Thursday, July 17, 2008

Do you have a point of view?

For some of us, there are no rules.

Take a guy like Stephen King. I just got finished reading his book, The Stand - the original, uncut version of 1,140+ pages - and one of the main things I got out of the book is that King doesn't follow the rules.

Well, at least not some of them.

King's novels sell a lot of copies. A LOT of copies. So he abides by Rule Number One - make your publisher happy.

And King's novels are a great read. So he abides by Rule Number Two - make your readers happy.

Rule Number Three is - follow Rules Number One and Two.

However, there are other writerly rules. One of the first I learned was POV. And POV killed my first novel.

Sol Stein defines POV as: "the character whose eyes are observing what happens, the perspective from which a scene or a story is written."

At my first writer's conference I was told there is no such character as "narrator". And, for the first time, I heard about POV. So the novel I had spent four years writing and had come to pitch was tossed in a drawer. It had no POV and was told almost entirely by an omniscient narrator. OOOPPPS! Time to try another profession.

But, wait. Hold your hyphens!

Have you read a King novel? Stephen King is POV-challenged. In fact, in The Stand, King is bouncing around from one person's head to the next from sentence to sentence. In double fact, there are even two scenes where he gives us the thoughts of a dog. I kid you not.

Now, in Waynes World of Writing, Stephen King is just lower than diety. Clearly, he can do no wrong.

How many writers do you know who can go back to their publisher and require them to restore the 150,000 words that were cut from the original published version of The Stand? Taking it from a 700-page book to an 1,100-page book.

But he don't know no POV!

Which brings us to the QUESTION OF THE DAY.

Do people speak in words? Or in numerals?

When I was a newspaper editor, I would skewer writers who would quote people in numerals.

"I told Jack I was going to hit 6 home runs today."

No, you numbskull ... people speak in words (six) not numerals (6).

Boy, did that get me in a lot of arguments. (I won, because I was the boss)

What do you think? The first 3 responses will each receive four calling birds and 5 golden rings.


diego said...

You are right. I was so frustrated with th POV jumps in The Stand that I had to put it aside. At the time, my mentor at the Christian Writers Guild was chastising me about mastering POV, so I could not let myself be exposed to such atrocious example--even if it was Stephen King.
John Updike also tends to head-jump in the same scene.

Terry Brennan said...

Hey, Diego ...

Way to go - a response from a non-relative. Now I know I've got to pay attention to this blogging business on a regular basis.

The odd thing about The Stand is that my son, who's a super King fan, read it a long time ago in a paperback he bought in Europe. He gave it to me to read when I was going out to the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference. It was so old the spine broke and the pages were falling out.

So I put it aside and when I got home got a copy from the NYC Library and picked up where I left off. It wasn't until I finished the book and read the Author's Note at the beginning that I realized I was reading the "Uncut Original Version" ... the 1,100 page, $50.00 version. Now I've got to go back and re-read the beginning of the uncut version to find out what I missed.

Thanks for stopping by ... hope to hear from you again.