Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Random Recommendation: M.E. Anders

Today, I recommend M.E. Anders' Blog.  She loves the thriller genre and is currently writing a psychological thriller.

Her site is quite diverse and includes articles ranging in topics from fitness to psychology and religion.  She is an aspiring novelist and is generously sharing her journey writing her first novel.  She has an interesting approach to plotting you may find useful.

One of the more entertaining features of her blog is a weekly guest interview.  (Here comes the shameless plug:) 

This week I have the honor of appearing on her blog for an interview.  Please check it out:   M.E. Anders.

You can access my regularly scheduled blog post once you've been thoroughly entertained by Mindi's site:  Can You Bribe Your Inner Critic?

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Can You Bribe Your Inner Critic?

Lately I've had a hard time getting started with new stories.  That darn inner critic!  Just when I start to feel confident, he sneaks up to remind me that I'm only as good as my last accomplishment.  How am I supposed to top that one?

I live for new challenges, but if I don't gag this judgmental intruder I'm going to end up with an overworked pile of old manuscripts.  Always critiquing and never creating.  I will knead this gently rising dough of prose until it becomes tough and rubbery.  And nobody wants to serve that with dinner!

Why is he here?

My inner critic is a Bloodhound that sniffs out self-doubt.  I ponder something new, and he can sense it.  Anything new brings on the uncertainty.  And he's right there!  I meander into new territory and I feel like a fugitive panicked by the barking at my heels.

Can we avoid him?

What if we always stayed inside of our comfort zones?  We wouldn't have to worry about failing.  But how dull would life be?  Inside my comfort zone there is a pile of finished manuscripts and a drawer full of conquered puzzles.  I can edit and reedit my same stories over and over again.  (Boring!)  And I can solve and resolve the same puzzles over and over again.  (Yawn!)

But I love new things.

On one hand, I can scour the Internet and buy a new puzzle whenever I feel the urge.  I still have doubts about whether I should do it; but this inner critic is the smaller, feebler younger brother.  He's the accountant in the family.

Maybe I won't be good enough and get stumped with this new puzzle.  I might be out some money, but I'll still be a puzzler.  It won't stop me from trying a different one, (or prying it apart with a screwdriver).

On the other hand, I can't simply buy a new story.  I must create it.  And my inner critic is the louder, stronger, and more convincing older brother.  He doesn't merely judge one particular work in progress.  No.  He doubts all of my abilities as a writer.  "You'll never be able to do anything with this crap," he'll say.

What if I could bribe my inner critic?

Could I pay him off?  Would he leave me alone, just for a little while?  I'm going to try it.  I'm going to turn my old swear jar into a bribery jar.  The FCC is pretty lax with profanity these days, so it couldn't hurt.  If my inner critic says something to keep me from writing, money goes into the bribery jar.

He needs to be silenced until I have something new to work with.  If it doesn't live up to my expectations, so what?  You can't learn to swim if the pool is empty.

Will I love the new story?  Probably not, but that's okay.  Even Shakespeare had first drafts.  But then again, I'll have a jar full of money and my inner critic will be itching to get to work editing.

So bribery might be worthwhile.  When your piece is written, you can use that money to treat yourself to a nice, fresh pot of coffee and get to work editing with the best person for the job:  your inner critic.

What do you think?  Can you bribe your inner critic?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Do You Flip For POV?

Something occurred to me the other day while I was solving my Rubik's Cube.  I solve it upside down.  I solve from the bottom up.  White side first, yellow side last.

I learned this trick to avoid reorienting the cube.  Who wants to keep changing your point of view just to keep track of your progress?

Rules constrain the behavior of the cube so I know certain things will happen to edge and corner "cubies" even if I don't see them directly.  (By the way, a "cubie" is a nickname for the individual pieces on the cube.)  In my case, if a cubie has a white sticker on it, then I know it belongs on the bottom (hidden) layer.  If it has a yellow sticker, then it's going somewhere on the top (visible) layer.  I don't have to constantly peek at the bottom of the cube, I can use other visible cues to ensure it gets where it belongs.

Then it hit me! This is Point of View, or POV in literary circles.  This is the perspective the story is told to the reader.  How is the narration revealed?  First person, third person, etc.

When you write a story, it is important to maintain a consistent POV.  By consistent, you don't switch perspectives mid-chapter, mid-scene, or mid-paragraph without giving the reader an obvious cue.  (Of course you can have multiple POVs in the story, and it's a challenge to pull off successfully.  Maybe I'll cover that another time.)  The most common convention is for a story to be told from a single POV, or perspective.

Too many POV shifts can be jarring to the reader.  Imagine how frustrated you would be if someone constantly reoriented the top color on your Rubik's Cube after every turn you make to solve it.

It's easy to catch POV mistakes by finding "she" rather than "I" in the wrong places.  But also keep in mind that the POV you choose may restrict what can be revealed to the reader through that particular lens.  The tricky POV mistakes are the ones where the POV character acts based on something they couldn't possibly know or see.  It may be as simple as a character not being present to "see" something happen but the action is described anyway.

But also consider the POV character's realm of knowledge.  Would a janitor know the answers to combinatorial problems that even advanced mathematics students at MIT could not solve?  Not likely.  Unless of course that janitor was a genius in the story, as in the movie Good Will Hunting.

What POV do you like?  Does it depend on the story?