Tag Archives: 3rd-person limited

Watch out for those subtle POV mistakes

In an earlier post, I mentioned that subtle ‘tells’ can show up, ruining your prose style, and pulling your reader out of her fictive dream. Today, I’m going to talk about subtle problems with point of view (POV).

We have all been told never to change POV in the middle of a scene, or head-hop. This mistake is easy to avoid, because you just have to remember to stick to one POV per chapter (at least).

Like unwanted ‘tells’ that show up in your prose style, unwanted POV problems can surface as well. These mistakes can be avoided by writing in first person POV. But if you need to write in limited third, then you really need to keep an eye on these problems.

In the following example, I am going to highlight the POV mistakes, by putting them in ALL CAPS:

She flinched. “How can you say that to me?”

“Very easily,” snarled Rossi.  “I can say that to a woman who has no regard for her own reputation, or her daughters’. Puttana! Slut!” he spat.

Angelina recoiled and WENT WHITE. Memories flooded back. Something terrible had happened the last time she’d heard that word. Unbidden tears came to her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, fumbling for a handkerchief.

She stiffened. The last thing she wanted was his pity. She waved away his handkerchief and continued walking with him down the street, arm in arm, as if they’d just had a lover’s tiff. A sudden thought occurred to her: “You’re Italian aren’t you?”

“I speak four languages,” he replied.  “Italian, German, French, and English.  How do you think I got into Georgetown?”

“You told me you were born in this country,” she remarked, her cheeks GOING PINK. “But no non-native speaker pronounces that word the way you do, with the correct intonation.”

Now, I’m going to rewrite the passage, taking care of these mistakes. I’ll highlight the correction in ALL CAPS:

She flinched. “How can you say that to me?”

“Very easily,” snarled Rossi.  “I can say that to a woman who has no regard for her own reputation, or her daughters’. Puttana! Slut!” he spat.

Angelina recoiled and HER BLOOD WENT COLD. Memories flooded back. Something terrible had happened the last time she’d heard that word. Unbidden tears came to her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, fumbling for a handkerchief.

She stiffened. The last thing she wanted was his pity. She waved away his handkerchief and continued walking with him down the street, arm in arm, as if they’d just had a lover’s tiff. A sudden thought occurred to her: “You’re Italian aren’t you?”

“I speak four languages,” he replied.  “Italian, German, French, and English.  How do you think I got into Georgetown?”

“You told me you were born in this country,” she remarked, her cheeks GROWING WARM. “But no non-native speaker pronounces that word the way you do, with the correct intonation.”

Next: I get scooped.

Image: Houses in Georgetown, Washington DC. Personal collection. HE MUST BE SOMEONE is set there.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Craft, How to Publish Your Novel

I fix the MSS and send to another agent

As I mentioned in a recent post, I was extremely fortunate to find an agent who gave me valuable feedback. I read the 120 words she’d written carefully, and then spent a month fixing up the MSS. She told me she had problems relating to the main characters, because I’d written my novel in limited 3rd. So I thought about what I should do. Should I go through my 120,000-word MSS, and change it to first person? Should I write in present tense or past?

My novel is written in four books. The first book deals with Cecylee’s childhood, the second, her love-affair with the archer, the third about her husband’s political struggles with the King of England, and the fourth is about her life as an old woman. It seemed to me that each book demanded a different treatment.

Accordingly, I re-wrote the first book in first person present, to get that fresh voice suitable for young girls. I re-wrote the second book in first person past, to get a more adult voice. The third book, I kept in 3rd-person limited, because the complexity of the material demanded that the story be told from more than one point of view. For the fourth book, I re-wrote it in first-person past to convey a feel for the past, which is where most old people are. Then, for good measure, I added in more interior monologue.

After all that work, I sent it to another agent. I am awaiting her verdict as I type this. (She has promised to get back to me after the holidays).

Next: I do a photo-shoot for Cecylee

Image: penhero.com

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

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Filed under About Cynthia, Agents, How to Publish Your Novel