Thursday, January 11, 2007

A little Note About Structure

Rachel Vincent says: Hmmm. Out of all the books I've written (not that many--I'm working on #6 right now), I can only think of one single chapter that contained more than one scene. In fact, most of my scenes span more than one chapter.

It never fails to amaze me how differently different writers write. And structure, apparently. ;-)

Well, this is a good opportunity to talk about structure, because Rachel raises a good point about how it relates to POV.

When I started writing, I would do a lot in first person POV (Point Of View.) When using that POV it wasn't uncommon for a chapter to be a scene. It would be natural, at least I think so, for each chapter to structured as a scene, as the scenes are all told from the same POV. And it's a good way to say "this chapter will accomplish X, next chapter will accomplish Y." It's an easy structure for declaring purpose. (Essentially, scenes are mini-chapters if you want to think in that mindset.)

Each scene has a purpose, just like each line of dialogue has a purpose and each word of description has a purpose. (If the scene doesn't have a purpose, either find one or get rid of the scene.) Ergo, each POV switch has a purpose. To show a reaction, to illuminate a plot point, to share information that the other characters and/or reader wouldn't have access to if it wasn't shown from that POV.

If you're doing first person POV, then the amount of scenes you write are probably going to be less than if you have multiple POV. That's not to say there aren't novels that contain multiple first person views or a mix of third and first. See Peter S Beagle's The Innkeeper's Song for multiple first, and any of Charles deLint's Newford Novels for multiple first and multiple third mixed.

After all, scene and POV are linked. You shouldn't switch POV mid-scene, at least I was taught that's not good writing. It should be explained that "switch mid-scene" refers to the chunk of writing, not the events that occur within the writing. It's fine to end a scene mid-event, switch POV, and start another scene that picks up from where the previous left off. It's a great technique for showing how your characters view things differently or sharing information with the reader they wouldn't receive.

So the POV basics:

1) Chose the POV that best allows you to write the story, because first person POV will create a different story from third person limited, which creates a different story from multiple third or multiple first.

2) POV is linked to scene, ergo don't switch mid-scene. End the scene and begin another with the new POV.

3) Don't introduce a character as a POV character and kill them by the end of the scene. It's not enough time to make the reader care about the character, and it doesn't show us what a nasty person your antagonist is. Write the scene from your antagonist's POV, show them killing someone, and we'll get the hint right away. (The exception in this case may be horror writing, which has its own set of "rules.")

4) Multiple POV will increase your number of scenes, especially if you want to write well-developed characters. More characters increases your character relations, which complicates your plot. Keep that in mind when choosing who will be your POVs.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


As this is the first entry of the new year, some effort and thought has been put into. Truth be told, I've been a little under the weather since Boxing Day, and haven't been able to string thoughts together in any remotely interesting or coherent manner.

Well, various discussions have occurred on my frequently visited blogs. Some about goals. Some about suggestions of how to start out the year. Most concerning writing, publishing, or editing.

So here's something different.

I'm going to Japan in May. To see some friends I haven't seen in two years and eat chicken ramen to celebrate with them that they got married. I bought the ticket this morning.

If that means I don't get an agent because I was doing other things, I won't be losing any sleep over it.

Really amazing things have happened to some people I know because they have agents and their agents got them publishing deals, but really amazing things happen when you aren't published, too.

I tasted what it was like to get caught up in emphasizing what someone I'd never met on the other side of the country thought of my ability as a writer, and I didn't care for it. In fact, I hated it. I hated it so much that I started hating what I had written. So I stopped writing, which only served to make me miserable, bitter, and cruel. I haven't been a fantastic person to be around for the past couple months, and I apologize for that.

I forgot there is no deadline for publication. No one coming to my house in six months to shoot my dog if I don't have a contract of representation. The success of others around me is not a measurement by which to judge my success.

So, this year I'm going to write to meet my deadlines, because I am the only one who can make them for me. I'm going to write at least a chapter a week, a chapter that I like and I can call finished. I'm going to do that until there aren't anymore chapters to write. Then I'm going to start something new, and it doesn't matter if that's in March or October.

I'm going to try and find something to inspire me to write short pieces.

I'm going to be that obnoxiously enthusiastic cheerleader that I never was in high school. Because I may not be published, but some of you are or will be in mere months, and you can be sure that I will be telling everyone who'll listen to go read your books. I'll be turning them cover-out on the shelves when I see them. I'm going to make sure you don't doubt that you earned it, and I'm going to remind to you own it.

This year isn't about getting an agent or getting published. This year is about moments. The deep, sweet breaths during that pause while I look around and go "holy shit, right now I am content."

And that's a resolution worth keeping.