I may not be the quickest study when it comes to writing, but I learn from my earlier mistakes.
I really wanted to give “Character Q” Point of View (POV) status in the rebuild of Death Out of Time. I think “Q” would provide an interesting vantage point for the reader. When I started the original manuscript, “Original Me” would have dived in, thinking, “No problem, let’s do it.”
You see, “Rebuilding Me” knows better.
In the rebuild, Madeleine wonders if there’s more to “Q” than meets the eye. And her thoughts on that matter influence her actions in other aspects of the story. I want readers to share her perspective on this throughout the book.
So what would happen if I gave “Q” POV status?
Well, “Q” would have to reveal to readers — before the final third of the book or so — whether Madeleine’s ideas are accurate or not. Why, you ask?
Because we spend significant time in a POV character’s head, seeing the action from his or her perspective. If Madeleine is right, how could “Q” realistically avoid thinking something that would show her to be correct? Let’s say Madeleine thinks “Q” is an arsonist, and it turns out she’s right. If we spend a quarter of the book or more looking at the world through “Q’s” eyes, how could that be kept hidden? Surely “Q” would have some thoughts about fire, even if they were indirect. “Q” might wax poetic on the “dangerous beauty” of a campfire, for example.
To avoid this, “Original Me” would have set up all of “Q’s” POV scenes to avoid dropping any clues. I would end the scene before “Q” would logically be required to reveal something and then switch the action to another character’s POV in the next. Problem solved.
No, it’s not. “Rebuilding Me” knows that’s cheating. I’d be manipulating the story—and readers. Some readers might not notice or care. But most would. Even if they couldn’t articulate their dissatisfaction in writing workshop terms, they would know I was withholding information that readers have the right to know. I’ll bet you’ve read at least one book where you’ve thought, “A character should have revealed this information in the first part of the book,” or, “No one could have solved this mystery because the main character held back all her knowledge about the vital clue until the reveal.” The author cheated you, likely through manipulation of POV.
I have never wanted to cheat in my stories. When I did in earlier drafts, it was through sheer ignorance. And when betas brought the cheating to my attention, I made revisions to fix the problem. And now, as I rebuild this novel and draft new ones, I know from Step One to be careful with POV. Doing so will save me a lot of headaches and revisions down the line. And I won’t be cheating.
Am I right? Have you ever felt like the author cheated in a book you’ve read by withholding information?
From Cyberspace to Real Place
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop presented by one of my best blog buddies, Kourtney Heintz. We’ve followed each other’s blogs for nearly two years, and I’ve learned so much from her writing, querying, and publishing experiences. So it was a real treat to be there for her talk on “How To Be a Part-Time Writer” and then to go out afterward with her and fellow blogger and writer Emmie Mears. It was inspiring to hear the passion, dedication, and professionalism in their voices as we talked about our experiences. Both writers now have agent representation, and I’m confident their names will be well-known to readers before long. So if an opportunity like this arises for you, hide your shyness, put on your extrovert mask, and go for it!