Monthly Archives: May 2013

My Action-less Protagonist

I have a serious problem with lack of action, in my last scene, of all places. Not action being done (I have plenty of that — my last scene is a fight scene on board a ship), but action my protagonist does (or, in this case, doesn’t do). She waits for her hero to save her. Yet again, I’m writing my heroine/protagonist as a rescuee. Not the doer.

When I first fleshed out my book, my protag was completely at the whim of everyone else…her hero, her antagonist, even the flippin’ maid. My instructor (in the McDaniel Romance Writing Program) said, “No way. She has to DO. She has to be the one taking the action, solving her problems. Don’t make her a victim.” So I rewrote my plot and now,  throughout the entire book, she gets herself out of scrapes on her own. Then then my final scene comes along, and I revert to my default position: while she tries to avoid doing what her antagonist wants her to do, she doesn’t get herself out of trouble. She is rescued.

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Trouble “Seeing” Point of View

For whatever reason, I’ve had a real hard time mastering the nuances (because to me they are nuances) of third person POV. Omniscient, limited third, deep third…it makes my head warp. I read something and think I know what POV it is only to find out I’m wrong. It’s been demoralizing and exasperating. I want to engage my readers very closely. I want their pulse to race when something exciting or sexy is happening in my book. But it was pointed out to me during a recent critique that the way I write is DISTANT. I’m going to blame that on the type of books I’ve read (mostly romance, and often written in omniscient)…they’ve been my models for writing romance, so that’s what I’ve defaulted to. But that’s not how I want to write.

Thank goodness there are other authors who know how to write deep POV! I read a fabulous book on writing deep POV by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. SHORT! CONCISE! GREAT EXAMPLES! It instantly cleared up everything for me. I know what I need to do now. I’ve just started a book on active setting by Mary Buckham to help learn how to use setting to develop characterization and sensory detail. It’s also really good so far. She includes some great examples from writers we know (Suzanne Collins of “Hunger Games” fame) — their first drafts, second drafts, and final drafts. It turns out their first drafts aren’t that different from mine.

What these books are doing is giving me confidence. I was truly at a loss as to how I was going to make my writing more intimate and engaging. As one of my fellow students said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Now, however, I am confident I can take something I’ve written and massage it, work on it, develop my craft, and hopefully turn out a book worth reading.

The other thing I’m learning is that deep POV, setting detail…it’s all layers. I have to remember this book is not like a prefab home. Just because I have a beginning, middle, and end doesn’t mean I have a book (yes, I have to remember this — for some reason I think everything should trickle out my fingers perfect the first time). I spent 5 hours in Starbucks the other day going through my final scene line by line, trying to deepen the POV, and I am happy with the result (still room for improvement, of course, especially as it relates to setting). So writing what comes out of my head is great for a first draft, but that’s just the base coat. I still need to add color and a top coat (okay, now I’m onto a nail polish analogy — probably because I’d kill for a pedicure right now).

So, my first draft is the base coat. I must keep this in mind as I write. And when I’m ready to add color, I’ll add a lot of color. And then the top coat. And hopefully someone finds my finished book engaging. It’s the hope of every writer, right?