last step is to read the work out loud to myself. When I voice the text, missing words, mistakes and inconsistencies pop out.

What are we teaching children?

Children today are thrust into the adult world with little or no perpetration. I am no prude, yet I'm concerned young people are being robbed of their childhood as they are bombarded with subjects and the portrayal of situations they don't fully understand to form twisted ideas about human relationships both social and personal. We, as adults, are responsible to guide them without oppressing them so they can explore the world and their emotions in safe environments. The Internet removes that guidance. AI will exasperate the ability to gently introduce children into adulthood as they grow. This has affected our societies for decades and created an infantile culture. Responsibility is overridden with the constant hunt for instant gratification and entertainment. The road back begins with children. They look to adults and mimic them. If adults fail to teach respect and compassion without perspective, our socialites will move further and further away from civility.

Writing with a purpose

As I write, I make the work entertaining and build interesting characters. At the same time, my books express my artists intentions with themes presented as stories and not lectures. One of the themes I explore is gender equality.

Beyond the Shallow Bank
This morning, on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) magazine format radio program The Current, there was a half hour discussion about the history of pockets with a particular emphasis on how women’s garments lack them, or the pockets are so small they’re useless.

Men have had useful pockets since the 15th century. Women’s garments only saw pockets in off-the-shelf products in the early 20th century, and they were mostly for show. Woman have spoken and written about this exclusion for centuries. It was raised during the women’s suffrage movement. Even today, pockets on women’s clothes are so small a smart phone can’t fit into them. They must be carried in handbags, which one suffragette referred to as, “The bag of oppression.”

In Beyond the shallow Bank, my historical women’s fiction novel with elements of Celtic mythology, the main character, Margaret Talbot, lives in the male dominated society of 1901, but she doesn’t simply accept her supposed place. Here is a quote from the book concerning women and pockets.

“She got down from the wagon, tucked the sketchbook under one arm and slid a pencil into the pocket she had sewn into her skirt, wondering, as she had many times before, why women’s garments were not designed with such a useful feature.”

Later in the book, Margaret comments on the privileges enjoyed only by men as she defies convention.

To plot or not to plot - why are we asking this question?

There's a rude and inaccurate phrase being spread in online writing groups, "Plotter or Pantser." It implies those who plot out a story in an outline first are professionals and those who don't are amateurishly flying by the seat of their pants. There are professionals who plot with outlines and professionals who don’t.

We who don’t are not flying by the seat of our pants. We start with characters and a situation. As we write, we place characters under pressure and see how they react. That reaction revels the characters true natures, moves the story forward and examines the themes presented, all of which we don’t know in the beginning because we’re discovering our own perspectives and the nature of the world as we uncover the story. The words plot and story are sometimes used interchangeably, yet are quite different. Plot consists of the incidents. Story consists of the incidents, world building and character development. People want to read stories, not plots.

James Patterson writes detailed, chapter by chapter outlines before he puts down a single word of prose. This obviously works for him because he’s a bestselling author and people love his well written books. He’s writing a particular type if book, a puzzle that he lays out, cuts up with a jigsaw and assembles in front of readers. He also works with collaborators He'll give the outline to another author who will write some chapters or the entire book. An outline makes this easier.

If plotting an outline works for you, that’s what you should do. Just don’t use rude terms like pantser for those who don’t. Stephen King, Salmon Rushdie and Margaret Atwood never create outlines or character sheets before putting down prose. None of them can be considered struggling armatures.

Making personal appearances that sell books

Making an appearance at a bookstore, reading or farmers’ market is a great experience.

All the bookstores I’ve appeared at were supportive and helpful. They supplied water and even snacks. Each of them advertise the events on their social media accounts. I also make announcements on my website and on social media.

Quite frankly, it’s not worth the money to pay for advertising. Tell friends, co-workers and family and ask them to spread the word.

I find the best way to do any appearance is to approach it as a service. Share your enthusiasm for a book people might enjoy and don’t think of it as trying to make a sale. Be sincere. People can spot artificiality.

What works for me is to say “Hello” to everyone. Some people say hello back and move on. Some people ignore me. Some people stop. When they do, I give a 15 second overview of my books (I have 5 titles). That’s all the time you have to attract interest. My 15 second overview is:

I’m the author of all the books you see on this table ranging from women’s historical fiction with rumors of Celtic mythology to an epic fantasy trilogy to a science fiction novelette that asks, ‘Artificial Intelligence - what could possibly go wrong?’

If this holds people’s interest, take another 20 to 35 seconds on a book they seem interested in by watching their eyes move across the titles and go into more detail.

For the historical novel I say:

This is the story of Margaret Talbot, an artist who fights her way into the male dominated world of publishing in the late nineteenth century, the way many historical women did, to become a magazine illustrator, but she has a life changing crisis, comes to a small fishing village and meets many people. One young woman named Sara skips and jumps and sings nonsense songs. Margaret fears Sara had a childhood trauma, but some in the village say she’s a selkie, a magical being from Celtic mythology who walks on the land as a human and swims in the sea as a seal. With the influence of the villagers, and her own self-determination, Margaret strives to discover who she is and what she truly wants.

Some may want to talk more about one of your books. Some may want to tell you about a book they’re working on and ask questions about writing. Some may tell you the most intimate and interesting stories about their lives. Take your time, be honest and make connections with everyone.

Present the spirit of the book more than the plot. Concentrate on the relationships between characters. That’s what people like to hear about. Don’t speak at anyone, engage people in two way conversations. Listen as much as you talk. Let the conversation wander away from your books. Some people will buy a copy and others won’t. Keep the attitude you’re there to meet folks and connect.

I sell between 12 and 25 copies this way over a 4 hour period.

The greatest joy is when someone who has read one of more of my books tells me how much they enjoyed it. This makes it worth all the work.

A powerful collection of poems

Woman Strong by Anna Casamento Arrigo
Strong Woman: A Collection of Poems by Anna Casamento Arrigo is a deeply moving examination of love found, love lost, motherhood, childhood and surviving a stroke. The poems are honest and powerful, each written with passion. The poet exposes her fears, desires, disappointments and dreams in intimate detail. Within the text are black & white photographs that illustrate the moods of the poems. I have worked in black & white, which is actually a myriad of shades, for decades and love the medium that cuts through the distraction sometimes found in color to express emotions with clarity and impact. Ms. Arrigo has written children’s books, a romantic thriller and a memoir as well as volumes of poems. Eight years after a stroke she continues on a healing journey and quotes Robert Frost, “I have miles to go before I sleep.” Woman Strong is a journal of that healing process both women and men will identify with.

Effecting change through books

Nonfiction informs the world. Fiction can change it by humanizing the plight of others. Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist shocked the British people with the suffering of child labor. They demanded Parliament act where reformers had tried and failed. Every story draws us together as a society. Some entertain us. Some make us laugh. Some make us cry. Some reveal truths and give us the opportunity to examine ourselves so we can choose to bring about change.

My approach to creating a book

There is no one process everyone must follow to write a book. All authors must find methods that works best for them. Some write plot outlines that range from general overviews to chapter by chapter details before they put down prose. There are writers who create descriptions of each main characters with their background, history and traits. As with outlines these vary from general to in depth. Others, like Salman Rushdie, David Mamet, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King Margaret Atwood and me don't write either.

Like the other authors mentioned above, I start with a concept I want to explore, place characters in a situation under pressure and see what happens. The way the characters react reveals their true natures and moves the story forward.

As I write, I learn more about the characters and story. New concepts come to mind. I may realize a setting is wrong. I may turn a hero into a villain. When these ideas come, I don’t go back and change previous martial. I make a note of them and continue from that point as if I had already made the changes.

I keep going until I finish the first draft. Before making any changes, I read the entire first draft. It will have grammar and spelling mistakes, dead ends, missing martial and inconsistencies. It will also have the core of the story and character development.

It’s then that I sit down, consult my notes and begin a second draft where I edit the manuscript and fix not just grammar and spelling, I make the adjustments I noted, alter character relationships, adjust scenes and so forth. I will find that some of the notes I made no longer apply to how the story or characters turned out. As I work, I’ll think of new story elements and characterizations that were not noted. Things shift and change. That’s good. The manuscript is taking on life and consistency.

When I finish the second draft, I read it without making changes, then start a third draft. You may be tempted to think only one pass is needed, yet you will be shocked at how many problems and mistakes you’ll find while writing the third draft; grammar mistakes, missing words, duplicated words, spelling errors, character development, story elements, etc. With the third draft complete, I start the fourth. I keep writing drafts until I’ve combed the manuscript to be the best I can produce. It will never be perfect. It is said a novel is a long piece of writing with mistakes. The stopping point for me is when I see the things I wanted to talk about, the representation of the characters, and the entertainment value express what I set out to deliver. For the final book of a fantasy trilogy, I wrote ten drafts because it had to tie up all the lose ends.

After I complete my drafts, the book goes to my editor. We than work together to improve it. This method has served me through five novels and an illustrated edition of one. Three of these books have won awards. Writing a novel is really rewriting until it sings.

Beware of cold calls praising your work

Well, I got another call from someone saying my novel came highly recommended and I was selected to receive something. Ya - Right. This is the fourth call I've received from different people who name one of my published books, say it was highly recommended (not just regularly recommended mind you) and I had been selected for their service. I never answer calls where I don’t recognize the name or phone number on caller ID and let them go to voicemail. This one actually had a company name displayed. The callers usually have thick foreign accents that are nearly incomprehensible. This one was understandable and stated the company name and said I was selected for a contest. I looked them up. They claim to offer interviews, reviews and marketing. This one has a contest I'd never heard of and I suspect no one else has either. If you receive a call saying your book was recommend and you were selected for something, you can out dollars to donuts it's a scam. Many self-published authors and independent publishers are desperate for any exposure or praise. Don't bite or you may get bitten.

The Place of the Pun

A pun is a play on words, a statement that turns spelling or phrases around in a humorous manner. I can paddle, canoe? (I can paddle, can you?) When avoiding chores around then house, mother is the necessity of invention (necessity is the mother of invention).

I had a teacher who hated puns and said they were the lowest form of writing. The TV show Get Smart, a comedy where Don Adams played an inept secret agent when spy movies were popular, was running at the time. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, each episode contained an onslaught of puns in a style Brooks used in his parody films such as Blazing Saddles and Space Balls.

My teacher despised the show and used it as an example of what should never be done. Her idea of good writing was Shakespeare.

I loved Get Smart and all the puns. I can still watch it today and laugh Thinking back, I don't believe that teacher actually understood Shakespeare's works because they're loaded with puns. However, the language and culture has changed so much over 500 years. Many people today don't recognize the humor.

This might sound like a meaningless exchange that's anything but funny. Yet, to audiences in the 16th century it brought uproarious laughter. They understood the joke. At that time, to face a man had two meanings, either to stand up to him or for a tailor to add decorations to a garment. Braved also had two meanings— to challenge someone to a dual or for a tailor to measure someone for garments.

This might sound like a meaningless exchange that's anything but funny. Yet, to audience in the 16th century it brought uproarious laughter. They understood the joke. At that time, to face a man had two meanings, either to stand up to him or for a tailor to add decorations to a garment. Braved also had two meanings— to challenge someone to a dual or for a tailor to measure someone for garments.

For puns to work, they must contain know cultural references. That modern audiences don't always get the puns in Shakespeare's plays doesn't mean people today are dumb. They just don't have the same connection to the older culture and language. Even for subcultures within any modern societies, the puns will differ and may not me understood by people in other groups.

It takes a lot of wit and intelligence to write puns. They make us pause, shake our heads, and if their really good, groan when people get them.

Keep going through the first draft

A portfolio of William Shakespeare's plays
The first draft of a novel is the initial creation of the story. The result will produce a manuscript, not a publishable book. The manuscript must be rewritten several times to craft a book. There will be many false starts, weak writing and mistakes. That doesn’t matter. I never write outlines; I just begin with a situation, put characters in it under pleasure and see what happens. Not everyone works this way. If you do write outlines before starting a book, don’t feel you must constrain yourself to them. You don’t fully know the story you’re writing or the characters you’re creating until you work with the prose for a while.

As you write, concepts will come to mind that you hadn’t thought of. You will realize the true nature of relationship between characters and imagine new twists in the plot. Put these things down and let your imagination run free. If you start on a divergent path, follow it to see where it leads. You may eliminate it later, but explore it anyway. It might lead to something better than you originally envisioned. The final book may bear little resemblance to what you considered in the beginning.

Never go back and edit anything in the first draft as you write. If you realize something needs to change at the beginning, make a note on the side and continue as if that change had been made, then fix the beginning in subsequent drafts.
Now there's only one true rule in writing - you can do anything you can get away with, however the trick is in knowing what that is, and that requires a knowledge of writing guidelines. It also takes experience.

Practice good writing from the beginning. Watch grammar, avoid clichés and be selective with adverbs as you create the first draft. Don't fall back on sloppy writing. Build a story, don't just dump words. Train yourself to be a better writer with each sentence. This will allow you to grow as an author because writing is a life long learning experience. It also makes life easier with the second, third, fourth and subsequent drafts to craft a manuscript into a book, short story or article.

The Importance of Mythology in Our Modern World

A Dragon Rises
A Dragon Rises

We live in a world of high technology where food production, communications, transportation, medicine and other industries improve our lives.

Through science, we understand the basis of life with discoveries in DNA, the formation of stars, the causes of illnesses and ways to cure them, and much more. Mythology seems to have no place. We no longer look to spirits or curses as the cause of sickness.

Folk tales and remedies have been replaced by research and medical practice. Some feel this relegates mythology to those absurd stories our ignorant ancestors told to try and explain the world. Yet, those holding this attitude miss the true purpose and power of myth to humans.

Mythologies in all cultures say much more about human nature than any physical aspects. All the gods of myths are manifestations of human strengths and failings. As such, mythology is the original literature.
Literature is a much-misunderstood term. It is simply fiction that explores the human condition and gives readers the opportunity to examine themselves. It is an expression of the human spirit in a nonreligious sense, and doesn’t require dense prose with convoluted structures. Mythology is a vehicle that can do this.

Today, mythology can be found in magical realism, science fiction and fantasy works.The reason Star Wars touched a nerve and became an overnight sensation wasn’t because of spaceships or blasters. In truth, Star Wars isn’t really science fiction as much as it is space opera. A 19th century sailing ship could have been substituted for the Millennium Falcon with cutlasses for light sabers, muzzle loaded pistols for blasters, misfit sailors as comic relief for CP30 and R2D2 and a sorcerer pirate captain for Darth Vader.

The basic story would have held up along with the mythology of The Force and the theme of self discovery.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has battles and action, political intrigue and noble acts, yet the core of the story is the exploration of human nature caught between the forces of evil desire and heroic service. Professor Tolkien knew and understood the place of mythology from his studies and research into legendary stories such as Beowulf. He said he wanted to give England a modern myth because it had none.

When a story is set in a galaxy far, far away or a created world that never existed, authors can discuss serious questions such as greed, avarice, prejudice, oppression, altruism and equality in ways that might be ignored or rejected by some readers who oppose these themes.

Mythology, science fiction, fantasy and magical realism can tell stories with universal themes that comment on human nature. Through engaging characters, good and bad, set in immersive worlds, authors can explore who we are and how we can live together in society.

Of course, some stories are written as pure, entertaining romps where the action and adventure are more important than the characters inner struggles. These can be great fun to read and I enjoy them.
Mythology can open minds and change people’s lives. May the force be with you, always.

Mutual Respect in Business Pays Off

Many companies, large and small, still live with the 19th century notion that managers have to stand over employees to make certain they’re working. Yet, evidence shows when managers set clear goals and allow employees, who know the details of the work, the leeway to function in their most efficient ways, productivity and profits increase. In too many respects, western business culture still holds feudal attitudes of lords and peasants rather than as partners who are all required to achieve goals and all deserve equal respect.

Don't fall for scams on social media

If you post about writing on social media, you will be presented with many advertisements for writing contests and services on social media. These can promise publishing deals, agent readings, film connections and many other things for an entry fee. Some are legitimate. Some are scams. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association published paper on how to evaluate a good contest from a poor one and lists some known contests with problems.