Indie Plot Twisters, we are thrilled to present to you what promises to be a fascinating new book, 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. I’m in possession of an advance reader copy, and from what I’ve read so far, I have to say, I’m captivated!
What sets this book apart is not just the fact that it was written by five (count them: five) editors, who together give a very round view of twelve writing sore spots; but also the way they show before-and-after sample texts to illustrate what they really mean.
Following is an excerpt from the book explaining objective omnisicient POV. And if you think that’s fun – next week we’re featuring the next section on subjective omniscient POV! Both are written by C. S. Lakin, on of the five editors who contributed to this book. Don’t forget to stick around for the book giveaway! (Details at the end of the post.)
And now … enjoy!
Objective Omniscient POV
Not a whole lot of writers use omniscient POV anymore, for various reasons (that I won’t go into in this post), but there are times when it’s a great choice. Let’s take a look at some ways omniscient POV might be used.
Objective omniscient POV is a narrator without a “voice.” Essentially the narrator is invisible; no personality comes through. Events are related as they happen, but the narrator doesn’t share insights, reactions, or opinions. This POV is a silent camera, recording the scene.
Since an objective POV can only show actions and dialogue, what the characters feel can only be implied by their actions and speech. That means writers can’t use “to be” verbs such as “he felt” and “she assumed.” That also nixes telling emotions: “She was angry (or sad or frustrated).” Take a look at this example:
Diane Chandler stood on the ledge of her eighth-floor office windowsill, afraid to look down at the heavy traffic below on Fifth Avenue. Her heart pounded as she inched out in her expensive Gucci high heels. Wind whipped at her, making her wobble. She clenched her hands tighter on the railing, her nails digging into the flesh of her palms.
But she ignored the slight pain in her hands, steeling herself for the greater pain she would soon feel when she tumbled to the street below.
She gulped, wishing there was some other way. But there wasn’t. She had ruined everything. Her life was a disaster. Her boss would fire her once he found out the truth. And John . . . that traitorous friend! Telling her he’d keep his mouth shut if she paid him off. She knew where that would lead—to a lifetime of blackmail.
Diane squeezed her eyes shut, trying to muster the courage to take that small, final step. She sucked in a breath, but then heard something behind her.
Diane’s heart sank to her feet. How had her boss found out so quickly? Traitor John must have run straight to Moore’s office after watching her pull the money from the safe.
“Diane, please. We’ll work this out. You don’t have to do this.”
Diane shook her head, not daring to turn to look at him. He didn’t understand. Couldn’t understand. He could sweet-talk her all he wanted. She’d still go to jail. And she’d never see her baby again. She couldn’t bear the thought of her daughter seeing her behind bars. No, she couldn’t bear it. Better for Angela to grow up never remembering her mother. I’m sorry, sweetie. But Aunt Judy loves you. She’ll take good care of you. Better than I ever could.
Moore spoke again, and she heard the frantic urging in his voice. But it rolled over her like the wind. Tears spilled down her face. She loosened her grip on the railing and sucked in a breath.
Then stepped out into the welcoming sky.
I hope you can see this is truly deep third-person POV. I spent much time going into Diane’s thoughts and feelings. And if that is truly my intent, I should stick with this POV. However, if I want to convey a detached objective take on this scene, wanting distance from emotion and a more insensitive camera feel, then the objective omniscient POV would be better.
Even if your novel is written in shifting third-person POV, it’s common to see partial or even whole scenes in omniscient POV. Usually you’ll see this at the start of a scene or in a novel’s opening scene. The reason is the writer wants to keep distance, prevent the reader from seeing and knowing too much of what is going on. This can add mystery and grab the reader’s interest right away, making her curious as to what is really going on.
If I wanted that effect in my opening scene, for example. I would write it using the objective omniscient POV. Let’s assume I’m the camera, and although positioned in the building across the way, I have a great telephoto lens and can get fairly close to the character. Take a look at the rewrite:
A woman stood on the ledge of an eighth-floor office windowsill, her eyes closed and her hands gripping the wrought-iron railing that framed the window. She inched out on high heels. Wind whipped at her, and she wobbled.
Moments passed as the traffic below moved in fits and starts.
The woman stiffened.
“Wait!” A man’s voice came from behind her, inside the office.
The woman kept her eyes closed, her head tipped back. She did not turn around.
“Diane, please. We’ll work this out. You don’t have to do this.”
The woman shook her head.
The man spoke again. “Listen, just listen. Don’t move. Just take my hand—”
She loosened her grip on the railing and sucked in a breath. Then stepped out into the air.
Of course the After passage is much shorter. Out went all the things Diane knows and thinks and feels. What’s left is just what my camera records. The dialogue, the action.
My camera doesn’t know what brand of shoe she is wearing. Nor does it know it’s the wind that’s making her wobble (see the subtle difference in how I rewrote that phrase?). She could be wobbling because of her nerves. My camera doesn’t know the characters’ names or their relationships, so they can only be a man and a woman (until Moore says her name). That much I can tell from across the street. I decided I couldn’t see her tears, but I could tell by her body language that she sucked in a breath.
Each passage has a very different style and creates a wholly different reader experience. So it’s up to you, the writer, to decide what you want the reader to experience and choose your POV accordingly.
The Book Giveaway
Susanne and her fellow author/editors have one free copy of 5 Editors Tackle the Twelve Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing for our readers – an ebook edition, any format. To enter the drawing, just scroll down and leave a comment in answer to this question: What fatal flaw of writing will make you stop reading a novel you just started? We’ll pick a winner based on our favorite answer! The drawing will end on Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. CST. Good luck!
About the Author
C. S. Lakin is the author of sixteen novels and five writing craft books. Her award-winning blog Live Write Thrive gives tips and writing instruction for both fiction and nonfiction writers, and her Writer’s Toolbox series gives fiction writers everything they need to know to create compelling, solid stories.
The newest release—5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing—is available here and features more than sixty detailed Before and After examples of flawed and corrected passages to help authors learn to spot flaws in their writing.
About Her Book
Fiction writers often struggle to improve their craft. And the biggest challenge comes from the inability to see what isn’t working. The prose feels off. The scene isn’t gelling. The dialogue sounds stilted or clunky. But they don’t know why or how to fix it.
This book lays it all out.
5 Editors Tackle the Twelve Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing demonstrates the deadly dozen pitfalls on the road to a strong story, along with revisions that show writers exactly how to avoid novel failure. Buy it on Amazon!