Thursday, November 18, 2010

Weather, whether, and we're there, Part 1

Whether the weather impacts your daily life by interfering with your work, your fun, or prolongs your agony as the kids in the back keep asking if  "we're there", it still is an important part of life on this planet.  Without it we couldn't survive.  Personally it's all a perspective thing for me.

If it's thunderstorming outside, it usually means work will be somewhat unpleasant.  If it's broiling out, the pool could be quite pleasant.  If it happens to be snowing in Florida, there is a possibility the world is coming to an end, but more than likely it's just a fluke of nature.  Hurricanes, monsoons, nor'easters, all these phenomena could be detrimental or beneficial depending upon your perspective.

From the Encarta dictionary:  Perspective - a particular evaluation of a situation or facts, especially from one person's point of view.

One person's point of view.  Cool!  Who gets to be that person?  Do I get to chose?  Do you?  All kidding aside, my perspective on any given day could be worlds apart from your's.  Fortunately in fiction, point of view should usually be quite obvious.  It may not be something you think about while you read, but if it is not handled correctly, if may leave the reader with a feeling that something is not quite right.  For example:

Peter knew instinctively the weather was going to be horrible.  The climb needed to be delayed, but Peter had a feeling Annie would have none of that. 
"We're going," she said, "I'll be fine."  Annie couldn't help but think her husband was a wimp.
Peter shrugged his shoulders but thought today would be the last day of his pathetic life.

Right off the bat we know we're in Peter's head.  He knew instinctively the weather was bad.  He then tells us he believes Annie will not want to delay the climb just because of the weather.  The next part is the problem.  Annie makes a comment but then the author puts us into her head with the wimpy thought.  This is now a different point of view and in most editorial circles this is considered a no-no.  Finally the last sentence puts us back into Peter's head.  Three different point of view shifts in one small paragraph.  I've seen as many as 5 point of view shifts in one sentence.

When I started my first manuscript I had no idea about any of this and I made numerous, I mean hundreds, of these errors without realizing what I had done.  I wanted to make sure the reader knew if a character was feeling a certain way and this is usually why the error is made.  When I learned about the all important perspective, I spent most of the first edit fixing all of my POV (point of view) errors.  Some were easy and some were not.  Let's take the above example and fix it.

Peter knew instinctively the weather was going to be horrible.  The climb needed to be delayed, but Peter had a feeling Annie would have none of that. 
"We're going," she said, "Stop being such a wimp.  I'll be fine."
Peter shrugged his shoulders but thought today would be the last day of his pathetic life.

See...we never left Peter's head.  Annie was able to convey her feelings through the dialogue.  In some cases you can convey important information through action, like facial expressions or body language and some times you can just delete the offending item without any effect on the outcome.  Let's look at another example:

Peter wanted to die today.  He felt there was nothing left to live for, except maybe cheeseburgers, so he decided today would be the last day of his life.  He hoped Annie wouldn't hate him.  Suddenly, the door flew open.  Annie burst in and pointed a gun at Peter's head.  She hated him and had decided today would be the last day of his life.
"What the frick, Annie?" Peter asked.
"Shut up asshole!  I've had it up to here with your crap."
She fired the gun and smiled as Peter's brains splattered all over the wall.

We can fix this in a couple of different ways, the easiest being the quickest, deletion:

Peter wanted to die today.  He felt there was nothing left to live for, except maybe cheeseburgers, so he decided today would be the last day of his life.  He hoped Annie wouldn't hate him.  Suddenly, the door flew open.  Annie burst in and pointed a gun at Peter's head.
"What the frick, Annie?" Peter asked.
"Shut up asshole!  I've had it up to here with your crap."
She fired the gun.

Or we can use some body language:

Peter wanted to die today.  He felt there was nothing left to live for, except maybe cheeseburgers, so he decided today would be the last day of his life.  He hoped Annie wouldn't hate him.  Suddenly, the door flew open.  Annie burst in and pointed a gun at Peter's head, her face twisted in rage.
"What the frick, Annie?" Peter asked.
"Shut up asshole!  I've had it up to here with your crap."
She fired the gun.

Nobody actually came out and said Annie hated Peter, but the meaning is pretty well conveyed just by the act of her shooting him.  At the least the reader knows she's angry at him.

Tomorrow, in part 2, we'll look at some POV errors that are a little more subtle.  Hopefully the weather will be good.

2 comments:

kbjaxx said...

Altitude sickness effected Peter's thoughts as the climb to base camp tested his relationship with Annie. Realizing that their relationship would not work He bemoaned the next few weeks. His lack of sleep and lousy food made him irritable beyond what he had ever envisioned. Voices echoed in his head. "I've had it with all your crap." "Shut up asshole!" He came to realize that he would not make if off the mountain. Suddenly, the tent flew open, a despondent Annie rushed in and raised the gun....
"I wish my parents named me Clint."

Richard C Hale said...

I love the word 'bemoaned'. I have got to find a place to use it.

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