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October 2011

Are you Showing too much?

Over on her excellent blog, The Elephant in the Writing Room, Sally Zigmond's been talking about Showing and Telling. And as well as flattering the Itch by linking to my own post about it, she makes a very good point that trying to Show often leads writers into endless, endless details about missing the alarm-clock switch, and scrambling out of bed and tripping over the dog and dropping things and running out of breath and tumbling onto the train and feeling sweaty when shaking the MD's hand.... and all to Show what could be told: John arrived at the office... Read more →

POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 4: moving point of view and other stories

This is Part Four of a four-part series. Part One: the basics is here, Part Two: internal narrators is here, Part Three: external narrators is here. MOVING POINT OF VIEW: how to do it Obviously you can just switch from one limited viewpoint to another: a double-line space, or a new chapter, and as long as the first sentence or two grounds the reader, so that (even unconsciously) they sense that we're not in the previous point of view, and where we are instead, that's fine. But what if you want to use the usual, "traditional" technique of a narrator... Read more →

POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 3: external narrators

This is Part Three of a four-part series. Part One: the basics is here, and Part Two: internal narrators is here. EXTERNAL NARRATORS A narrator who isn't a character in the story will tell everything in third person, because as an "I" they're not present in the events. Evelyn was thinking about seducing Alex, while on the other side of town Joanna was planning to seduce Evelyn. But, of course, it's up to the storyteller - you - which consciousnesses you allow the narrator to lead the reader inside. And it's up to you whether the narrator can tell things... Read more →

POINT OF VIEW & NARRATORS 2: internal narrators

This is Part Two of a four part post. Part One: the basics is here. INTERNAL NARRATORS (i): The character as narrator If your narrator is internal, a character-narrator, then the question of point of view is usually assumed to be simple. A character who is inside the story tells their story in first person, because "I" was there. So Andy narrates: I saw John with the stolen brooch in his hand - I guess he stole it, but I don't blame him. His baby was crying in the next room, so he must have stolen the brooch to buy... Read more →


Point of View seems to get more aspiring writers in more of a fuss than almost any other technical issue... with the inevitable result that there's also more nonsense talked about it, and more prescriptive "rules" bandied about, than almost any other technical issue. I've even heard "first person" described as a point-of-view, which is a category error. But it's not, actually, that complicated to understand the basics, so this is the first of my fourt-part breakdown of the issues, for you to decide for yourself how you're going to handle it. And, indeed, many writers handle PoV naturally and... Read more →

How don't you do it?

One of the things about becoming an author is that people start asking you for opinions and advice. But I've sometimes heard an author saying or writing things about How to Write (as opposed to How I Write, which is different) which have made me think, "Oh, help! I hope no one here thinks it's the only way, and/or the ticket to success!" That's not because I write better, or sell better, than whoever's talking. It's because I know that there are other ways than the one they've just described. The opposite is also true. I know of one aspiring... Read more →

The centipede, the shape-sorter and being Martina

My name is Emma, and I am a technique geek. Not that that's any surprise to anyone who's been reading this blog for more than about five minutes. But every now and again, when I've been unpicking/listing/analysing something about how writing and writers work, someone says, "I dunno. I don't think like that, I just do it on gut instinct." Which of course we all do, much of the time, before, during and after that central process of moving from total beginner to adequately competent writer. The thing is, although I find being geeky about creative work fascinating, I think... Read more →

Flashing, slipping and mixing things up

One of the most useful dicta (I won't say "rules" because there are no rules) I came across early in teaching myself to write was "start as near the end as possible". It was a propos short fiction, and of course it's not really as simple as that, but there's a lot to be said for remembering it in novel-writing too. Later I came across the thriller-writers' dictum "Get in late and get out early", which is the same idea and equally sort-of-true (see here for a discussion of the "getting out" bit). And I usually find that students' MS... Read more →