I attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference this last weekend. This is a great conference, and if you’ve never looked it up, you should. When most of the states are covered in snow and ice, the writers at this conference might have to brave some sixty degree temps while attending a conference with the backdrop of beautiful Lake Yale.
I digress, though. This is about something that occurred to me at conference. Well, it didn’t just occur to me. I’ve touted deep point of view for years, but it never entered my mind that those who wish to write would not know about this concept from the very beginning of their writing journey.
Depending upon what I knew of the author’s journey toward publication, I asked three very important questions of those who scheduled appointments with me.
First, I’d lean forward, and I’d ask, “How long have you been writing fiction?”
Yes, there are authors who achieve success in a short time after deciding to write. Very little of their success was caused by a fluke, though.
I received many different answers. Some had never written fiction, but their non-fiction careers were established. They recognized that fiction and non-fiction are different fields, but they also understood that non-fiction does incorporate elements of fiction. Some writers were readers, and they had always wanted to be writers. Some had written for decades. Some were published.
After establishing the length of their writing journey, I tightened the trap I set. “What have you done to study the craft?”
Again, the answers varied. Some had decided to venture out for the first time to learn where to get started. Others were readers, and if they were readers, why couldn’t they write fiction? Still others had attended conferences, sat in classes, and had talked to those already successful; they were active in online writer’s groups and online and person-to-person critique groups; they’d studied their chosen genre; they knew the elements of storytelling.
The third question for me is like the salvation question, “If you were to die today, do you know if you would go to heaven?”
Okay, my question wasn’t nearly that important, but it was a trick question designed to know exactly where the writer sitting across from me was on his or her journey. With this question, I could almost put a pin in the map to show how close that writer was to the destination.
Again, I received all kind of answers. Some believed it was all about first, second, or third person. Others knew that point of view is about one scene per point-of-view character. Then there were those individuals who made the choir sing in my head when they said something like this: “Point of view is about bringing the readers as deeply into the story as possible, allowing them to be a part of that story. Oh, yeah, and doing it one point of view per scene per point-of-view character.”
“Hallelujah!” They got it. Most likely they had arrived at their destination or the train was just a little delayed. Their next journey would soon be on the other side of publication—at least for the book being pitched.
Those three questions allowed me to know, without fail, the level of story I would get when I read sample chapters.
You can imagine which authors were asked, and I should say that sometimes I almost begged, to submit their stories to me.
Point of view and deep point of view: remember those terms. I contend that they are 85% of story element because with an understanding of point of view comes the infusion of the other elements of storytelling. Yes, one point of view per scene is fantastic; understanding of that function of point of view is the beginning, but drawing me into the story is beyond marvelous. It doesn’t guarantee a contract, but it sure gets the interest of the editors, and I suspect a few agents would be grabbed as well.
When self-editing, examine your novel for deep point of view. If it is absent, you still have some work to do.