All posts by Wendy Van Camp

Writer. Gemologist. Artisan Jeweler.

Guest Post: Rethinking Point-Of-View and Viewpoint by Catherine E. McLean

writer at work
A couple of years ago, author and educator Tim Esaias calculated there are some 9,720 variations on POV. Is it any wonder grasping what POV and Viewpoint are can boggle the mind?

To understand POV, I took a time out from my writing to educate myself on all things POV and Viewpoint. Six months later, and after studying thirty-one “experts” take on the subjects, I had my first POV-Viewpoint epiphany. Out of those thirty-one experts, only two said POV and Viewpoint were two separate entities. Were they right?

I looked up the definitions of both in my American Heritage Dictionary. The definitions were not the same. This triggered my second epiphany: most experts, authors, and writers were passing on the rhetoric that the two terms were synonymous and interchangeable. In fact, using the two terms synonymously is what creates the confusion. It’s like being at a highway intersection and finding someone substituted a red light for the green light and labeled it a caution light.

Since I believe in paring things down to a simple level that can be better understood, this is what POV and Viewpoint are:

POINT OF VIEW

Point of View is the Storytelling Narrator at work relating the tale to the reader. POV answers the question: Through whose eyes is the story, or the scene, being observed?

Did you notice the words “narrator at work?” That’s because when a reader reads, they hear a voice coming off the page, which is the “narrative voice.”

Of course, that voice will often be the story’s “focal character,” also known as the protagonist. Yet that narrator’s voice could be:

    – the author
    – one of the other major story characters
    – the story’s storyteller (the voice-over guy)
    – omniscient (as either “god” or the “fly-on-the-wall”)

Another important point to remember is that all Storytelling Narrators have an opinionated and distinct voice that will be either male or female. The narrator’s voice has a cadence or rhythm because of the syntax, diction, and vocabulary that an individual narrator uses.

VIEWPOINT

Viewpoint is how that storytelling narrator characteristically filters information and sensory perceptions, either consciously or unconsciously, while observing what’s happening.

That highly opinionated narrator can be accurate or inaccurate. Their judgement may be subjective or objective. Their opinions, observations, and judgements may fluctuate between extremes. This makes the narrator of the story or scene reliable or unreliable, open-minded or closed-minded, ethical or unethical–even a coward or a hero.

Which means the narrator’s opinions about other people and how the narrator deals with those people in any given situation will be compounded by the narrator’s biases and personal prejudices. Again, this is HOW the narration is being related to the reader.

For example: Character A, B, C, D, and E look at a glass of water on the table. Because the five can see that glass, they will report what they observe–they will narrate–but look HOW they relate what they observe:

    A’s POV-Viewpoint: “It is half full of water.” (Optimist)
    B’s POV-Viewpoint: “Don’t be an idiot, it’s half empty.”(Pessimist)
    C’s POV-Viewpoint: “That’s just a glass with water in it.”(Realist)
    D’s POV-Viewpoint: “Why do you humans care about a glass of water?” (Baffled Alien)
    E’s POV-Viewpoint: Marsha couldn’t believe the conversation had deteriorated to analyzing a glass of water. (Omniscient)

Each of the examples has a distinct voice because the writer conveyed the narrator’s voice onto the page. Unfortunately, for first-time novelists, two things usually happen. One is that the voice on the page is the author’s. That is, all the characters and description-exposition is in the author’s voice, vocabulary, diction, and syntax.

The second problem is that should the writer convey the story through a character or a set of characters, who have individual voices, the author will pop onto the page with the author’s own voice and “intrude” by explaining or commenting on something. For that sentence or paragraph, the reader hears the author’s voice and sees and hears the writer at work (when the writer isn’t supposed to be seen or heard!). Author Intrusions also fall under the category of blatant telling, not showing.

Ninety percent of the problems with show-don’t-tell, cause-effect sequences, etc. can be fixed when POV and Viewpoint are mastered. That’s why I advise beginning writers to stop writing and learn all they can about craft, with POV-Viewpoint being the first thing they concentrate on. Once the writer understands the perks and pitfalls of the style of POV-Viewpoint that works for them, they will write far better stories. As a bonus, they won’t have to unlearn the bad habits they’ve been repeating–and reinforcing.

Make no mistake, craft enhances talent, and best of all, craft can be learned. And that’s why it doesn’t matter what style of POV-Viewpoint is used as long as the narrative keeps the reader turning pages.

Catherine E McLeanAbout Catherine E. McLean – her short stories have appeared in hard-copy and online anthologies and magazines. ADRADA TO ZOOL is an anthology of many of those stories. Her novels include KARMA AND MAYHEM (a paranormal fantasy romance) and JEWELS OF THE SKY (a futuristic adventure). This year The Wild Rose Press will publish her lighthearted fantasy/sci-fi romance HEARTS AKILTER (Love, vengeance, attempted murder and a bomb… No reason to panic).

Catherine also gives writing workshop, both online and in-person. A schedule is posted at http://www.writerscheatsheets.com/workshops.html

Catherine’s website for writers is http://www.WritersCheatSheets.com and she blogs at http://writerscheatsheets.blogspot.com/

Hub Website: http://www.CatherineEmclean.com
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/catherinemclean

Connect with Catherine at: http://www.catherineemclean.com/contact-me.html

Author Interview: Robert Mullin

Robert Mullin is a cryptozoologist who has traveled to Africa three times in search of a living dinosaur. He was featured on an episode of the History Channel’s television show, Monster Quest. I am pleased to welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Robert MullinMy name is Robert Mullin, and I am a couch potato who has traveled to Africa three times in search of an animal whose physical description matches that of a living dinosaur. I am interested in a number of eclectic subjects, most of which reside just off the borders of the known realm.

When and why did you begin writing?

Though I had done a number of smaller projects in my early years, I didn’t begin writing in earnest until I was in college, when an English teacher told me, upon reading one of my papers, that I was going to be a writer. Coincidentally, my cousin and I were playing with the beginnings of a story at the time, and I decided to see if my instructor’s words were prophetic.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Probably not until I finished my first “real” novel in 1998 and realized that, clunky as it was, it was a complete, coherent story with the potential for broader audience appeal.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Bid the Gods Arise tells the story of two cousins sold into slavery on another world and getting caught up in the machinations of an ancient evil that hunts their souls. The series is a mythic hybrid drawing from a number of genres, from epic fantasy to supernatural to science fiction. These are not set at odds with each other, but part of the whole cloth of the narrative.

What inspired you to write this book?

My late cousin and I used to take walks and talk about movies and novels we enjoyed. One of our laments was that there were a great number of stories whose premises were sabotaged by poor execution. While we’ve all seen a number of well done but unoriginal films, we felt that most of the really interesting stories that could have been truly great were lackluster because the treatment did not meet the high bar set by the concept. Perhaps somewhat arrogantly (or at least naïvely), we set out to rectify that with our own story, borrowing liberally from various things we found interesting, but in a setting entirely our own. All good authors steal, but the smart ones file off the serial numbers, so I don’t tend to reveal most of my inspirational sources.

I can say that my Star Wars fandom has probably played the most significant role in terms of how I approach the fiction itself. While that series, like most masterpieces, is inherently flawed, I very much identified with the notion of trying to make the unfamiliar familiar, and utilizing grand mythic themes to tell otherwise simple human tales. I tend to prefer mystical/spiritual fantasy to magical fantasy, so in that respect as well the story borrows heavily from the Star Wars model. I deliberately tried to stay away from the fantasy/sci-fi clichés of unpronounceable names and implausible magic systems, and instead focused on real, memorable people who are the true heart of this cosmic drama.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t think so. I grew up reading the classics, so I had to unlearn what are now considered bad habits for writers. I have not read the works of most of the authors I have been compared to, so I can’t really say how accurate those comparisons are.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The title literally woke me up one night as I was still working on one of the early drafts. It seemed to sum up the primary theme of the novel and have a unique cadence. It might be a bit like catching lightning in a bottle; the tentative titles for the subsequent novels in the series don’t have that structure though they will feel consistent.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I prefer readers to draw their own conclusions. Like Tolkien, I “cordially dislike allegory,” and “prefer history—true or feigned—with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.” I don’t think it’s possible to read Bid the Gods Arise without knowing where I stand on certain things, but I would hope that I do not bludgeon readers with my worldview, but rather allow it to shape the tale just as most authors do, consciously or unconsciously. I suppose that if there were one thing I would hope people take away, it would be the notion of hope and choice in the face of what appears to be fate.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The relationship between the two primary characters is an oblique homage to the relationship I enjoyed with my own cousin, and one of the recurring dreams the visionary character has is a dream that used to wake me up at night when I was a boy. The other characters and events generally draw more from history, the classics, or people I know secondhand. My travels to Africa did help shape a few elements, but they came after the first drafts of the novel were done, so they aren’t overt.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, Herman Melville, Timothy Zahn, to name just a few. Each one of them has taken me to other worlds (or at least far away and exotic places), and the latter, more contemporary, has the gift of getting me to turn the pages without being aware of the fact that I am reading. The authors I most admire have created worlds to which I long to return, either because of the magic of their storytelling or the power of their convictions.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

C. S. Lewis, because of the approach he took with his novels. He and Tolkien decided that when no one was writing the books they wanted to write, they would just have to write them themselves. That’s something I can definitely identify with. But I also very much admire the way he integrated his personal apologetics, philosophy, and worldview into his novels. Lewis was a brilliant man, and I would have loved to sit at the feet of the master and learn all I could from him.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

James Cline of Kanion Rhodes Studio. He had done the covers for a series done by a friend of mine (K.G. Powderly’s Windows of Heaven series), and I actually suggested him as a possibility for my fellow Crimson Moon Press author, J.C. Lamont. After he proved that he was able to visualize some of the unique concepts for her books, I talked with him about my own.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t fall into the trap of wanting to publish the first book before the second is complete. Get off Facebook. Don’t let life stress you out to the point that you forget to write.

Oh, wait, this is supposed to be advice for other people.

Read everything you can, and learn as much as possible about the craft. Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist. If you think you’re ready to publish, sit on it, finish the second book, and then go back and revisit the first.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thanks for taking the time to let me talk to you, and I look forward to feedback from new readers! For the longsuffering fans waiting patiently for the sequel, please do not give up on me.

Bid the Gods AriseRobert Mullin

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Bid the Gods Arise

Cover artist: James Cline
Crimson Moon Press

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BARNES & NOBLE

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksWelcome back to another Monday of writing links for you to enjoy. This week there is a good assortment of articles about creativity, book launching and note taking. Go pull up your favorite chair and settle back with a good cup of coffee. Time to read.

Why Introverts Make Good Writers

How to Give Constructive Criticism to other Writers

5 Writing Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of Launching a Best-selling Book

7 reasons I read Kipling while brushing my teeth

3 GOOD REASONS TO KEEP YOUR BOOK SHORTER THAN 80,000 WORDS

Want to support an author’s or illustrator’s new book but can’t afford to buy it? Here’s what you can do.

Business Notes – Loose Pages or Notebook?

Library of Congress Ebooks Allow for Historical Documents on Tablets

How Shakespeare Used Prepositions

Scifaiku – Miners

Scifaiku - Miners

Miners

robot shovel grinds
inner metal wealth of the core
asteroid mining

*poem published in Far Horizons Magazine – June 2015

A Scifaiku by Wendy Van Camp
Illustrated by Wendy Van Camp

Scifaiku poem is based off the idea of mining the asteroids. It is science fiction now, but in the near future it will be science fact.

Book Review: Contact

Book Name: Contact
Author: Carl Sagan
First Published: 1985
Locus Award for Best First Novel in 1986.

Dr. Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1934. He earned bachelor and master’s degrees at Cornell and gained a double doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1960. He became a professor of astronomy and space sciences as well as a director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He would go on to take a leading role in NASA’s Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo expeditions to other planets.

Dr. Sagan received many prestigious awards in his field of study. As a scientist trained in both astronomy and biology, he has made large contributions in the study of planetary atmospheres, surfaces and the history of the Earth. For twelve years, he was the editor-in-chief of Icarus, the leading professional journal devoted to planetary research. He was a co-founder and President of the Planetary Society, a one hundred thousand strong organization that is the largest space interest group in the world.

An author or co-author of twenty books, including The Dragons of Eden (1977) which won a Pulitzer. His other books include Contact (1985), Pale Blue Dot (1995), and The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark (1996).

Sagan produced and starred in the PBS series, Cosmos, which won Emmy and Peabody awards and brought the concepts of science into the living rooms of everyday people. The series was watched by 500 million people in 60 countries. A book by the same title came out in 1980 and was on the New York Times Bestseller List for seven weeks.

Co-Producer with his wife, Ann Druyan, Sagan turned his popular novel Contact into a major motion picture of the same name which starred Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in 1977. At the time, Sagan was struggling with bone cancer and two years before his film would be seen the theaters, he lost the battle and passed away. His wife gives the following account of her husband in his last moments in the epilogue of Sagen’s last book Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium: “Contrary to the fantasies of the fundamentalists, there was no deathbed conversion, no last minute refuge taken in a comforting vision of a heaven or an afterlife. For Carl, what mattered most was what was true, not merely what would make us feel better. Even at this moment when anyone would be forgiven for turning away from the reality of our situation, Carl was unflinching. As we looked deeply into each other’s eyes, it was with a shared conviction that our wondrous life together was ending forever.”

“The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.” ― Carl Sagan, Contact

Fate comes into play in many factors of a life, a planet, and a universe. It was pure luck that the radio telescopes of the Argus project happened to point at Vega at exactly the right time in the night sky. If not, then the scientists would never have picked up the repetition of prime numbers that showed the first sign of life beyond our own planet. This is the theme of Contact, based on Sagan’s studies as an astrophysicist and philosopher, he gives his idea on how our world might reaction to the knowledge of extraterrestrial life.

This is the story of Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, an astrophysicist and radio telescope engineer. She is a scientist working on the SETI project, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. We learn about her childhood and college years as a curious girl who loses her father at a young age. She becomes a rebel who asks questions about religious contradictions and turns to science as the answer.

After college and graduate school, she joins SETI and what is known as the Argus project, a large radio telescope array that is designed to search the universe. Late one night, a signal is picked up. Prime numbers being repeated. The signal is confirmed to be coming from the star system of Vega, twenty-six light years away. Not only prime numbers are transmitted. Two more messages are sent from Vega. One is a playback of the first Earth transmission into space, a speech that embarrasses many, but also a blueprint from a machine, one that is designed to transport people elsewhere.

There is much debate about the machine among the political forces of the Earth. There are also religious forces that wish to find answers. Two prominent American preachers, Rev. Billy Jo Rankin and Palmer Joss meet with Eleanor to talk about the religious implications of the message from Vega. As more about the machine’s blueprint is recorded, the more the tensions between the religious and the scientific communities increase.

The machine from Vega is built but later is destroyed by a bomb placed on one of its parts. The American who was supposed to travel in the Machine is killed in the explosion. A second machine is built near Hokkaido, Japan. Eleanor is chosen to be America’s representative along with four others from other nations to use the machine to travel.

The machine is activated and the five explorers are shot through a wormhole. They enter a sort of cosmic mass transit system, viewing many star systems along the way. Eventually, they end their journey near the center of the galaxy where a docking station is the end of the line.

The five humans are deposited on what appears to be an Earth beach. When the others go off to explore, Ellie remains behind on the sand. She is surprised when instead of an alien, she is greeted by her long dead father. Eleanor and her “father”, who is one of the aliens who took the form to help make Ellie more at ease, talk about Earth’s place in the universe and how they traveled to this place. It is suggested that there may be a Creator after all and her “father” suggests that to find the signature of this Creator, she look at the number pi.

The five humans return to Earth using the same method that took them to the way station. Instead of the eighteen hours that they knew was their travel time, they are told that they were only gone for twenty seconds. There is no evidence to back up their claim for being gone as long as they had and since the camera Eleanor carried only recorded static, there is no proof of their journey through space.

Did Ellie and the others actually travel to the center of the universe or are they having delusions? Is the great machine nothing but a big hoax? Can their story be believed simply on faith? You will have to read the book to find out.

Contact Book CoverMy first exposure to Dr. Sagan was via his PBS series Cosmos. Decades later I can still hear that lilting melody of its theme like a perpetual earworm. The show introduced me to concepts of science as a child and sparked not only an interest in the planets and the world around me, but in science based fiction as well. The man had a way of explaining complex subjects in a way that was easy to understand. As I studied science, his name would come up time and again and I realize that his television series and books were only a small part of the amazing accomplishments this man gave to the world. I found the movie Contact to be wonderful in its idea of a great machine that would take us to the stars and that he chose a female protagonist to do the job. In the seventies, this was not a common occurrence. I am not surprised that his first novel won a Locust award for excellence. Contact is a book that I can recommend to people that enjoy “hard science fiction”. While there is some relationships that go on in the book, the focus is on the technology and scientific concepts that make the wonders in the book happen.