Wednesday, May 29, 2019

My Issue with First Person Narratives

As fiction writers, we have two ways to present our story; first or third person narratives. This time, however, I'm going to speak as a fiction reader, and not an author.

As a reader, I simply hate the first person narrative. To me, it's the narcissistic narrative. It's all, "me, me, me, I, I, I, me, me, me, I, I, I," and that gets real old, real quick. I get it. The author wants me to have a more intimate relationship with the lead character, but not only does the narcissistic tone turn me off, I also want to know what other characters, particularly the antagonists, are up to.

I love reading fiction written in the third person narrative. To many, and to many others, reading a novel is, essentially, watching a movie in my head. I want to see the bad guys cooking up their evil schemes. I want to be with them when they do their dastardly deeds. I want to experience that moment of shock and surprise when the protagonist gets caught their trap. Likewise, I want to experience the protagonist's feeling of triumph when the bad guys get their comeuppance. This is why, as a reader, I only read third person narratives. I get to see multiple points of view, and I get to see scene changes with different characters, just like they do in the movies.

I realize this is a personal take, and that other readers may like the first person narrative. To each their own. However, I personally don't care for it, which is why I always write my own stories in a third person narrative.


Monday, May 27, 2019

Why I Don't Recommend Using the F-bomb

I recall once looking at a sample chapter from a novel, and there, in the second sentence of the opening narrative, was the dreaded, F-bomb. That was it. I was done. The book may have had an intriguing title, but once I saw that expletive I was immediately turned off and had no reason to read any further.

Now I'm not saying I'm a total prude, and for some genres this kind of language may be both suitable and expected, but not for my work. I write contemporary sensual romance. In my genre there simply is no reason for profanity, and most romance authors don't use it, especially when writing in the third person. To me, profanity, especially when used in the narrative, a sign of a lazy, sloppy writer, and a rank amateur. A good storyteller doesn't need to use profanity. Plain and simple.

Some of you may be asking, "But what about the dialog?" Sure, there will times when an, "Oh my goodness gracious me," simply won't cut it. I'm also fully aware that it's the 21st century; not the 1950s. Therefore, I'll use an occasional, "damn," "hell," or similar verbiage in my dialog, but never the F-bomb, or any other vulgar synonym for human genitalia. And the keyword here is occasional, as in, infrequently. My characters are not potty mouths. Even my villains have more class than that.

Only once have I had an occasion when a stronger word may have been expected. That was when a character had just learned that her husband had been kidnapped. She's understandably upset, and her response is, "What the ---?" She's then interrupted by another character before completing her sentence. Some readers may have interpreted it as, "What the hell?" Perfectly appropriate for the circumstances. Other readers, however, may have interpreted it differently and assumed she was about to say an entirely different word. Point is, I left it up to the reader to decide.

Sure, it may be the 21st century, but there are still plenty of people out there who find profanity, particularly the F-bomb, offensive. So why risk alienating potential readers who would have otherwise loved your book?


Monday, May 20, 2019

So You Think You Don't Need an Editor--Part One

© Can Stock Photo/novelo
One comment I often hear from first time authors is, "I don't need an editor because I do my own editing."


Okay, before I go off on my tangent, I'll admit I resemble that remark. When I wrote my very first book, Anna's Kitchen, I too naively thought I didn't need an editor. In fact, I was such a smart aleck at the time that I thought I knew everything, never mind the fact that I had never written a book before in my life. As far as I was concerned, the spell checker in my word processing software was all I needed. So how did I do?  Well, you may want to refer to my post titled, Just Add Two Tablespoons of Fate. Sure, I can laugh about it now, but it's a splendid example of why all authors, especially new authors, must have an editor.

An editor is a fresh pair of eyes to go over your manuscript and give it the added polish it needs to turn it into a great book. They're not as much concerned about the content of your work as they are the structure. They look for things such as misspelled words, typos, comma spliced sentences, dangling participles, incorrect homonyms, redundancy, the dreaded passive voice, and all the other gaffes that you, as a writer, may have overlooked. The reason why you're not seeing them is because you're too involved with your own work to see it objectively. This is normal. As human beings we can't be objective about ourselves, which is why it's difficult for us to see our mistakes. It's the same reason why doctors don't treat themselves or members of their own families.

Some of you reading this may still be skeptical, or you may even think your writing skills are so superior that you simply don't need an editor. If that's the case, then all I can tell you is writing can be a very humbling experience. There is nothing quite like having your readers point out all your errors for you and then post them on an Amazon review for the entire world to see. Once that happens your credibility as an author is pretty much done, and you can kiss your writing career goodbye.

What do Danielle Steel, James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Dean Koontz all have in common? They all have editors. And if these authors all have editors, then what makes you think that you don't need one?


Monday, May 13, 2019

Let's Stop Putting Labels on People

© Can Stock Photo / Medclips
Not long ago I was at a business networking event and struck up a conversation about what I do with someone I didn't know. (Which, by the way, was the whole purpose of the event.) She of course asked me what I do, and when I told her I wrote novels she honest to goodness looked at me and said, "Oh, so that means you have ADD." (Attention Deficient Disorder -- a mental illness.)

Needless to say I was flabbergasted that someone would actually make such a hurtful, hateful, not to mention stupid, remark. I looked her in the eye and said, "Well, in my line of work, that would actually be considered a job requirement." It immediately shut her up and she walked away with egg on her face, which is exactly the reaction I wanted. 

Few things make me bristle like people who insist on putting stigmatizing labels on other people and branding them with scarlet letters. Why must they do that?  Is it because there is some narrow definition of "normal," out there, and creative, imaginative people simply don't fit that so-called norm? Is that why creative people must be stigmatized for being creative?  Or is it because making other people look bad is how they make themselves look good? I suspect the answer is both. What I do know for certain is there are people out there who simply do not like creative people. Period. A few years ago I read an article instructing parents on how to "reprogram" their children if they showed any sign of being, "right-brained creative" so they could be made into, "left-brained analytical." Apparently a child being creative is something parents now have to fear.

Newsflash for all of you left-brained, self-obsessed psychiatrists and psychologists out there. (Yes, I'm talking to you, with the MD or the PhD after your name.) I'm a right-brained creative, and I'm damn proud of it! I'm who God made me to be. And guess what? Even though I'm a, "wacko," by your so-called, "standards," I still manage to get myself out of bed every morning. I practice proper hygiene. I wear the same clothes that "normal" people wear. My house may not be June Cleaver clean, but you won't find uncategorized life forms growing in it either. I'm also able to perform my job. Not only do I write novels, I also I run my own book publishing business. 

So, Miss Smart-Alec, who the hell are you to think that it's okay pin your scarlet letter on me by labeling me with "ADD" just because my job involves using my God-given creative skills?  Here's a thought. Why don't you worry more about your own damn life and stay bloody hell out of mine!