Write the Vision Wednesday - F.R.O.G.

How does one write Christian fiction? That was a question that troubled me years ago. Because Inspirational Fiction is first, Inspirational and second, Fiction. And as an author we don't just have to write to please ourselves or our editor or even the reader, we have to write to glorify God first and foremost, as well as balancing everything else. A bit like the way a frog leaps from one lily pad to the other without falling off.

Nor of the will of man....but of God (John 1:13)

What does it mean to rely on God? We all say "I know God is in control," but do we mean it? Are we accessing real faith, that mustard seed to move a mountain. The burning faith that says "I don't want God as my  co-pilot...I want Him as my Pilot." Sometimes that means tossing the plot we're working on, even if it's 20k in as in one author I know (me lol), not simply because it's not working, but because the story isn't the one God wants us to write. No matter how much we like it. Because responding to God's will in writing is a bit like prayer. And for that there are 3 answers. Yes, no, or I have a better idea. Which in the case of a rejected manuscript can mean putting it away for a year or so, then pulling it out and asking God to show you afresh what to do with it.

Write it in their heart Jer. 31:33

Our writing is more than just telling a story.  There are many places in the Bible where it speaks of writing "on the tables of the heart." That is a lofty goal to write a wonderful story and a Christian message that will edify the believer and strengthen the soul of the weary. Our goal is more than entertainment. Our goal is to touch the heart and how do we do that?


Special thanks to Clare Revell (pink) who co-authored this post. 

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

I’ve had a lot of questions lately regarding scenes and chapter breaks. While there is no steadfast rule with regard to where a scene break should occur or when the story should advance to another chapter, here is a little food for thought.

In a contemporary romance, if the events in two scenes occur during the same day, giving each point-of-view (POV) character a scene is fun to do. This does not mean that the events have to occur at the same time or in the same place. Actually, if the event is one and the same, and the POV character is switched, a good self-editor will review the scenes to determine if there actually needs to be any break at all.

When reviewing such scenes, and for all scenes, the first question to ask is, “Which character has the most to win or to lose in the scene?” That character should be the POV character.

If the story is romantic suspense and the villain requires a POV on that same day, an author may do one of two things: if the villain’s POV doesn’t require a specific emphasis, allow it to be the third scene for that chapter. If the villain is particularly devious or the author wants to let him standout a bit, the villain may actually be given his own scene.

If a scene occurs in the same day, but the actions of the hero or heroine are removed a bit from the last scene or if that scene requires emphasis, this might be a good place for a chapter break. 

As you can see, scene and chapter breaks are decisions that can work to build an author’s voice. 

The one mistake an author wants to check against is a tendency to be episodic and to include smaller scenes of a paragraph or so. When an author finds a number of short scenes like this, he should look for areas where that information can easily be integrated to scenes that come before or after.

Happy editing.

Make-A-Story™ - Monday's writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term.  It means writing what the publisher wants.  Can you do it?  In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you to create a story with these elements.  The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view. 

An old photograph
A family recipe for first aid salve
An unwanted guest  

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Point of view: when you finally get the hang of it, you wonder how you ever missed its importance in storytelling.

There are three definitions for point of view (POV), and each one gives insight into what an author needs to know about this most important element of fiction.

1.         Point of view is a position from which someone or something is observed. Sure, an author could tell his story as if he’s observing the world around him, letting his words describe what happened to someone else, but that is called telling. We want to avoid telling at all costs. Rather, we want to show the story through the eyes of the character who is in the midst of the action—the point-of-view character.

2.         Point of view is also a mental viewpoint or attitude. So, an author has the first definition down. He has his character’s viewpoint clearly where the reader is observing all the action. Now, the reader must lure that reader into the mind of the character. We want the reader to believe he or she is the character. This is done by connecting emotion to the observations.

3.         The mental position from which a story is observed or narrated. Don’t let the word narrated fool you. Except for a short line or two for transition, an author wants the narrative to hide behind the viewpoint character and all that he or she does, says, and observes. This facet of point of view deals with how the story is told. As the author, one must decide if the story is best unfolded in first person (I, me, my), second person (you, yours) or third person limited (he/she, his/her, and they/them/their). An author must do his homework. Some genres work well when the story is told in first person. Others don’t work so well. For example, a reader of historical romance might have to adjust to first person viewpoint.

Second person point of view is fascinating when the story calls for this type of “narration.” A good example is an old short story entitled, “Don’t Look Behind You.” In this story, the narrator is a killer. He is talking to you, the reader. As the story progresses, you realize he’s talking to you because you have the book that contains this story—the only book that contains this story, and he—the narrator—has plans for you when you read the last line. I don’t know another way this story could be told to maximize the impact. Believe me. Every reader looks behind them.

When editing your manuscript, point of view is the most important element an author has for showing his story. No matter the viewpoint an editor uses, he should edit carefully with an eye toward showing everything through the point-of-view characters actions, thoughts, and dialogue. An author needs to grab his reader’s attention by drawing them into the point-of-view character’s reaction and emotions. The deeper the author delves into viewpoint, the more powerful the story.

Happy editing.

Make-A-Story™ - Monday's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term.  It means writing what the publisher wants.  Can you do it?  In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you to create a story with these elements.  The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.   

A puppy
A Nativity scene

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.