Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April 2015 — The Big Picture: POV-Viewpoint

  #4 Revision is a Process
 This is Part 4 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved
Let the reader see things through the eyes of the characters instead of the eyes of the author or narrator. -- James V. Smith, Jr. / THE WRITER'S LITTLE HELPER

The rhetoric runs deep that writers must shun analyzing their work because doing so will destroy the creative process. It's the old "analysis equals paralysis" theme. Hogwash. Knowledge is the power that enables a writer to rise above the ordinary and commonplace. One critical phase for the revision of a story is taking a look at Point of View (POV) and Viewpoint.

Author and educator Tim Easais reached a conservative estimate that there were 9,720 different Point of Views (POV). No how-to-write book gives the rules, guidelines, or information for all those choices. However, you should know what POV and Viewpoint are and work out for yourself which ones fit your comfort zone. In essence, POV and Viewpoint are "the voice" the reader hears on the page. It's also "the voice" the writer must hear when they create and read the story. That voice, of course, should be a compelling voice.

That's why using the Chapter by Chapter Revelations' "header notes" can be a great help to ensure the reader is going to follow the POV-Viewpoint narrator (for information on the Chapter by Chapter Revelations, scroll down to #3 March 2015's blog entry).

For a POV-Viewpoint revision check, print a hard copy of the Chapter by Chapter Revelations. Then use highlighters to color-code the POV-Viewpoint information that you entered on the pages' headers. For instance use:

          BLUE for the protagonist (male or romantic lead)
          PINK for the protagonist (female or romantic lead)

 Note: A story has only ONE PROTAGONIST because a story is about one person's journey and struggle with a problem. Therefore, the color of the protagonist depends on whether or not they are male or female. If the lead is an entity, what color best reflects their essence?

         ORANGE (or other awful color) for the antagonist or, in a story without a single, vile, and evil villain, to highlight the "complicating characters" who oppose the protagonist.

Once you have color coded the POV-Viewpoint characters on your Chapter by Chapter Revelations, look for the protagonist's scenes and chapters and count the number of times the protagonist narrates. Do the same for the antagonist. And depending on the type of story and the word length, you might have a Second Major Character, who is often the romantic lead or the protagonist's sidekick who gets a POV-Viewpoint. Count those.

What if you have other characters in addition to the main characters who narrate? Then you likely have a serious problem called "a cast of thousands." For a copy of my researched data on the number of characters for a story's word length, go to the end of this post for the link.

Ideally, the protagonist gets 60% to 100% of the POV-Viewpoint
(it is his or her story!). If you have a protagonist-villain-romantic lead in a story, the protagonist will get 60% and the next important character (romantic lead or villain) gets the higher percentage of what's left. Here's an example for a 300 page manuscript:

          Protagonist = 18 chapters/scenes (approx. 180 pages) 60%
          Antagonist = 4 chapters/scenes (approx. 45 pages) 15%
          Romantic Lead = 7 chapters/scenes (approx. 75 pages) 25%

Yes, there can be exceptions, and the percentages are not written in granite. If you're writing a saga or high fantasy, those stories have the length to accommodate additional POV-Viewpoints. If that's the case, you'll need to know what percentages are the usual for your genre.

After you look at and evaluate the statistics:

1) Did you notice any patterns, like a minor character appearing once or twice and narrating? If so, is there a way to eliminate that character and have another, more important character, do the same job or relay the same information to the protagonist (or villain)? Doing so tightens the prose and keeps the cast down to a more manageable size.

2) Was the protagonist narrating up until chapter ten then nothing from his or her POV-Viewpoint until chapter fifteen? That's too long a time to separate the reader from the most important person in the story.

3) Any "Head Hopping," that is, the POV-Viewpoint switches many times in one scene or chapter. Some authors can do this trick with an unseen slight of hand. Most novices lack the skill and knowledge so their story is a choppy read. If you're new to fiction writing, it's best to master one POV-Viewpoint per scene or chapter. Your reader will appreciate that.

Once finished with this POV-Viewpoint check, don't fix anything
.  Make notes about fixes, but don't rewrite because you also need to look at the plot-line, which is the subject of next month's blog.

*** This blog is updated the 1st of each month and the May topic is The Big Picture: PLOT  (Be sure to Connect with Catherine HERE so you're notified of the blog post.)

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