Choosing Your Perspective

Welcome to Part 10 of my Virtual Balticon panel writeup.

The panel description was as follows: What options does a writer have in choosing the point of view for their narrative? What kinds of stories are best suited by first-, third-, and even second-person narration? What are some ways that you can combine them, and when should you?

The panelists were: Ada Palmer (as moderator), Meriah Crawford, Jo Walton, and L. Marie Wood.

All stories have a voice and a point-of-view — or POV.

Voice

Voice sets the tone and the attitude, often alluding to a certain social class, a time period, and location.

While describing a room or a fight scene, some writers are lyrical and highly descriptive, while others are short and terse. In this bit of the narration, that’s neither character thoughts, nor dialogue, the level of voice can vary tremendously. Some are neutral, but descriptive, some are judgemental, and some are mocking. Descriptors and creative analogies can go a long way toward creating completely different tones.

Point of View

For the point-of-view, you can have first person — “I ate the cookies”, second-person — “you ate the cookies”, or third person — “She ate the cookies.”

The point-of-view character is who the story’s narrative is following. Plenty of writers switch between characters. It is up to the writer to decide how far into the character’s thoughts they wish to delve.

First Person

First person point of view is intimate, but that doesn’t require the writer to delve into the characters minds, they can choose to simply share the character’s actions and sensory inputs. It’s often used in YA, memoirs, literary fiction, and romances.

Second Person

Second person point-of-view is often seen as gimmicky. If the ‘you’ in the story reacts in a way unnatural to you, it can easily throw ‘you’, as the reader, out of the story. Now, news stories and discussions of trauma are often told this way, and it often feels natural to many people when writing reflective pieces.

Plus, of course, you’ll find second person used in those choose your own adventure stories and games.

In a mix of first and second person point of view are stories told to a specific person, “oh, daughter, when I was your age” or “dear reader, you may think… .” The panelists decided we’d call these “addressee second person.”

Third Person

Third person point-of-view has a huge amount of variety and thus is often the default POV. You can be as intimate and as zoomed in as first person, or you can have an omnipotent narrator, who knows all — past, present, and future. If you play video games, it’s the difference from a view right behind the character you’re controlling/following the plot of, and looking at the full map as everything plays out.

Warnings

Cultural norms change. Twist reveals of “he was secretly gay” or “the main character was a woman” aren’t so surprising or novel.

Head-hopping or switching POV characters mid-chapter is challenging to do smoothly.

Ways To Use Points of View In Your Story

As with switching between point-of-view characters, some writers switch between points-of-view entirely, such as using first person with a main character and third person with a secondary character. Often used in thrillers, to hide the identity of the killer. Switching between POVs can also make a section stand out, so if you want to switch tones, that can help. To either make it more intimate, or to back up a little, so the reader can rest and absorb before the plot picks back up again.

While the story is carrying us along, there’s always the choice to create an unreliable narrator in any voice. There’s a huge difference, though, between a character who doesn’t know the truth, and one who is lying to the audience. If you want an unreliable narrator, it’s best to have a good reason.

On the flip side, you can always have the narration, or use a secondary point-of-view character give the readers information that the main point-of-view character doesn’t know.

Some good examples of this are: Haircut by Ring Lardner Jr., Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, or The Strange Case Of Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Now, there are other points-of-view writers have used, typically as an exploration of a concept — first person plural — “We are going to the store”.

Plus, there’s always the use of epistolary text — traditionally, a story told through letters, now used with articles, chat logs, and faux-book excerpts. This faux-documentation is also a great way to add world building and introduce new information, without needing to introduce a new point of view character.

There are a variety of ways one can combine both voice and point-of-view to create a story that resonates.


What is your favorite point-of-view?

Do you like to write something different than what you prefer to read?

Any tips I missed?


Thank you for reading. I’ll be back again next week with more writing tips and writerly musings.

Author Spotlight: James Chambers

  • award-winning, genre-hopping author and editor; who has never met a dog he didn’t like

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to James Chambers!

James Chambers received the Bram Stoker Award® for the graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe and is a three-time Bram Stoker Award nominee, with nods in the Anthology and Short Fiction categories.

He is the author of the collections On the Night Border, described by Booklist as “a haunting exploration of the space where the real world and nightmares collide,” and Resurrection House as well as the Corpse Fauna novella series and the dark urban fantasy novella, Three Chords of Chaos. Publisher’s Weekly gave his Lovecraftian collection, The Engines of Sacrifice, a starred review and called it “…chillingly evocative.”

He writes crime, horror, fantasy, pulp, science fiction, steampunk, and other kinds of stories and enjoys stretching different writing muscles in the process.

James, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I already have the greatest pet ever, a boisterous Boston Terrier named Ace (after Batman’s dog, Ace the Bat-Hound). He’s sixteen pounds of pure personality and playfulness and the most affectionate dog I’ve ever met—and for such a small guy, he’s amazing at catching a frisbee. If had the opportunity to add anything imaginable to the home menagerie, I might go with a giant eagle, like those in Lord of the Rings. It would certainly save on airfare and would probably keep the neighbors at a comfortable distance. Of course, we’d have to reach an agreement about what small creatures it could and could not eat.

He sounds like an amazing dog! High energy, though. A sentient eagle transport is never a bad addition, though!

What do you write?

I write short fiction, novellas, and graphic novels in crime, fantasy, horror, pulp, science fiction, steampunk, and other genres. I started writing way back in childhood and simply never stopped—and then editors and publishers started publishing my work, and here I am today!

Along the way I’ve done plenty of editing, which has helped me as a writer, but once I started selling stories, I got hooked. Early on in my career I wrote a lot of non-fiction articles covering the comic book industry and then went on to write and edit comic book series such as Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, Gene Rodenberry’s Lost Universe, and Isaac Asimov’s I*Bots before I shifted to writing prose fiction.

What an amazing mix of genres and mediums! That’s got to be fun, always switching it up and expanding your skills.

What do you like to read?

Anything and everything. I try to keep up with what’s going on in the genres in which I write, but I read widely and often read outside of those genres. I read a lot of history and non-fiction as research for my stories and out of general interest. The more random facts a writer has at their disposal, the better.

I’m partial to dark fiction, crime and horror in particular, and I read a lot of graphic novels and comics too.  I’ve never been afraid to pick up a new author or a new type of genre mix, and if you left me alone in a room with a hundred-year-old newspaper and tube of toothpaste, I’d read the news and the ingredients with equal interest.

What a great attitude, although I fear for the size of your to-read list. I know what mine looks like. I have to admit, I read the ingredients off a tube of toothpaste last week, for a bit of nostalgia.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write what you know.

I get the overall, non-literal sense of that advice, but when I’m writing a fantasy or horror story, especially one that involves supernatural elements, there’s not much I can “know” about that stuff. It’s a good piece of advice that clashes with the requirements of writing fantastic fiction.

The idea is to draw on real life as much as possible to create a sense of authenticity in your characters and worlds, to find themes and emotional story points that will resonate with readers. At some stage, though, one must branch out into pure imagination.

You said it for me! Great intention… as long as you don’t take it too literally.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Write every day.

It’s not for everyone. I know excellent writers who only write when the mood strikes them or during certain times of year when their schedule permits it.

For me, especially when I have an active project, sitting down at the keyboard every day and making progress, however great or small, works wonders. It keeps me engaged and keeps my mind focused on the story. Writing every day keeps me energized. If a take a break, even after a long stint of sticking to a daily schedule, I start to miss it and get anxious, and find myself back at the keyboard pretty fast.

You’ve got excellent self-control. I’m definitely motivated by the goal of “not loosing a streak.” Although, I do try to do something for my writing several times a week, but excluding NaNoWriMo events, typically do a more metered approach.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

On the Night Border

Dark things stir in the night. When the world sleeps and quiet settles in, shadows assume sinister shapes, guilt and regret well up from the mind’s deepest recesses, and the lonely face their greatest fears. Darkness bares the secret truths whispered on the lips of the lost and the desperate. At night, terrors come alive. For those who journey too far into the dark, no escape remains—but there is a place from which to view these nightmares, a place…on the night border.

The fifteen stories collected here come from the last edge of the light and deliver glimpses into the dreadful, the mysterious, and the strange. These stories offer readers unsettling and weird visions from across the border, visions out of history and from the world around us, visions of cosmic horror, personal madness, and agonizing heartbreak, including, by special arrangement, stories of Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak and Kolchak, the Night Stalker.

“…a haunting exploration of the space where the real world and nightmares collide.”—Booklist

The Dead in Their Masses 

Volume Three in the Corpse Fauna cycle of novellas and stories. 

Cornell, Della, and Mason broke out of a prison overrun by hardened criminals, religious fanatics, and the walking dead. But what kind of world did they escape to? Seeking refuge in a forgotten corner of the Everglades where they hope to live out their lives away from the hordes of animated corpses, the trio faces a long, lethal road, where the dangers of the living pose as much a threat as those of the dead. An out-of-the-way community offers what appears to be safe haven until its dark secrets come to light… and open the way to the even more shocking secrets of what has brought the lifeless back from the grave. Soon the dead gather in their masses and the mysterious Red Man arrives to exert a strange influence over them. Cornell, Delia, and a scientist named Burke, must face a horrifying new chapter in this bleak new world, if only they live long enough to make sense of it.

“James Chambers breathes new life into the zombie genre with the riveting THE DEAD BEAR WITNESS! Weird, heartbreaking, funny, and exciting! Two decaying thumbs up!” —Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of PATIENT ZERO and ROT & RUIN

Project image for LUCKY DEVILS AND WITCHY WAYS

And funding right now on Kickstarter, I am also a contributor to Horns and Halos, edited by John L. French and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, with stories by myself, Michael A. Black, Russ Colchamiro, Hildy Silverman, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Megan Mackie, Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg, Robert E. Waters, John L. French, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.


Check James Chambers out across the web!

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

CoNZealand, The Future of Conventions, and The Hugos

This blogpost has some context, some not-so-humble-bragging, and a response to current events in the literary community. You have been warned.

WorldCon, the annual celebration of science-fiction and fantasy works, where all full members select and vote on the best works of the year, was supposed to be in New Zealand this year.

This, being 2020, CoNZealand was held virtually.

Thanks to many of their staffers helping out with Virtual Balticon, I wanted to return the favor. I offered to do a few moderation shifts on Discord and up to 4 hours a week of other work.

And then the training staff reached out — most of whom I had worked with at Balticon.

I ended up having over 34 hours of check-ins and training sessions, not counting showing up early, not counting staying late to debug issues.

I created a virtual tour because I knew from the past that the different technologies are confusing and intimidating at first. I, and another staffer, ran these twice a day, until the last day of the con.

And, as I mentioned last week, I was on a couple panels myself.

This “new normal” might be temporary, but we’re not going back to the old ways of doing things. I’ve talked with staffers of various conventions about the tech, about the challenges, and I have a few predictions.

While hosting a fully in-person and virtual convention simultaneously may be beyond the staffing and budget reach of most conventions, I expect there to be some overlap.

Depending on the size convention, I expect at least one room set up for virtual panelists. I expect a chat app that people are on, maybe even upvoting questions during live panels. I expect, at first, the in-person attendance to be light, although the parties may be epic. I expect mask fashion to be the newest huge-geek-trend. I expect lots of hand sanitization and handwashing. And? If we’re lucky? More people paying attention to their health and less con-crud — i.e. the standard cold-or-worse many con-goers get when they’re attending in-person conventions.

But for now? For last week? It was all virtual.

I’d intended to teach beforehand and then attend panels, but when the zoom host schedule came out, so filled with holes, I couldn’t not step up. I trained 14 zoom hosts during the first 3 days of the con and did my best to support them as they went out into the field. Between supporting them, monitoring discord, and my own zoom room hosting, I was basically on duty 10 hours a day from Tuesday through Saturday.

That being said, I did make it to two events. I made it to a workshop I’d signed up for before the zoom host schedule even dropped, and I managed to watch the first two hours of the Hugo awards.

There’s been a LOT said about the Hugos and its Toastmaster, who’d been tasked with providing Hugo context to a lot of newcomers.

He also gave us a great, heaping scoop of the fandom that had been and whose shoulders we stand upon. Of the old guard.

I mourn the stories that were never shared because their writer wasn’t given the support, the market, the time away from paying bills or caring for family. The ones shut out because the market said they “just didn’t connect” with a story that was simply outside of their experiences.

I listened to our toastmaster’s stories and watched his hat changes. I watched as the internet boiled in rage that he couldn’t take 5 minutes to google a name pronunciation. I know where that rage comes from. But me? I think of the dad in Pleasantville, whose complacency with a world made for him is rocked when other people’s happiness starts to matter. These didn’t use to be the rules, but now the world has progressed beyond him.

And I watched the winners. In all their diversity, in all their talent, in all their JOY.

Winners so far out from the old guard, that they’ve probably got whiplash.

Now I like the idea of the sf community having its own awards. I like the idea of them being more accessible, not just pay-to-play.

But right now? The Hugo’s are still a big deal and, if we stop looking at who’s handing out these awards and look at what the community if voting for, if we look at who’s winning these awards? The sf community already has a foot into the future. And we don’t look like we’re turning back any time soon.

Author Spotlight: Cassandra Morgan

  • award-winning Author and professional cat enthusiast

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to Cassandra Morgan!

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses

Cassandra has published works in two series, a short story in the Dreams of Darkness anthology, and her newest published work, Damsel in (Social) Distance, a Sweet, Quarantine Romance.

She has traveled throughout the Midwest USA speaking at conferences and conventions about writing, publishing and marketing, and has had the pleasure of working with Mary Robinette Kowal, Amal El-Mohtar, Mary Ann Mohanraj, and Jim Hines.

Cassandra, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I come from a family of animal-lovers, many of which have/had careers with animals. My own career path started many moons ago working in Animal Husbandry, whether in veterinary, grooming, research, behavior and nutrition, training. I’ve worked in just about every facet of animal care you can think of.

So, it’s really hard for me to pin-point one animal. If I had to choose, I’d probably go with a Pegasus. It has the advantage of being relatively easy to house, a low insurance risk for injury or property damage (as opposed to something like a dragon), and has the added bonus of flight so I can by-pass traffic.

I live outside of DC and anything can can dodge traffic sounds like a good bet to me! Especially if they poop on the jerk-faces on the road…

What do you write?

I come from a family of writers, English majors, journalists, etc. I have several family members who have published works over the years. One of my earliest memories is banging out something on my uncle’s typewriter. I didn’t know my alphabet yet. I think I was around 3, so it really was just a bunch of gobbledy-gook, then running into the next room and demanding the grown-ups listen to the story I had just “written.”

In second grade, a friend of mine and I wrote a comic called “The Adventures of Super Pencil and Eraser Boy.” We had a silver, glittery diary we passed back and forth. I would write the story, then give the diary to her to illustrate (BTW, she is still an incredible artist to this day, and has even modeled for Vogue, so quick shout out to growing up with one of the coolest friends ever.). After a few weeks, the teacher’s confiscated it. In hind-sight it was probably because Super Pencil and Eraser Boy looked like a pencil and eraser to eight-year-old children, but not to adults. I wonder what happened to that diary…

I like to write a little bit of everything. Most of what I write has a touch of magic in it, and I really love happy endings.

Oh, dear, I can only imagine what the adults thought you were drawing!

I can’t resist a touch of magic, myself. 🙂 And the world could use more happy endings.

What do you like to read?

I try to read a little bit of everything. My husband and I listen to an audiobook as we go to sleep every night, and we alternate who picks the book. We recently finished The Lies of Locke Lamora, and are now listening to Delta-V. Michael Crichton, Agatha Christie, Michelle Maddow, and Michael West have all featured in my playlist.

Oh wow. I’m horrible at patiently waiting for the end of a story, but it’s great that your husband enjoys the same taste in books as you. Lamora is a great book.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

If you’re stuck, move on to the next scene/something else.

My brain works very linearly. It’s almost impossible for me to write a book out of order. If I’m stuck, have writer’s block, etc, it’s because something is wrong. Either with my story or with me (such as needing a self-care day), and it’s up to me to figure out what that is.

I completely understand! I took that advice at first, but I hated what I ended up with. I still might write some vignette about a side character or mythology to help me flesh out my world, but I don’t like skipping around on the plot.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Stop worrying about being a good writer, just WRITE!

Get rid of distractions! Urgh! I am the QUEEN of mindless social media scrolling. My mind wanders very easily, so when I write, I have to actually put my phone on the other side of the room where I can’t just easily grab it. I also have to turn my internet connection off as well.

The only time I will let myself onto the internet is if I really need to research something quickly in order to move on with the story that’s in my head.

You’ve got a lot better self-control than I do! Although, I do enjoy a writing sprint.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Damsel in (Social) Distance

Image may contain: text that says 'darnsel in (social) distance eR Morgan design by sleepyfoxstudio.net COVER REVEAL'

A global, viral pandemic forced them together. But a nationwide quarantine has forced them apart.

“Damsel in (Social) Distance” is a Sweet, Quarantine Romance about moving on from your past, and realizing that isolation doesn’t mean you have to do this alone.

This is my newest released, dropping for publication the first week of August, 2020!

The Kingdoms of Chartile: Prophecy and Magic

Prophecy: Book 1 of the Kingdoms of Chartile by [Cassandra Morgan]

An adventure inspired by Narnia with a stroll through Middle Earth. If you enjoy YA Epic Fantasy, and typical fantasy tropes that have been slightly turned on their head, you’ll love The Kingdoms of Chartile.

The Silver Fox Mysteries, “Dorothy Claes and the Prison of Thenemi,” “Dorothy Claes and the Prowl of the Yule Cat,” and the award-winning “Dorothy Claes and the Blood of the Tsar.”  It’s Warehouse 13 meets Encyclopedia Brown! If you enjoy uncommon heroines, exploring world cultures/travel, and cat myth/lore/history, then you’ll love The Silver Fox Mysteries.


Check Cassandra Morgan out across the web!

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

CoNZealand – The Virtual WorldCon

This week has been a bit frantic.

Every summer, the science-fiction and fantasy community gathers, anywhere in the world. This year? The site was supposed to be New Zealand — going where no WorldCon has gone before.

While the slogan still works, I didn’t get to go see Hobbiton, or fly for a day and a half. Instead, I get to meet and visit with all those fans online.

As the WorldCon staff helped out that Virtual Balticon I worked on Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to pay them back for their help.

I got in a bit over my head.

I’ve been helping train the panelists with zoom, I created a Virtual Tour demo that I’ve been running daily during the convention, and since the day the convention started (at least in my timezone), I’ve trained up over 10 new zoom hosts to help with staffing.

And of course, keeping an eye on the Discord and helping where I can. There were a lot of issues logging in, so helping people get started was a Herculean task that the staff deserves a whole bag of cookies for helping everyone they could through that rather messy process.

Not to mention, before I got on staff, I’d signed up to be a panelist. For the first day of the convention, I was on two panels: What To Expect When You’re Ready To Query and How To Establish a Social Media Presence.

Only one thing — in honor of the convention hosts, everything’s in New Zealand time!

So, that first panel with 3 other lovely panelists was at 9pm EDT, with a rather frazzled Morgan moderating, and I think it went quite well. My next panel? Was at 23:00 NZT — or 7am! I don’t get up that early for WORK.

So, I went to bed shortly after midnight, and eventually wound down enough to sleep, then rolled out of bed when my alarm went off.

Only to find that all of my other panelists had had to withdraw. So? It ended up being a 30-minute monologue before I opened to questions. This was a panel I had proposed, and I think we all know I can talk for a while. Thus, I opened up my outline from my A Starter’s Guide To Establishing a Social Media Presence (For Fiction Writers). While I know I’m far from an expert, I can definitely get you started. And? It seemed to be very well received, with some great questions.

Then, I went back to bed.

Today’s been busy, but fewer fires.


How’s your week been going? How’s your writing going?