Write This Way Wednesday: Head-Hopping. Oh, the Confusion…

Roughly a month ago, I was having a short story critiqued by my writer’s group for the anthology that we are working on. When I received my story back in hand and was going over the comments, someone had pointed out a couple of spots where I was apparently “head-hopping” and even referred me to a site that would explain the difference between that and writing in omniscient point of view. I was quite taken aback by this because one, I’d never heard of such a thing called “head-hopping,” and two, I had never, in anything I’d ever written and had published, been called out on it before. So naturally I’m mortified that I’ve possibly been making such a mistake and once I got home I went straight to the recommended website (http://jamigold.com/2011/02/what-makes-omniscient-pov-different-from-head-hopping/) to learn what this “head-hopping” was and how I could keep from doing it in the future. Honestly, it was only slightly helpful as the author was somewhat confused on the matter herself. However, I tried to decipher her understanding of it and this is what I came away with.
Basically, you have close third person and omniscient. With close third person, the story should be told in that character’s voice. With omniscient, the story should be told in the narrator’s voice. With omniscient POV, the narrator has insight to the character’s thoughts and feelings, and relays them in his voice, whereas with close third person, the story is told in the main characters voice, thus being unable to offer insight into the other characters thoughts and feelings. Seems pretty cut and dry, right? Wrong. Apparently, after being told that “head-hopping” is bad, we’re told that it can actually be done if it’s done correctly, i.e. not too often, using proper breaks and transitions, etc. So what is one to think?
First, I combed through my story while using Gold’s website as sort of a guide, and compared the parts that had been questioned as “head-hopping.” From what was being explained, there were only two small parts that could have actually been “head-hopping,” while the other couple of parts that were marked didn’t seem to really fit the bill. And what about everything else I had written that hadn’t been accused of committing “head-hopping”? By luck or sheer talent, had I just transitioned well enough between characters’ POVs that it hadn’t been an issue? Gaaahhh!!! The frustration!!
I decided to do a little more research on the matter. The very third search result (right after Jami Gold’s, coincidentally enough) was one titled “Is Head-Hopping A Myth.” (http://thewritepractice.com/head-hopping-myth/) In this quick post, the author, Joe Bunting, focuses on what head-hopping is not and states that head-hopping only applies to third-person limited omniscient. He uses the book Snobs by Julian Fellowes as an example of switching character POVs from a first person omniscient. He explains that first person omniscient is told from the POV of someone who is/was so close to the action that they can comment on everyone’s thoughts and feelings, but they are doing this in their own voice. He tells us that we are only breaking the rules if we are supposed to be writing in third-person limited omniscient.
Okay, so I was beginning to understand a little better…
My next choice on the list of research results was a blog post by Ellen Brock, titled “The Difference Between Omniscient POV and Head-Hopping.” (http://ellenbrockediting.com/2013/11/26/the-difference-between-omniscient-pov-and-head-hopping/) This one really did kind of bring everything else together for me. She points out that one of the biggest misconceptions about omniscient POV is that it lets you go into the viewpoint of any character at any time. She explains that omniscient POV has one viewpoint, that of the narrator, and the narrator doesn’t have to go into different viewpoints because he/she already knows everything about the characters. The narrator just chooses what information to reveal and when to reveal it.
At this point, I do feel like I have a better understanding of the whole “head-hopping” atrocity and somehow have managed to avoid it until this most recent piece. I’ve combed it over, time and again, and hopefully the final cut will be devoid of any instances of it. I’ve included links to all of the posts so you can read the pieces more in depth, as I only summed them up.

Write This Way Wednesday: Characterization

Last week I left you with some helpful advice from Brian Doyle. This week I’ll be discussing the topic of characterization with a little help from David Corbett and his article “Characters, Scene By Scene,” published in the January 2015 edition of Writer’s Digest. He begins by discussing the “laundry list” we are taught to make for our characters, which focuses on three major areas. The physical attributes of your character, the psychological aspect, and the sociological. However, it’s not the list that makes the characters come to life. Corbett says “that once the writing started, the characters “took on lives of their own,” taking me in directions I hadn’t anticipated.” He says that this is fine as long as they take you somewhere interesting, but even at that you must have a good narrative. So the question becomes, how do you get all of that “laundry list” information into the story, and at the same time help your characters take on that life of their own? His answer is scene.
To begin with, Corbett reiterates the age old truth that actions and words reveal more of a person’s character than what they think or feel. Thoughts and feelings are kept inside a person and are also subject to change due to time and/or circumstance, whereas words and actions are out there in the world and once words are spoken or an action is executed, it can’t be taken back. With this in mind, dropping a character into a scene and letting them react gives insight to and helps build a character. A technique, or exercise if you will, that aids in this developing of a character, is fleshing out different emotionally trying scenes, scenes of helplessness. Flesh these out, whether you use them or not, because they will help give you a better grasp and understanding of your character. He advises that before this is attempted, however, try to have a basic understanding of your story, more specifically the three key elements of the problem (what the main characters want), the insight (the revelation the character has about himself and/or his world in his struggle with the problem), and the decision (the life-changing choice prompted by insight).
From this, Corbett delves into more detail regarding the three main character aspects mentioned above. Regarding the physical nature of characters, he says this is more than just what your character looks like. Ask questions like How does my character’s appearance make her feel? and How does it make others feel about her? Consider how things like race, age, health, etc. affect how your character interacts with other characters and how they react to different situations.
For your character’s psychological nature, there are deeper things to explore to determine his actions/reactions. What fears does your character have and how do those fears influence the character’s actions? Other psychological aspects to consider are love (who and what does your character love), guilt (what things might your character have done to inspire feelings of guilt), failure (how does your character respond to failure), and death (has he lost someone dear to him, does he fear death, etc.). These are but a few of the psychological aspects that can add depth to a character.
Finally, Corbett discusses the sociological aspect of characterization. In a nutshell, where psychological deals with the things inside of a character, sociological deals with the things on the outside. Many of these will actually contribute to the psyche of your character. How does your character interact with his or her family and why? What types of friendships does your character have? Do they have one close friend, or many friends that she keeps at a distance? Why? What is your character’s home life like? Where does he or she feel most comfortable?
I hope you’ve been able to take away as much as I have from this article. After reading this, I feel like I’ve been doing it wrong all along, lol. If you enjoyed this and would like to see what else Mr. Corbett has to say on the craft, you can visit his website at davidcorbett.com

Some Great Advice From Brian Doyle…

Back in March I attended the Ohio University Literature Festival in Athens and I posted pictures and a few highlights of the event. As I was doing the great purge I spoke of yesterday, I also came across a handout that Brian Doyle had passed out prior to his lecture. Just to refresh on who Brian Doyle is, he was the author that brought tears to every eye in the room during his reading. He’s the author of many beautiful essays, my favorite being “Joyas Volardores” which you can find here https://theamericanscholar.org/joyas-volardores/#.VVtX40ZUX41. He is a very spiritual, kind man and it shows through in his writing as well as his encouraging advice. I would love to copy, word for word, every line on this handout to share with you, but for fear of copyright infringement I’ll refrain. Hard as it is to decide, I will pass along to you only the highlights of what he shared with us that day.

1. Bleed. Sing. Stop thinking. Let Go.
2. Go ahead and lie. That’s what fiction is for-telling true stories sideways. Tell whoppers.
3. If you just start, if you just take an idea out for a walk, generally something good will happen.
4. (One of my favorites) Expect no money. Be happily surprised by small coins. (And I am, every time I get that little unexpected royalty check from Amazon.)
5. Style is only the delivery system for the story. Never think about your style. Run screaming away from style.
6. Jot. Scribble. Scrawl. Take notes. Journals, diaries, daybooks, notepads, email yourself, call yourself, send yourself texts. Leave yourself clues. Then get your ass to your keyboard as soon as you can and take the idea out for a stroll.
7. (Another favorite) For you young writers: get a job. Type fast. Learn to listen. Show up daily. Again: get a job.
8. The more you read the better writer you will be. Reading is hearing voices on the page.
And finally…
9. Stories are the only way to defeat time.
Brian Doyle, March 2014

And there you have it. Well, at least some of it. I will probably hang on to this handout until it’s falling apart. He was probably the most inspiring author at that event this year, even though I enjoyed them all. I highly recommend giving him a read and getting to know this wonderful author.

A Poet I Am Not…

Those of you who know me fairly well know that I am by no means a poet. That’s the one area of writing where I feel my attempts are utterly juvenile. I freely admit it. Today, however, as I was performing a great purge of papers and writing that I felt just weren’t worth saving any longer, I came across the little gem below. I would consider this piece my best and most valiant attempt at poetry. I hope you enjoy it…

Daydreams…
The hardest part of you leaving
is that you’ll never know.
You won’t know how I lived
for the days I’d spend with you.
The days you’d leave me breathless
with only a smile, speechless with a touch.

I’d watch you move,
and listen to you talk,
at times not hearing,
just watching your lips move.
Imagining and wondering,
what it would be like to feel
those lips touching mine.

In my mind I’d see you and me,
the actors in the scenes that I
created, each with a happy ending.
This isn’t the movies though,
and this isn’t my fantasy either.
Reality is happening to me now,
and there is no happy ending.

You’ll never know that I cried
as I watched you walk away,
fading into the crowd until
you completely disappeared.
It took me a moment
to gather myself and dry my tears.
But I did, telling myself that
it was better this way.

Maybe by the time you return,
if you return,
I might actually believe it.

Ohio University Literature Festival 2015

I recently attended the yearly Literature Festival at Ohio University and was, as always, thoroughly inspired. This was the first time I’d been in several years and it was so great to be back, for the event as well at the locale. I love Athens. It’s such a wonderful, eccentric, little college town and the OU campus in Athens is absolutely beautiful. It was a small group this year, but I think that made it somewhat even more enjoyable.

Hayley and I at the Opening Event!!

Hayley and I at the Opening Event!!

Opening night we were treated to reading from Marie Howe and Dorothy Alison. While I’m not one for poetry, I did enjoy her reading and was surprised to find that I was actually aware of her work. We’d read one of her more popular poems, “What the Living Do,” in an English class I’d had previously. Dorothy Alison, however, was the treat of the night! I’ve never read anything of hers, but I’d heard of her novel, Bastard Out of Carolina. She read a piece from her current WIP and it was amazing. She completely won me over and I ended up purchasing the above mentioned book.

The next morning we began the day with lectures from Ms. Alison and Charles Johnson. After her reading, I really couldn’t wait to hear what else Ms. Alison had to say. To sum it up, she insists that we be wicked and write for our rage!! Charles Johnson was just as motivating and left me dying to take his writing “boot camp.”

Charles Johnson

Charles Johnson

Dorothy Alison

Dorothy Alison

After the events we explored Athens, heading up to the Kennedy Art Museum which is located inside the old Athens Asylum. I’m always blown away by this place and would love to spend a night there ghost hunting. After all, Athens is one of the most haunted places in the world. We visited the asylum’s cemetery and I showed the others where the old tuberculosis unit used to be. Sadly, this historical building was torn down some time ago. Later that night it was time for the next set of readings. Up to bat, Brian Doyle and Robert Pinsky! Pinsky combined his poetry with music and it was really neat to see how it fit together. It was definitely a first for me. Brian Doyle’s reading and presentation was so very emotional. Yes, I shed tears, and it wasn’t the first time his work has made me cry. He truly is a very spiritual, emotional, and amazing human being.

Jess and Marie Howe

Jess and Marie Howe

Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle

Robert Pinsky and his jazz band

Robert Pinsky and his jazz band

While all of the authors were amazing and very inspiring, I have to say that Brian Doyle and Dorothy Alison were my favorites. But I noticed a common message with all of the writers, and it’s one that I completely agree with. To be any kind of a writer, one MUST READ!!! They all talked about different students who want to be writers, but don’t read, for various reasons. I think my favorite reason was “I want to develop my own voice.” Well, duh, knucklehead. Reading other peoples’ work isn’t going to steal your voice, but it will sure as hell help your craft. You don’t read other authors to be like them. You read them to be inspired, to learn from them, and for the sheer joy and pleasure of it. All I can do is just shake my head at the thought of someone who wants to be a writer not being a reader. The thought is just inconceivable to me.

Anyway, I returned home, totally rejuvenated in a writerly sense and am ready to tackle the beast that is Sunstone Covens 2 and the anthology stories for W3’s next anthology. In the meantime, here are a few more pics from my little trip. Enjoy!!

Brian Doyle visiting with the fans!

Brian Doyle visiting with the fans!

Dorothy Alison talking with a fan. And yep, I got to sit right behind her!!

Dorothy Alison talking with a fan. And yep, I got to sit right behind her!!

Brian taking care of the authors! Ms. Alison wanted a cup of tea, but she was so bombarded with fans that she couldn't get away. Brian to the rescue!!

Brian taking care of the authors! Ms. Alison wanted a cup of tea, but she was so bombarded with fans that she couldn’t get away. Brian to the rescue!!

Me and Jess, so excited that we got to sit RIGHT BEHIND the authors!!

Me and Jess, so excited that we got to sit RIGHT BEHIND the authors!!

Me, being all fangirl and getting Dorothy Alison to sign my book.

Me, being all fangirl and getting Dorothy Alison to sign my book.

Drinkin’ the Haterade!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little addicted to snippets of advice from other authors. I love to hear them talk about their processes, they’re own literary journey, and so on. Some of it I find useful, the rest, even I don’t find it useful, it’s still interesting information to me. Inspirational and motivating I guess you could say. Recently, one of my writer peeps posted a link to an article on our writer’s group Facebook page. You can check it out here: http://www.aerogrammestudio.com/2015/02/24/stephen-king-everything-you-need-to-know-about-writing-successfully/

There was some really great advice in it. The only problem was that it was Stephen King that was giving the advice. First, let me say that I do truly respect what Stephen King has done and I do consider him a master of the craft. Honestly, any bit of writing advice the man dishes out should be treated as gold. However, that is from a professional standpoint.

I commented on the post, saying that the advice was great and that things like that made me want to like him as a person. I was then asked how I could not like him. So let me explain how I could not like him. I never had a problem with him until he began bashing other authors. And no, it wasn’t just constructive criticism, it was straight up bashing. To the point that one might think he’d been sipping on the Haterade. Two of his victims? Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins. Both young adult authors. Both now very, very rich. He’s achieved great successes on his own, so why he would feel the need to begin bashing other authors I’ll never understand. So he doesn’t like the stories they’ve told. So he feels their writing is atrocious. The fact of the matter is, millions of people read and enjoyed their books so much so that they were made into movies, no, franchises, and these two ladies are now insanely rich. I’d like to think that, despite the criticism, they’re still laughing all the way to the bank. But I know the words probably still sting.

My issue is this. Authors already have it hard enough as it becomes harder and harder to break into traditional publishing. Thank the Gods for self-publishing. Instead of ripping each other’s work apart, we should be doing our best to help each other become better writers. Not only to become better writer’s, but encourage each other. I for one do anything I can to help other emerging authors. Be it giving their work a read and offering my own advice, or helping them find places to submit their work. I’ve even gone to classrooms and spoke to children about writing and how wonderful it can be. Good grief, my current day job is helping college students become better academic writers! While I don’t have as much to offer as say, Stephen King himself, I still do all I can to help other writers or would be writers.

An author that exemplifies this behavior is Anne Rice. She does all of this for other authors and more. First, she basically spear-headed a campaign to encourage Amazon to change the book review process as she saw a progressing problem of author bullying. People would leave horrible, uneducated reviews that weren’t really reviews of the books themselves, but the author being bashed. Second, she has gone to bat for E.L. James against the critics and released several open letters defending her and her work. Anne Rice is truly a class act and the epitome of what an author should be.

Truthfully, the behaviors I’ve described above don’t have to apply only to writers. This should apply to everyone, no matter who you are or what line of work you do. Help each other. Care about each other. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Remembering the Muse…

Let me tell you a story. A story about a young woman who met a boy. She considered him a boy because, while he was twenty-one, he was still several years younger than her. She got to know this boy fairly well and enjoyed every moment they happened to get to spend together, which was actually quite frequent as they worked together. This boy inspired so many stories inside her, one of which she actually sat down and wrote. She never told him this, as a woman is a well of many secrets, and she tucked the story away after perfecting it.

Time passed, the boy moved away, she quit the job. Life went on.

The young woman continued to draw on her muse for inspiration, knowing he was the best muse she’d ever had because he was real. Flesh and blood. One day she was going through her stories and found the one she’d written for him. Feeling a burst of bravery, she submitted it for publication. After a month or so of waiting she received an email. It had been accepted!! She was actually going to get paid a nice amount for it as well. It was the first piece she’d ever written that had been accepted for publication. Later that night she sat alone in her office, remembering her muse and wondering how he’d been.

More time passed and she thought about her muse less and less. He eventually became an occasional thought, triggered by a little reminder here or there. Though she continued to write, she would have creative droughts that lasted for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. Her drive, her inspiration, it really was dissipating.

One night, during a three month walk through an uninspired barren wasteland, he came to her in a dream. They talked of old times in the dream, about what was going on in their lives now, and she even got to meet the child he’d apparently had since they’d last talked. The last thing he said to her before she woke up was, “Don’t forget.”