Can Choice of POV Mean DOA?

So, I’ve hit a wall again with my reading. It happens.

Client work keeps me really busy and there’s the not-so-simple matter of finalizing the mountain of book details before publishing, preliminary marketing and mucho tasks still to do that make it nearly impossible to start a book let alone stay awake long enough to read it.

I was sooooooooo eager to read Jamie McGuire’s follow-up to Beautiful Disaster released recently. And though I started Walking Disaster around my birthday – now over a month ago – I didn’t finish it until just the other day. Because of a new practice — I say gimmick — that’s becoming more prevalent and much panned by the fans, though they may have only themselves to blame. The alternate POV.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-couple-holding-hands-image15708971Now, don’t get me wrong: of course, when I read any book in the female protagonist’s point of view, I’m slightly curious as to what that same book would sound like from the lead male character’s perspective. But be careful what you wish for. Sometimes what we think we want, we actually do not want at all. And while there may be different layers and colors to the story because it is being delivered from a totally separate and unique voice, it doesn’t change the fact that (A) the story plot points will remain the same and (B) the dialogue that features both characters is, yep, you guessed it, going to be identical, too. So, essentially, you’re hearing the same story retold. While hopes of hearing some new conversations and witnessing new revelations about said male character may be appear in the book, overall, these can be fairly scarce as in the latest McGuire follow-up. And this isn’t a slight at this author at all. Quite the contrary, I frequently cite McGuire as being very influential in my interest in the genre in the first place and she is by no means the only author to use this device.

What I question is why fans that beg and beg authors to do this then turn on them when they do? I have seen so much flak over McGuire’s sequel, people who are positively LIVID with the final results.  I am certain that the book is the result of those same fans’ loud and bubbly appeals for more Travis ‘Mad Dog’ Maddox! Folks, you wanted to hear from your book boyfriend, so there you go! You got him!

Some writers like M. Leighton (Up to Me) and J. A. Redmerski (The Edge of Never) do a fantastic job volleying back and forth from chapter to chapter representing multiple POVs while continuing to move the plot along without repetitiveness or an opportunity for boredom to set in. It is done skillfully, creatively and compellingly for the reader.

I went back and forth on choosing how I would tell my story for my upcoming book The Muse Unlocked. Initially, it was first person, present tense. Then, omniscient third person present tense and back to first-person past tense. Like a see-saw. I really struggled to make up my mind. Finally, I decided on ominiscient third person past tense.  And I’m glad that I did. The reader primarily gets an inside look into the main female character’s thoughts but there are some scenes in the book, where I do let the reader privy to what’s behind the words and actions of the lead male and I believe it was a simple case of being a reader of this beloved genre myself.

As I wrote, I kept asking myself – if it were me reading this, what would I want to know? Whose mind would I want to crawl up inside and examine more closely?

I’ve heard some authors talk about writing for genres outside their own favorite reading preferences simply because they had that one great big idea or they developed a following early and kept on feeding it. I don’t think I could do that. If I fell out of love with a style or genre, I think my heart would pull my words and stories somewhere else. I believe I would feel compelled to travel in a different direction.

Right now, this is where my heart lies and is supposed to be, and I feel fortunate that I know this. My own POV is clear as a bell. Now if only choosing it for our characters were that easy…

Happy reading!
ck

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Decisions, Decisions

I’m doing a lot of cleanup on aisle 5 this week.

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As you know, I’m working away on my book THE MUSE UNLOCKED, which is scheduled to publish early this summer. This is the time when I begin to look back at past chapters and discover more things that I want my characters to say, more revelations that I want my reader to experience.

But the answer to the question “When is more better and when is more too much?” is a tricky little boogerhead. (That’s urban-speak for literary conundrum.)

For example, this week I gathered a set of scenes scattered throughout the book that involved a therapist, and I wanted my professional source contact to review them for any red flags that took away from the scenes’ legitimacy. But as I was gathering, I couldn’t help myself. A little tweak here…a little insertion there…oh hell, let’s just add this entire other element I’d been kicking around for months in my head. There! (Four hours later.) That ought to do it.

I know that no matter what I add, there will always be something else that I deem missing. I will admit that I’m starting to become a danger to myself. I am literally working on the book’s last chapter and the closer I get to the conclusion, the slower I’m writing. Coincidence?

Yeah. I didn’t think so either.

I guess I just don’t want the story to end.

It’s like getting to the end of that frothy vanilla milkshake with the maraschino cherry that magically swims its way to the bottom of the paper cup. No one wants to take the last suck on that straw, because then that tasty, creamy milkshake will be done. Finished. Over. The thrill will be gone. And when you dip down deep and scoop out the little cherry, you’re just not the same. The deed has been done.

Damn straight, I like metaphors.  And yes, all nerds’ minds really are that dirty. TRUST ME. Besides, I think it has something to do with that last scene I just wrote that’s left me a little…um… hot and bothered this morning.

I am happy that I’ve made one decision already. The story may end for now…but not for long. There are many more places I’d like to take Cate and Oliver and crew. The question is: will others want to follow them there?  I’ll build the roads, but whether the readers wish to travel them, well, that’ll be someone else’s decision for once.

Happy reading!
ck

Introducing…Cate and Oliver

I made a promise yesterday, and a few of you picked up on it. Some of you even gave me a virtual high-five that you liked the idea.

A book sneak peek.

Ooh, what a novel concept. (Sorry. I can’t help myself sometimes.)

As I’m rounding the corner of finishing the first draft of my debut contemporary romance novel, I thought perhaps this would be a good time to make some early introductions.

There are still many steps to take for my story to become available as an e-book and printed book.  Editing, cover and jacket design, preliminary web content, and oodles and oodles more. (Yes, I am quite scientific throughout this process as you can tell.)

But…until then, may I introduce you to screenwriter and author Cate Mullen, 38, and up and coming television and film actor Oliver Sand, 28, from  THE MUSE UNLOCKED by Chris Kuhn, slated for a June 2013 release.

Happy reading!
ck

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Cate stared at Oliver over her chai tea latte at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. She watched him down a putrid-looking green health drink and giggled as he made a face of disgust when he finished. “How do you drink that? You obviously can’t stand it.”

He set the plastic bottle down on the table and stretched out his tan, muscular arms up above his head. “Gotta’ do what we must to keep our machines functioning properly,” he looked seriously at her for a moment and then broke out into a wide grin.

“Oh, I’m not arguing that your machine isn’t in tip-top shape,” Cate glanced at him with a smile in her eyes. “But food and drink are to be savored. There’s no way you savored that. I think that was last seen on the set of Swamp Thing.

He rolled his eyes at her. “Swamp what? Yeah, yeah. Ha-ha. Whatever. Make fun of it all you want. All I know is,” he leaned in close to her face and whispered hoarsely near her ear. “When this body has to perform, whatever it’s taking on, it performs.” He pulled back and shot her a sexy wink.

She felt her jaw dip ever so slightly. I’ll see your sexual innuendo and raise you a double entendre. She stopped herself in her tracks fearing that if she went down that path, they may never return to the set.  Still, she couldn’t resist completely. “I’m not touching that one.”

Oliver smirked and started to lift his finger to respond to her not-so-coy remark. She grabbed his fingers with one hand and covered his lips with the other. “Oh, you know what I meant,” she feigned innocence and offered her own sexy wink in return.

A Writer’s Point of No Return

I think I’ve reached it.

That point in the writing process where there’s no turning back now, only the grand finale looming in the distance, and a lot of clean-up in aisle five behind me.

I’m also finding as a writer working on her first novel that no matter how much I try to gather all of the facts to paint authentic settings and scenarios, characters you really could meet and arm them with words and actions you not only believe but embrace and remember, it never truly feels FINISHED.

I’m reaching out to people to help me better understand different professions my characters embody and help me better visualize the environments before I paint them. The “experts” I’ve spoken with have been so unbelievably tremendous — giving, gracious and generous. And I’m sure plenty more positive “G” adjectives! But as I see just the faint, blurry image of a book ending still FAR AWAY (read: a few months) over the steamy desert sand — or maybe that’s a young, hunky Omar Sharif and a camel —

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And no, I promise you… no desert scenes in my book. On the other hand, this does a better job representing some of the scenes from my book.

EmbraceBW

Anyway, I’ve come to one conclusion…

This is some tough shit.

The closure freak in me is trying to cope with the day-to-day unfinished nature of this line of work, and it’s not easy. I don’t know how my hubby lives with me. I feel like I’m walking through a daze sometimes. I get my client assignments done but I do little else, because I keep thinking I must get back to the PC (yes, I’m from the stone age and still have one of those). I must get back and finish this baby…toot sweet!

I’d especially love to hear from any other authors out there reading this, and anyone else who might want to chime in. How did you keep your shit together when you were in that final lap or two? And how did you stop yourself from going back and tearing apart pages and chapters to “fix them” in the hopes of making something hopelessly, necessarily imperfect “perfect?” I welcome your insight and positive vibes.

In the meantime, I’ll return to one delectable Mr. Oliver Sand and one spirited Ms. Cate Mullen and see what their lives are up to next…

Happy reading!
ck

Putting Characters in Their Place

My first novel’s progress? I’m officially at over 60,000 words now and one scene shy of completing 13 chapters (though it is a very lengthy and significant scene for the story). Let’s toast…clink!  Yes, I’m happy to say that I crossed another milestone, 60,000 words – definitely much more pleased now then when my car crossed 60,000…about 70,000 miles ago.

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I just finished writing two scenes that placed my two lead characters in an art museum, and it led me to ponder a topic or question rather that I wanted to pose to any of the authors who follow me. I know certainly on Twitter, a growing number of fellow fiction writers have recently begun following me, and I’d like very much to start a casual dialogue among us about process. There’s so much that I know I can learn from all of you, and who knows? Even though it’s my debut, perhaps not being set to follow any pre-established way of building a novel, I might share some fresh ideas that intrigue you, too.

I found myself becoming quite absorbed as I began writing my scenes in this location – and by the way, it is a REAL museum and not one that I’ve personally visited. But I was able to locate quite a few links online to rooms and pieces within the museum as well as others’ thoughts on their experience there.  I found creating the atmosphere for the characters to explore like the exterior grounds and the exhibit rooms themselves to be an aspect of telling the story that I had never really considered before.

Remember – I’m new to fiction – I’m an article and profile writer by profession, so I’m not all that concerned with building compelling sets with what I do, not to any great length, that is. This has been both exciting and challenging to adjust to. How descriptive do you go? When do you start to lose sight of your characters and focus too much on the details surrounding them?

So I wanted to ask other writers who may be reading this —

When you are placing characters in a specific and REAL location that’s relevant to the series of events happening in that scene, how do you approach creating that setting? Do you rely on a lot of online research? Insist on going to the actual site before writing the scene? Or simply build your vision of that locale in the scene completely from your imagination without any research or real-world input?

I’m just curious and would love to hear from other writers about their approach. Thanks in advance to those willing to share here in comments or at my Twitter page.

Oh, and that picture in the middle. That’s the museum where my characters spend a little quality time. If you recognize it, well, then good for you. You already know where at least a few scenes of my novel take place. If you don’t, you will. Soon. In about 6 months. 🙂

Happy reading,

ck

What Makes Lead Characters Compelling?

It’s a question writers never stop asking themselves, and it’s a question that I think readers don’t consider: they just know. They are either drawn to them or they aren’t.

I’m currently building the lives of several characters but primarily a lead female protagonist and her potential love interest, a male. Ultimately, I want readers to root for these characters, I want them to wish they could take them out to lunch or go to a movie with them. I want them to fall in love with them.

And interestingly, I am finding that the most difficult thing is painting a picture that feels real and honest while also creating the complexities of a character so that they are worthy enough of the reader’s love but still human enough to make mistakes and disappoint them, too. After all, who has a best friend or lover who doesn’t disappoint at least some of the time? Besides,  many of us set unfair or unrealistic expectations in the first place! So I find it’s a fine line to walk, and since I can’t walk a straight line when I’m sober or traverse a balance beam without plummeting to the ground, it hasn’t always been easy but it is my personal mission.

I completely realize that some authors couldn’t give a rat’s ass if you like their lead character and in fact, may not care either way or instead may want you to totally despise the character. But as for me, no, I want you to discover things you love about each of those characters the further you delve into their stories as they unfold.

hOne observation I’ve made and recently touched on in a GoodReads book review of J. Redmerski’s Edge of Never was that I’ve noticed in the genres that I’ve been exploring recently (namely, contemporary romance and erotica), I am finding myself much more engrossed in the background, dialogue and livelihood of the male protagonists far more often than the female protagonist, most of which are the leads in these stories quite often. Sure, people care about Anastasia Steele but it is the potential casting of Christian Grey that has led to a social media melee of sorts. I truly believe we may have to put some women “on watch” when that much-anticipated casting news is announced, because I do believe the “wrong choice” in their eyes could send some readers over the edge. It won’t be a wrong Ana but a wrong Christian that will do that.

As I pointed out in my review where I bring up this subject, there are some authors who simply know how to build complex, fascinating characters regardless of gender – I name Colleen Hoover (Slammed, Point of Retreat, Hopeless) and Rebecca Donovan (Barely Breathing, Reason to Breathe), specifically, and add Redmerski to the list based upon my one and only read so far.

It’s so important to me that my readers want to hear what “she” says – in this case, Cate – as much as what “he” says, and that would be Oliver. (You’ll meet him soon, too.) I am going to confess something right here, and if you’re reading this and have experienced the very same thing, will you do me a favor: will you admit to it, too? Because I have to know that I’m not alone here. Sometimes…not always but sometimes, I am so smitten and carried away with the male lead and so underwhelmed by the female lead that I catch myself racing through “her” parts of the story that don’t involve my “book boyfriend” to accelerate the pace of the read so I can get back to the words and antics of said studly fellow.

Am I alone in this affliction? Again, it is not always and I’d prefer not to say which books because I fear the wrath of their loyal fans, but I have had this happen to me with at least three major series, two of them, long-time chart-topping series, in fact. Frankly, I’m not even sure that I like the woman I’m supposed to be rooting for in these books but the men positively intrigue the hell out of me (and for some readers who use Pinterest to enthusiastically share quite provocative photos of actors and models who they envision in these roles, these men clearly “rock their world,” too).

But the afternoon’s rolling away from me, and I must return to my own book-in-progress. I’d love to hear your thoughts as readers and authors, for those who care to comment, on not only what makes a character compelling to you but also any of your own observations in the romance/erotica genre. Do you too see a growing trend toward building what may perhaps be viewed as more intriguing and engrossing male protagonists than female leads? I’m curious to read your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

ck