Back in February, I posted about keeping my “academic” writing out of my fiction. And before I sent Draft 2 of Death Out of Time for its beta read, I went through the manuscript with that in mind. I did searches for passive construction, weak verbs, loooong sentences, and the like. These are the classic elements of my “professional” writing. They are de rigueur in archaeological reports. In fiction? The kiss of death. I was confident I had slain the academic beast in the manuscript.
And then the review comments came back.
Bless Kate’s heart, she suggested that if some of my scenes were written in a style used in science fiction, then I should ignore her comments. But she noted that several scenes had no point of view (POV).
That’s right. No POV. Dialogue dominated some scenes. Descriptive passages ruled in others. But the reader wasn’t in any character’s head. The scenes were “pointless.”
I wish I could say, “Oh, yes, this is classic sci-fi writing. There’s nothing wrong with it.” But that would be a lie. A big one. The sad truth is academic writing was still entwined in my manuscript. Lying low, where it thought no one would find it.
And it was snickering, knowing I had missed it. I’d forgotten one of the major characteristics of archaeological writing. You see, few of us introduce a “point of view” into our writing. First person? Highly discouraged. We say things like “The data suggest” not “I think.” Nearly everything is presented as a straightforward recitation of facts and data.
The closest we come to a POV is when we present the results of the study. But even then, the construction is passive and oblique, like “Based on the results presented above, the assemblage represents repeated, seasonal occupation during the Late Archaic period, most likely during the summer months.”
I’d bet the scenes that Kate marked would catch your attention. Fiction writers, like Kate, would jump on the lack of POV. Fiction readers, even if they didn’t call it POV, would know the scenes were awkward. You’d rightly ask, “What’s going on here?” Or, “What’s the point of this scene?”
So my list of things to check in future drafts of this and other manuscripts keeps growing. Hopefully that means Draft 2 of future novels will be a heck of a lot better than Draft 2 of Death Out of Time. If I’m going to make it as a writer, they’d better be!
How about you? Have you ever been sure you got rid of something, only to have it raise its head again like kudzu or multiflora rosebushes in the spring?
Your Moment of Spam
The spam queue hasn’t been too interesting of late. But the other day, this one did appear.
Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it’s truly informative. I am going to watch out for brussels. I’ll be grateful if you continue this in future. Many people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers! — Do they mean the Belgian city? Or will sprouts fall from the sky like hail, coating everything in bitter mini-cabbage slime? And do they mean they’d be grateful if I would watch out for brussels in the future? I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time—or inclination!