The point of…


Reading Like a Writer
Reading Like a Writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Picture this:  You’re in a book store and you’re looking at books about writing.  Your arms are already overflowing from the books you read for entertainment if you have the time that is but you buy them because, damn it, you just have to.  But now that you’ve gotten the fix of finding the right ten to twenty books to haul back (oh, while we’re at imagine you’re rich just for the hell of it, makes it nicer), you figure you should see what’s new in the how-to despite reading so many of them you could probably quote them in your sleep.

Instead your eyes skim over the titles that you already have, have already dismissed, or simply has no bearing on your current passion of writing.  Why we keep looking, who knows, but we do.  When our eyes finally settle on something it happens to be the Writer’s Market of the current year.  Now, if you’re not rich, you blanch at the price and try to negotiate in your head with the budget, the family necessities that will probably have you putting the haul in your arms back on the shelves anyway.  If you are, gobble gobble gobble.

Now, for a moment, add in another element, the young man or woman who comes up beside you to go through the same ritual.  They, unlike you who have consumed most of what already exists on the shelf, take their time looking at each title, pulling out a book to read it.  You know the drill.  They finally settle on one that you know is a load of … this is a PG rated site so I won’t use the word but I’m sure you know what I mean.  Anyway, you can’t help it.  There seems to be a gene in the writer that screams “HELP THE COMPETITION BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T HERE MIGHT BE THE NEXT CRAPPY NOVEL THAT GOT PRINTED BEFORE YOURS.”

We’ve all heard it so we know how it sounds.

Some of us ignore this voice.  I, on the other hand, don’t.  I just can’t.  There is so much crap out there in my opinion that if I can cull the herd just a bit and get a potential writer on a better path, maybe the crap can filter down to a minimum.  Granted, this is my opinion and I certainly haven’t read everything in print today, but not from a lack of trying.  My point is, I can’t help but speak up because they are taking home a book that will do nothing except fill their head with nonsense.  If they truly want to be a writer, then don’t go with the nonsense…please?

Anyway, so you strike up a conversation.  Writer to writer.  Or, wanna be writer to newer wanna be writer depending on if you’re one of those souls that believe you’re not a writer until you’re published (I’m not by the way.  I write, I’m a writer.  End of story).

During the conversation you start talking about your potential stories in broad strokes (don’t want to give away the plot to the enemy after all) and they return the favor, usually with nervous twittering.  Sometimes they even blush (meaning they only hatched the idea a month ago and are already struggling to figure out what the hell a story device is.)  The mentor part of us starts trying to draw out the sticking point that they are having.  Usually its plot, or character interaction.  My favorite was getting an e-mail from a newbie writer written a rush that said “Help, my characters are no longer in my control.”

I didn’t help when I said “Good, that means they’ve become people and not just words on the screen.”  The second e-mail dealt with me explaining what I meant…

Occasionally, and this had happened to me only once with a new writer as I typically find it happening to us old hats, the problem revolves around the Point of View of the story.  What happens to those of who have been toiling at the writer’s block for so long is that we get used to using one type of Point of View.  As most know, there are three primary and within one three deviants.  First, second, and third point of view with the third one have the deviations to it.  We get comfortable in using third person (most of us that is, some are more comfortable in first and very, very few are comfy in the second).  I, personally, prefer to use third person subjective, but that’s me.

I have tried all the others, second person…don’t ask, it didn’t go well at all (think of Hiroshima and you get the idea).  First person is dodgy and probably the second most difficult in my opinion.  I’ve managed to pull it off successfully three times, but I wouldn’t call any of them my best writing.  I keep sneaking in more than the character would actually see or know.  Shame on me, but you get the point.

I have tremendous respect for anyone who can do first person and even more respect for anyone who can do second person though it’s very rare to find a book in that POV.  So when a new writer throws that at me I find I feel hope for the person because that means they are seeing behind the curtain to the real truth of writing.  That it’s more than characters, scenic, descriptions, or plot.  That’s it’s how you tell the story that is important.

At least, it is to me…

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