Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

When I announced that I’d love to know the questions authors would like to ask an editor, I received quite a few responses. Most of them were about point of view (POV) and the technique of deep point of view (DPOV). I’ve written about these before on this blog, but I thought it would be fun to answer the questions they put forth.

How many POV characters should an author use?

The answer to this depends on a number of factors including but not limited to: genre, formula, audience, and guidelines.

When writing romance, the conflict is usually between the hero and the heroine. Therefore, in most circumstances, those two POVs should be the only ones necessary to your story. Romances are pretty formulaic, and this formula works. Why change it unless you can prove that other POVs are necessary? Change the genre to romantic suspense and there may be another POV necessary to convey the story: the villain. Some authors utilize this extra POV; others keep the villain in the background.

Other genres may allow for more POVs, but the important thing to consider is how necessary those POVs are to telling the story. It is best to keep the POV count as low as possible. And always check your targeted publisher's guidelines.

In my character’s POV can he note his own smile?

The author who asked this question went on to say that she was told a character cannot see his smile, so it isn’t natural in that character’s POV to note one. She rightly indicated that she knows when she’s smiling, and thus the character would know he smiled.

I suspect the reason for this remark goes a little deeper. Slight POV switches sneak in when we do have our characters notice something that isn’t natural for them to remark on in their POV. For example, Terra is the POV character and the author writes: Terra flashed her winning smile in Robert’s direction. For all Terra knows, her teeth might have a piece of parsley in it. Even without the parsley, Terra can’t know if Robert or anyone finds her smile “winning.”

What is DPOV?

Simply put, DPOV is a technique used by some authors to draw a reader deeply into the story. To show a contrast, I’d like to share two examples, one scene written without DPOV and the other using DPOV.

Example #1:

*The Gulf-side restaurant’s crowd had thinned since the lunch hour, and Christian waited on the dock outside as Zed paid the bill. The old man had given him grunt work, but Christian had enjoyed the labor.
Christian had earned his way through college working construction and several other jobs that rounded out his résumé.
True to his word, Zed had fed him breakfast and now lunch. The man was generous.

That’s pretty bland, huh? Yet some authors tend to write this way, providing only the details and skimming the surface of their creativity.

Now, let’s look at an example that adds meat to the story by delving into Christian’s thoughts as the scene unfolds.

Example #2:
*The quaint Gulf-side restaurant’s crowd had thinned since the lunch hour, and Christian waited on the dock outside as Zed paid the bill. The work the old man had given him had been grunt work, but Christian had enjoyed the labor. While Zed kept him away from the hulls, the resin work, and the major manufacturing of trawlers and fishing boats, there’d been plenty of cleaning up, stacking, even some inventory to keep Christian busy and awake.
He might be an academic, but he’d earned his way through college with backbreaking construction work and several other jobs that rounded out his résumé: butcher, baker, candlestick maker. Well, the last was actually soap, and he’d loved that job, working alongside the gorgeous little bohemian he’d made his bride in her busy little natural soaps and sundry shop.
True to his word, Zed had fed him breakfast and now lunch. Christian only hoped Dylan was eating as good. If not, Zed had paid Christian enough to fill up the truck, find a place to stay, and grab a meal or two. The man was generous.

Do you see the difference? Through Christian’s DPOV the reader learns a little about him and others. We get the idea Christian and maybe Dylan are passing through town and that this generous boat manufacturer, Zed, has given him work. We also know Christian is an academic, that he has a wife—somewhere, maybe—and that he’s a bit worried about Dylan.

Deep POV allows us to explore insights into our character that a lack of depth leaves out of our stories. It also allows us to layer. Layering is the art of blending information into a story without being too obvious. And layering, when done right, holds a reader’s attention by making us want to know more. For example, are you curious as to why an academic is doing what he calls grunt work, and where is Christian’s gorgeous bohemian wife?

What are some words or techniques that weaken DPOV?

I don’t care what anyone says, internal monologue, when used for minor details is a killer of deep POV, and it annoys the fire out of the reader. Outside of unspoken prayer, internal monologue should only be used for thoughts that need particular emphasis—and I mean something truly important that adds a wow factor to the story.

There are telling phrases that kill DPOV as well. These effectively place the reader on the outside of the action. Those telling phrases are: “He saw, she watched, he realized, he knew,” etc. A sentence structured like this: “He saw her walk down the street” can easily be remedied by taking out the offending telling phrase and changing the tense: She walked down the street.

The reason so many authors use this form of telling is because they’re failing to grab their readers with the deepness of point of view. As stated, when deep POV is utilized correctly, the reader knows exactly whose head he’s in.

Can I use DPOV in first-person narrative?

Absolutely, and why would you not want to do this? The problem that I see in many submissions of first-person narrative is that authors tend to want to slip into internal monologue. There is simply no reason to use internal monologue except for unspoken prayer and a thought that needs emphasis. The reader understands that a story written in first-person narrative is being told through the perception of the lead character. The deeper into POV a writer can go, the better.

Is it acceptable to begin a story with a prologue written in third person and the remainder of the book in first person?

My answer: If it works, yes. What won’t work is a prologue written in third person that tells the story. What will work? A prologue that has a clear POV from one character—the one with the most to win or lose from the scene.

And there we go, a little bit more information on POV and DPOV.

Happy editing.

*Please note that the examples used in this blog are the original work of Fay Lamb and should not be used without permission of the author.


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