Friday, August 22, 2014

Third Person Omniscient : The Joys of Multi-Vision

All Seeing Eye in the Monastery of the Holy Cross, Jerusalem
Photo by Ze'ev Barkan, via Flickr
I’ve always loved adventure fiction. As a child, I read and re-read novels like Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, the works of Raphael Sabatini, and C. S. Forrester’s Hornblower chronicles. Adventure novels like these feature (a) multiple point-of-view characters; (b) parallel events taking place in multiple locations; and (c) complex action set-pieces: hair-breadth escapes, elaborate ruses, natural disasters, and fight sequences—everything from a one-on-one street brawl to a full-scale clash between rival armies.

When I started writing (at the age of 10), I instinctively followed my favorite models, not only in terms of content and structure, but also in terms of writing technique. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I discovered I was using Third Person Omniscient narration.

The term “omniscient” comes to us from the Latin omnis (all) + scire (to know). In Third Person Omniscient narration, the “omniscient” agent is the author who has a God’s eye view of his/her sub-creation in all its aspects. From this pinnacle of knowledge, he/she selectively distributes the narrative amongst a range of different characters.

There are a number of advantages to using this technique. For one thing, it enables the author to expand the narrative framework to include a widely-diversified—sometimes far-flung—set of locations. This tactic lends scope to the story, giving the reader the sense that he/she has stepped into a larger world.

A second advantage has to do with stage-management. Shifting the angle of vision around enables the writer to juggle several parallel plot lines with relative ease. It also enables him/her to play around with competing thematics: what one character perceives as good may be anathema to another. (To cite a topical example: with the Scottish independence referendum pending, it’s a matter of perspective whether you regard Robert the Bruce as a national hero or a filthy traitor.)

A third advantage has to do with keeping a sinister and provocative distance between your principle villain and the rest of the cast. It enhances his/her mystique if readers only ever get to see him/her through the eye of his/her henchmen, lackeys, prisoners, and discarded lovers. There’s delicious scope to crank up the suspense by making information available to your reader which is not shared by your protagonists. Having watched the villain set a Cunning Trap, we’re powerless to warn the hero against blundering into it.

Best of all, using multiple point-of-view characters allows the writer to imitate aspects of cinematic technique. This is especially effective when you’re orchestrating complex action sequences. If your novel climaxes with a naval battle, using Third Person Omniscient enables the reader to follow the action from several angles at once. One minute, we’re surveying the field of combat through the eyes of the admiral in charge of the fleet. The next minute, we’re at one with a member of an individual gun crew awaiting the order to open fire on the enemy.

All of which explains why Third Person Omniscient remains my favorite narrative mode.

Debby Harris is an independent editor living in Scotland. Please visit her website for more information about her editing services and fees.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Narrowing the Gap

Last week, Amazon sent out a notice that now, KDP members (indie authors) would be able to make their books available for pre-order, something that had been denied them until now. Why is this significant?

In traditional publishing, rankings—making those best-seller lists—was based on sales during the first few days of a book’s release. However, publishers could take orders prior to that date, and all those sales showed up on the book’s release date, making it appear that all those books sold on that date (or week). You might still see notices from Big Name Authors with the Big Publishing Houses saying their book will debut at #X on the NYT list, even though it hasn’t been released.

Well, now, Amazon has joined Kobo and iBooks in allowing indie authors to get their books into that same kind of system. And, given that Amazon rankings seem to carry the most weight, being able to have pre-orders show up as sales on the day your book goes live can give it a boost. The better the ranking, the more likely the book will show up in searches.

For me, the timing couldn’t be better. I’ve got an almost-finished version of the new Blackthorne, Inc. book, Windswept Danger, and Amazon’s system, just like those of Kobo and iBooks, doesn’t require the book be in final form when you set it up for pre-order. Kobo will take a dummy file. Amazon requires that the book be "close" because they’re still going to run it through whatever quality control approval system they use. And, of course, you have to make sure that the final version is uploaded in enough time to get through the system to go live on the release date you choose.

One thing I have to consider is pricing. The typical price for my e-books is $3.99. Do I set that price and stick with it, or offer it at a bargain-basement price of 99 cents while it’s on pre-order? If my goal is higher rankings, then a bargain introductory price as incentive to buyers would be better. Given the royalty rates shift from 35% to 70% at the $2.99 price point, if it’s about higher royalties, then having the 'reduced' price set at $2.99 makes sense. I’m leaning toward rankings, which would mean pricing the book at 99 cents during the pre-order phase, then moving it to its ‘regular’ price of $3.99, like the other books in the series when it goes live.

How to attract readers? For big NYT Best-Selling Authors, it's easy. Tell your readers your new book is available for pre-order, and they'll grab it. But what about the rest of us? There are no free sample downloads until the book is live, so people are less likely to buy something sight unseen. For me, I'll have the first chapter on my website, just like I do for all my books.

Do you pre-order books? What criteria do you use when you choose?

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Finishing a Difficult Novel

Getting to the end of the first draft of your book is a major accomplishment for any writer. Getting to the end of the first draft of Backlash, the third book in my Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series was flat-out torture. I’d never struggled to finish a book before. As a typical pantser—one who writes by the seat of her pants—I write a chapter at a time, with only a glimpse in my brain to where I’m going with the story, possibly two or three chapters ahead at most. So why was this book giving me so much trouble?

Expectations. Both mine and my readers.

Over the past year, people wrote to ask me when the next Diana Racine novel was coming out. OMG, people were waiting for it. Those readers had obviously liked the first two well enough to look forward to the third. I published the last one, Goddess of the Moon, in October of 2012. That was almost two years ago. I published one other standalone in between.

Though the first book, Mind Games, wasn’t published until March of 2012, I wrote it way back in 2003 or 2004. My agent spent a couple of years trying to sell it to a publisher, with no success. Then I got distracted writing a few erotic romances under a pen name, published by two very good e-publishers. With no large or small press interested in Mind Games, I decided to self-publish it and the other suspense books I’d already written. At the time, I had no intention of writing a series until I had an idea for a second book, and Goddess of the Moon was born.

Both books received pretty good reviews. How could I possibly live up to them with a third book? I didn’t want to rely on the same formula—I hate that word when it applies to books—that I used in the first two books, namely, Diana in trouble to be rescued by New Orleans police lieutenant, Ernie Lucier, the love of her life. Was there enough excitement? Suspense? Even humor?

One of the main criticisms in longtime series is keeping the characters from becoming stale and repetitious, thereby relying on contrived storylines to make up for the lack of characterization. Since Mind Games was written as a stand-alone, I had to dig deep to advance my main characters in Goddess of the Moon. What was left to know about them? How could I keep them fresh in the third book without losing the traits I had worked so hard to cultivate? Does the relationship between the two protagonists evolve naturally?

You see where I’m going? I began to second-guess myself, fearing Backlash wasn’t up to the two that preceded it. I agonized, edited, rewrote, and in the process lost my objectivity.

I always knew the ending, but getting there took every bit of perseverance I could muster. I’m reading it aloud now, patching inconsistencies, and will send it to a beta reader for her opinion and to my editor for her superb editing skills. My brilliant critique partner has already given it her stamp of approval, surprised by a twist at the end. I’ve announced a September publication date because I think on the whole it’s as good as I can make it.

But what a trip.

Writing a series, though popular with readers, adds extra pressure for me as a writer. Maybe I put that pressure on myself, but I’ve read so many second and third books of a series that can’t hold a candle to the first one. Don’t ask how I feel about the tenth or fifteenth book in a series. I admire those authors who can pull off a long series without disappointing his or her readers.

Will I write a fourth? I doubt it unless I have a major brainstorm, and the story is written in my head from beginning to end. Of course if the producers of the Jason Bourne series want to try another movie franchise…

Polly Iyer is the author of six novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and two books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games and Goddess of the Moon. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Amo, Amas, Among?

Woman Shpping
Graphic courtesy of
August has arrived in full toasty glory, dearies. There were whispers of a relatively mild high of 102 degrees, but the glare from the outdoor thermometer prevented verification. As the heat is causing my tomato blossoms to pop off of the plants, I’m inspired to post a pop quiz. Leave your bens and grab your pens!

1. Between or among? Which word is used to denote an undefined relationship?
2. Censer or censor? Which one seeks to suppress?
3. Flaunt or flout? Which one might get you arrested?
4. Illegible or unreadable? Which is the lesser of two ‘writerly’ evils?
5. Staunch or stanch? Which one describes the purpose of a tourniquet?

Pens down, if you please. It’s time to see just how well you’ve done. Admirably, I expect; I have yet to be disappointed in any of you.

1. Among. When discussing collective or undefined relationships, among is the proper choice. Civility among shoppers flies out the window if the discount is steep enough. If the relationship is one-on-one, between is appropriate. Between you and me, those shoes are hideous. And according to the CMOS, amongst anything is a no-no.
2. Censor. While a censer is used to waft incense, a censor is prevailed upon to filter out objectionable language, scenes, or anything else that may not sit well with the powers that be. Of course, if the manuscript that crosses your desk truly stinks, you may need a censer as well.
3. Flout. It may be fun to flaunt your style sense with that fabulous new coat, but it isn’t wise to acquire it by flouting the law and stooping to theft.
4. Illegible. Having handwriting so terrible as to be illegible is one thing; writing that is rendered unreadable by being “incomprehensible or intolerably dull” is quite another.
5. Stanch. I am a staunch supporter of healthy levels of hemoglobin, which is why I took great pains to stanch the blood flow when I accidentally punctured myself with a buttonhook last week.

And there you are! Quick and painless, unlike a typical Midwestern summer. Ah, well. It’s a good thing that so many charming outfits are being made with cotton nowadays; polyester could be considered a crime against humanity in some climates. Speaking of cotton, I hear my loom calling. There are new dish towels to be woven, and so I’ll leave you to your day. Wear something light, drink plenty of water, and remember: a well-turned phrase is always in style!

Photo courtesy of Darrick Bartholomew

Having discovered that her green thumb was due to an overtight ring, the Style Maven is resigned to the fact that she will have to procure garden-fresh produce from someone else's garden. You can follow her continuing adventures as The Procraftinator at

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kill Your Darlings?

Image by Henry Söderlund, via Flickr
I’m at the stage of editing my book where I’m starting to suspect I’ve been molly-coddling a darling or two. “But,” I wondered, “how does one tell?” Kill Your Darlings was a slogan of the Blood-Red Pencil for some time, so I thought I would ask my fine colleagues the following questions:

1. How do you determine what might be a “darling” - either in your own work or a client’s work? What clues do you pick up?
2. What differentiates a “darling” from a valuable plot thread?
3. Are darlings always evil? Do they destroy a book if they are allowed to live?
4. Have you ever killed a darling and then regretted it?
5. Have you ever relocated a darling to another book where it forms a genuine piece of the plot?

Linda Lane When I wrote my first book, I finished with 20,000 words too many in the inflated first draft. Some of the descriptive passages were so near and dear to my heart. Bottom line: lovely as I thought they were, they didn’t move the plot forward. I still remember the lump in my throat when I deleted one particular segment. Was it evil? Not at all. Did it paint an incredible word picture? I thought so. But the wordiness of the book had to be trimmed to a viable size, so the delete key became my new friend...although I didn’t view it as very friendly at that time. I also seem to recall getting rid of a character, but that’s a vague memory. Obviously, I must not miss him or her now.

As an editor I am much less emotional about cutting the fluff. Again, if a character or scene doesn’t serve a useful purpose in moving the story forward, it needs to go. I’ve had a number of intense discussions with writers who did not share my point of view, but in many cases they agreed after pondering the matter. One in particular insisted on keeping her story “as is”, and I wonder how she’s faring with her sales.

Morgan Mandel I relocated some of my darlings from Forever Young: Blessing or Curse and put them in a second book instead, which was a Collection called Blessing or Curse. The first book had too many characters to start out with, and I was afraid it wouldn’t hold the readers’ attention.

Terry Odell Tough as it is, you have to ask “Does it advance the plot”? I’ve put back a couple of cut scenes when I republished the book as an e-book, since I wasn’t hampered by word length, but I’m more likely to put them in my “From the Cutting Room Floor” section of my website. Anything that sounds writerly -- cut it.

Diana Hurwitz 1 and 2. A darling is anything that an author finds fun, touching, interesting, but doesn’t move the story forward or define character in a useful way. In one of the works that my group critiques, the author is very fond of her story world. She loves piling in world details. She loves her multitude of characters. But very little happens in the chapter and the details don’t necessarily add anything. She’ll say but all these cool things appear, yet there’s no conflict. It’s okay to keep some of the details, but something has to happen. The details can be spread a little thinner.

3. They are not inherently evil, but if they don’t serve the plot in some way, they slow the flow.

4. I can’t say I've ever cut a darling that I regretted, but I have cut a darling or two I loved. The story was the stronger for it.

5. I have not relocated a darling, but I do believe in keeping a file with all the cuttings that could be repurposed later. A friend cut a character from a story and he ended up with his own.

Dani Greer Darlings are mostly those things the writer is attached to and simply WON’T cut. A sure sign that it’s a darling!

How about you, dear readers? How do you determine if something has darling-status? How would you answer the questions I posed above? Curious editors want to know.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Why Do You Write?

When asked why I write, I usually come up with one of a few common answers, the most frequent being “I have stories to tell.” They rattle around in my head until I finally give up and commit them to paper (in recent years my hard drive). But then a period of reflection reveals a different reason—or reasons—so I am telling you why I write before asking you why you do it.

Image via Dave on Morguefile
One thing that comes to mind for me is my soapbox. (This can’t be obvious because it will turn off the reader.) I never promote a political party, a religion, or a cause. But I do have a very subtle (I hope) agenda. My first novel, for example, dealt with domestic violence. It’s an integral part of the story, and the victim is a major character—though not the protagonist. And it isn’t the primary plot. Still, much of the story’s emotion and connection with the reader evolves from her situation. Also, every incident of abuse is one that either I or someone I know lived.

Other works address situations that have also touched my heart and will, I hope, do the same for readers. The first book in my current series explores the fascinating interactions between men and women, misunderstandings that can arise from making assumptions, and the life-altering effects of substance abuse. Its sequel delves into the long-term results of child abuse, as well as the perils of becoming involved, however unintentionally, with drug pushers. Will a third one be added to this series? That has yet to be determined. A young adult novel also on the table tackles conflicting views of ranchers and animal activists regarding wolves in Colorado. Another “gentle thriller” focuses on family dynamics, racial discrimination, and Medicare fraud. Still another dramatizes how tentacles of infidelity can, years later, flood innocent and even unconnected lives with drama, danger, and death.

Image via Hotblack on Morguefile
All these scenarios call out to me and make good grist for my writing mill. Handing them to my various characters to face and run with makes my stories realistic and may (hopefully) shed light on some of my readers’ lives. Yes, I want to tell stories, but I also want to entertain, enrich, and enlighten all those who read my books.

So why do you write?

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You Can Do It

How many hours a day do you spend writing? Do you have a place where you go to write? An office, a table, a chair with your computer in your lap? I have an office, a desk and a chair. The guest room is my "office" except when guests show up. If we have guests, I move upstairs to a fold-out table and a chair.

For close to two months now, I've been in my office working at a card table and a chair. That's because everything that was upstairs in our bedroom has now been moved to the loft area. The desk is still in my downstairs office, but there's not enough room for the chair now that the couch is folded out with three mattresses atop it. (We had to take a smaller mattress from our son's bed in order to fit our mattress onto the couch.) This is not where I'm used to working, but I'm getting work done on my next book.

Why am I working in the guest room? Late one night, the roof of our house was mostly blown off and rain poured in, seeped into the carpet, through the flooring and down into the kitchen.

A neighbor sent over one of his employees to put the roof back on. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This past Tuesday was the first time people recommended by our insurance company came out to assess the damage and determine what needed to be fixed. It'll take a bit of time since there's a lot to do. The upstairs deck was torn apart. All the carpet will have to be replaced. Wood beams in the kitchen downstairs will have to be removed and replaced, as will part of the ceiling above the sink. And on and on.

What I'm wondering is where do you write? If you could not write there, what would be your second choice of a writing spot? Do you write with the TV in the background? I can be easily distracted by the TV in the living room or the phone ringing. If there are people here watching TV, I shut the door to my office.

Do you need silence? Or do you have music or the TV playing in the background?

I'm a "silence" writer. If it's quiet, I can hear characters talking in my head.

Helen Ginger is an author, blogger, and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn. Helen is the author of 3 books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series, Angel SometimesDismembering the Past and two of her short stories can be found in the anthology, The Corner Cafe. Her next book, Deadpoint, is due out in 2015.


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