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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Guest Post - Kate Belle - Look who’s talking: authorial point of view

Today I'd like to welcome the lovely Kate Belle to the blog...

Thanks K. A. for hosting me today and a big hello to your regular readers.

If there’s one thing I’m passionate about in literature it’s quality writing. By this I mean writing that sings, that moves, that creates a vivid picture in a readers mind, writing that transports us into the story world. Writing styles shift with genre and purpose but one thing is consistently true of all good quality writing – it holds the story so that the reader doesn’t notice they are being told a story.

‘The first draft of anything is shit.’ – Ernest Hemingway.

He’s right. Want to know why?

Because in the first draft authors tell themselves the story. We become familiar with events, characters, settings. First drafts often contain glittering inspired prose, captivating scenes and beautiful descriptions. It’s tempting to hold onto them in the subsequent drafts because the words sound wonderful, astonishing, amazing together. But...

... more often than not, this glorious writing must be sacrificed via deletion or rewriting because it’s all from the author’s point of view. The first draft is the author’s story, not yet fit for the reader’s eyes. The purpose of rewriting is to transition the narrative from the author’s story to the reader’s story. Let me show you an example. The following paragraph is from the first draft of my current work in progress (WIP). Pay attention to the sound of the voice as you read.

“Lissy took to playing outside to avoid being around her sister. She rode her bike up and down the gravel driveway listening to the crunch and hiss of her front tyre as she weaved back and forth. When she was little she remembered Cassy trying to take care of her and their Dad, but as they both got older Cassandra withdrew. Lissy learned it was pointless talking to her. Her sister was like their Mum, feisty and self contained, a force unto herself, and a lot less forgiving.”

Ostensibly, this is supposed to be from Lissy’s point of view, but it you listen to it you can hear me, the author, telling you, the reader, the story through Lissy’s eyes. What the paragraph lacks is Lissy’s authentic voice, her experience in her words. If Lissy was telling her story she wouldn’t say ‘Lissy took to’ or ‘when she was little she remembered’ or ‘Lissy learned it was pointless’. These phrases push the narrative away from the character toward the author as narrator. More simply, the paragraph is tainted by the author’s point of view. So how do you identify authorial point of view?

It’s easy for authorial point of view to sneak in, even after several redrafts. It can happen if the writer has difficulty relating to the character or isn’t certain about the purpose of a scene or if the author is still discovering parts of the story. Writers must read their work with sharp hawk eyes to ferret it out from the prose surrounding it. The moment you feel distant from the character, or become aware you are reading a story rather than being carried along by the character’s experience, it may be because it’s using authorial point of view. So once you’ve found it, what do you do?

Be ruthless! Only a handful of words from the above paragraph survived my redrafting process. Instead of telling the reader what Lissy remembered, I created a flashback scene of Lissy’s memories of her sister’s behaviour. I laced it with her feelings and brought the point of view close into Lissy’s head. I sat right behind her eyes and wrote as if I were her, replacing my words with hers.

The end result is a more intimate experience of the character’s world for the reader, which is what quality writing is all about. It’s not just about lining up the pretty ducks and getting the grammar right, although that’s important too. It’s about making another world, another human being so real in the readers mind their emotions and interest are hooked and they feel compelled to follow the character’s journey to the very end of the book. My aim as a writer is for a reader to become aware they’ve been reading a story only as they close the back cover of my book.

What books or writers have transported you to a character’s world?

The Yearning
It’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.

Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.

Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. And what happens next will torment them forever – in ways neither can imagine.

Read an extract HERE

Buy The Yearning:
Ebook: Amazon | iTunes | Kobo
Print book: Target, Kmart, Myer, Collins, Dymocks, Big W, Eltham Bookshop and other independent bookshops and major airports. If not in stock just ask.

Reading group questions HERE

Author Bio:
Kate is a multi-published author who writes dark, sensual contemporary women’s fiction. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter and a menagerie of neurotic pets.

Kate holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

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K x

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