Thursday, March 25, 2010

Are Your Readers "On the Bus?"

Short blog post, folks.

As I mentioned on SUBLIMINAL MONDAY, I've changed the POV in my novel from 3rd person to 1st. I'm 13k words in, and the change is amazing. I have Kim Franklin and Becca Fitzpatrick to thank for this change, Kim for allowing me to be a part of (and winning!) her contest give-away of the novel, "hush, hush" and Becca for writing it (thank you both!).

As I read Becca's book, I had one of those major "aha!" moments. I suppose this is part of the reason why we writers are told to always keep reading. "hush, hush" is written in 1st person POV, and my book is similar to it on several levels. I realized that by my main character telling the story rather than an anonymous 3rd person, the novel had the potential to burst forth in a more powerful and exciting way.

I (of course!) love my book, but felt it was slightly sticky and forced. This POV change has opened up a new door and allowed fresh, beautiful air to breathe new life into the characters and story. This change allows the reader, as my dear friend Julie says, to be "on the bus." By that, she means the reader is fully involved in the story, experiencing it deeply, and has a stake in the characters, their journey, and their destination.

What do you - as a writer - do to make sure fresh air is blowing through your ms and that your readers are "on the bus?" I'd love to hear your thoughts.

42 comments:

Julie said...

I do rewrites exactly like you are doing. And I have to give credit for the bus metaphor to the first reader of my first novel (after I got focused a couple years ago). The book actually starts out on a bus, and her comment was, "I don't feel like I'm on the bus." Since then, "on the bus" is the rating for audience involvement. I love it because it helps me to see how far I've come since that first draft, while remembering those characters and their bus ride.

Keep up the great work!!

Debra L. Schubert said...

I love the metaphor, and it will always remind me of you. Thanks for kicking me in the arse and reminding me to keep my readers on the bus! ;-)

Jennifer Walkup said...

Congrats on making a change you love. Sounds like a big job to go from 3rd to 1st POV - good luck getting it done. I agree with you about 1st person, I love it too!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

My novel-in-verse started as prose but fell short. It wasn't until I pieced together the ways women on the frontier expressed themselves in writing(think terse and bleak)that I was able to climb into my character's skin and make the story work. As poems.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I love that picture- I want spring so badly!

I'm most comfortable writing in third person and so far it's worked for both my stories. Thank goodness!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jennifer, Thanks. Some scenes are more difficult than others. I need to do some rework to the end, but the book is so much better that I don't mind the work. ;-)

Ruthanne Reid said...

Read, of course - and experience life. I can see so clearly how the older I get and the more I go through, the better I'm able to describe feelings and experiences because... well, I was there! (Facing a dragon? No. Facing a bear outside our cabin at camp? Yes. Gave me a new perspective, I'll tell you that!)

I love that metaphor, on the bus. Great post as always!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Caroline, That is so freaking cool! I'd love to read it.

Kimberly Franklin said...

I am so happy that you loved Hush, Hush. And when you sell your novel and become an uber, stephenie Meyer famous author just remember who sent you the chocolate.(Hehe.)

But seriously, I love first person POV. And writing in first person is more comfortable for me. Maybe it's because I read mostly first person novels, but I believe, as the reader, first person allows you to fully experience the story and the MC.

I wish you luck with your story!!!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Stephanie, It's important to write in the way you're most comfortable. I'm glad 3rd person POV is working for you. This story was begging for 1st person - it just took me a while to see it! ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Ruthanne, Yes, I agree. I'm amazed when I see very young writers finding agents and being published. Good for them! But I agree that the more you read and experience, the more gold you have to mine.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Kim, I owe you, big time. Be prepared for a mountain of chocolate to ring your doorbell one of these days. (Yes, chocolate is alive. It has feelings and can ring doorbells. And that is only the beginning of chocolate's many talents!)

Karen Walker said...

Congratulations, Debra. That's a major discovery to make at this point in your process. So happy for you.
Karen

Lisa K. said...

I made that switch from 3rd person to 1st person POV in a manuscript once, too. After three rounds of revisions I knew something was still seriously wrong with the novel and realized that the voice was far too intimate to work in 3rd person POV. The change was just what the manuscript needed.

insidethewritersstudio said...

The difference a change in POV makes! (I happened by and had to comment.)

I got 80 pages (ss) into my first novel, but it just wasn't working. I finally figured out pov was the issue, so I chucked it all (no exaggeration) and started completely over, changing from third-person to a much more intimate first-person. It felt like finding your wallet after it's been missing for two days. With ten thousand dollars in it.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Karen, Thanks. I'm thrilled I figured it out, just wish I would've realized it sooner. Then again, now that I know the story, it's fun to retell it from my mc's perspective.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Lisa, It's so great to hear that! Part of me wants to bang my head on the wall, wondering why I didn't realize the problem sooner. But, it's all a process, so better late than never!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Inside, I'm so glad you stopped by and commented. "It felt like finding your wallet after it's been missing for two days. With ten thousand dollars in it." BINGO!!!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

My current wip is first person, but I'm struggling lately to find some fresh air for it. I need to do revisions, but not sure what to fix.
I did love hush,hush! Glad you're sorting out the kinks in your wip!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Terry Lynn, Where are you in the process? Are you finished w/the first draft? For me, sometimes I just need to step away for a few days, take a walk, listen to music, or read something else. It's hard to figure out that elusive "what's missing" when something's not right. Good luck and keep me posted on your progress. ;-)

Indigo said...

The book I'm working on now is doing great (according to Paul) in third person. In order to see the whole picture (plot), I need to have a broad spectrum to cover all the different elements going on. I think that would be rather difficult in first person. The main character isn't aware of all the elements and wouldn't be able to bring the readers into the story line in first.

Sorry I haven't been around in a bit. Alot of that...hmm...writing grief is still playing out. (Hugs)Indigo

Steph Damore said...

It's awesome how much POV changes a story. Sometimes you just know what POV your WIP should have. Other times, you have to change it and see what happens.

Keeping my readers on the bus means keeping them guessing. I rewrite my mysteries until you're guessing right up until the end.

Becca Fitzpatrick said...

Oh, cool! Glad to have helped! ;)

Best of luck with the writing!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Indigo, It's so great to see you again! If your book is working well in 3rd person, then go with it. I'm glad I went that way first, because I got to see the other character's perspectives more clearly.

Also, whenever you want to talk, you know where to find me. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Steph, Great point! Even in books that aren't mysteries, there are mysteries. How will a character react in a certain situation? Will they live? Get sick? Get married? Win the game?

Keeping your readers guessing is one of the very best ways to keep them on the bus. Thanks for that!!!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Becca, Thanks so much for stopping by. I loved, "hush, hush," and learned a lot from your wonderful writing. Most especially, thank you for unintentionally pointing me in the right direction re: the POV for my story. Like I said, I owe you one!

Best wishes to you. I wish you great success in your ongoing career. ;-)

Jemi Fraser said...

I enjoy reading 1st person pov, but writing it always feels uncomfortable. I think when I have the right story for it, it will flow more easily. I'm glad you're enjoying the results of the switch :)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jemi, I am enjoying the switch. It's interesting how we all have POV's we're more comfortable writing in. I've written in 1st and 3rd and liked them both. If 3rd works well for you, then go with it. If a story with a 1st person POV comes your way, I hope you figure it out sooner than I did! ;-)

gael lynch said...

My writing group is really the best when it comes to keeping my feet to the fire...and getting the most vivid details on the page. So often, writing reminds me of sculpting. The more we've gotten to know each other, the more honest we've become. So often I think I'm on the bus, when in reality? I'm sitting atop a tree looking down at it!! :)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Gael, You're lucky to have a writing group who can lead you back off the tree and on to the bus! I've never been part of a writing group, but everyone I know who is in one, says the feedback is priceless. Right now my agent is my writing group. Lucky for me, she's brilliant and isn't afraid to crack the whip! (And, Lord knows, I need it cracked!!)

Jody Hedlund said...

I think it's possible to get into deep POV for 3rd person. I'm trying to learn to do this better with each novel I write, because I think that deep view draws the reader inside.

Glad the rewrite is going so well!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jody, I totally agree - I love 3rd person POV, but for this book I think 1st person is working better. Can't wait to read your books!

Meghan Ward said...

Debra, now that we're best friends (I'm officially following your blog), you have an award over on my blog - http://bit.ly/cvKySZ Not that you need it! My book is a memoir, so it was always in first person. As for keeping people on the bus, this is not an easy question to answer! For me it's been a combination of many things, but mostly showing emotional responses to events, and not just the events themselves.

Pen Pen said...

I've always heard it's much harder to write a whole novel in 1st person. I write short stories in 1st, but that's only a few pages.

OOH! U gotta come check out my new cupcake video! It reminds me of u!!...except for the hard drugs. :)

nsiyer said...

Its all about newness in life. Creating each day to be new is what life is all about. And ultimately, it is the singer and not the song.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Meghan, I'm so glad we're now BFF's! I'll definitely pop over to your place to check out your blog and retrieve my blog bling. [My blog has the same philosophy as me: "There's no such thing as too much bling!"]

Your tip for keeping folks on the bus is brilliant: "show emotional responses to events, not just the events themselves." I'm going to keep that front and center as I move forward.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Penny, You crack me up. Heading over now!

Debra L. Schubert said...

nsiyer, This is why I love you. Your attitude towards to the magic and creativity of life is priceless. You're right (as always!) - it's all about the newness of life. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Nicole, Welcome! It's so nice to "meet" you. Love your idea of utilizing sensual descriptions to draw your readers in - brilliant, really. I will keep that in mind as I move forward with my rewrite. And, again, so glad you're here! ;-)

nsiyer said...

Life is unfolding for you, Debrah and I thought it was a great question to ask' What do you stand for?' You have left me thinking and reflecting. Thanks.

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I love the metaphor,
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