Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Blank Page - Q&A on Layout and Changes of POV

I've been ignoring you all terribly and I hope you can forgive me??? This writing lark tends to get in the way of blogging from time to time... Occupational hazard...

To get back into the swing of things I'm gonna answer a few of the questions you asked me at the end of the last Blank Page post so you don't think I don't pay attention and then we'll take it from there. I'm so, so pleased that so many of you are finding them useful!!! I would never have got into the business if it hadn't been for the kind helping hands from so many of the lovely authors I am now lucky enough to share shelf space with!!! So all I'm doing is continuing a tradition... When you're published I hope you'll then continue it on my behalf...

So, we'll start with a question from Jacqui who asked: When you create your work in your wordprocessor, when you are typing the actual internal dialogue you use italics to distinguish?

The simple answer is yes I do. But that's nearly too simple an answer... Having read different wip's from different authors I've discovered that everyone has their own ways of doing things. And it's a dilemma that all of us go through when we are first subbing work - Have I got it laid out right? Will they turn away my terrific work if it's not spaced right??

As you may know Harlequin Mills & Boon like any work sent to them to be double spaced, with a header and page number and single sided with a margin around each side for them to put notes in. There's even a section on the eharlequin site where you can go and look up the exact way... But I will admit when I first subbed, and even into my third manuscript, I made the mistake of
having my work laid out in a way that made it tougher than usual for the Copy Editing department to transfer it into their printing format. Which possibly didn't make me popular... So I had to ask a friend or two to help me change over and lo and behold, since I got a template I have since discovered that pretty much all the suthors use the same method. Duh Trish. So if any of you working in Microsoft Word are having diffs working out how to lay out your work and you're as technically challenged as I am then email me through the website and I'll send you one of mine to use or compare to your own. Deal? Am I forgiven for not blogging now?

And as to the italics on internal thought or on words I want emphasized, some people merely put them in italics, I put them in italics and underline them. It's something I've never been told off for so I'm assuming it's been ok to do it that way but to be honest either method would work... So long as your Ed and your Copy Ed dept understand what you meant then it's grand, right?

Next up MsCreativity asked: What's the 'official' view with switching POVs? ...Basically, what I'm asking is, is it okay to use two pov's in one scene if it's clear to the reader whose pov it is?

If it's not okay to switch POV's between two characters in a scene then I'm in trouble... Cos I do it loads! The thing to remember is to not over-do it.. If you're switching pov every page then it can be hard to keep up with and sometimes the reader just needs to spend some time inside one head so they can get what's going on with that character before they move to the other... Remember, we may have spent weeks getting to know these people before we started telling their story, but your reader doesn't know them so well - and they need to so they can care about them enough to keep turning the pages til the end..

The question then becomes how best to tackle it?

For me, I like a beat or a pause. And this can be done several ways. You can use a physical movement or expression to make a pause before you enter that characters head. You can use dialogue. You can even use an 'inanimate' pause like a slamming door, or a clap of thunder... A beat that momentarily breaks the flow, but not for so long an amount of time that it slows things down. And before you change over the pov, so that it's clear you've done it. In Project: Parenthood for instance we had this:

She smiled softly at him, lowering her voice to a similar whisper, "Are you all right?"
"Me?" His fair eyebrows rose momentarily in surprise, "I'm fine. I'm the one that's used to all this."
"Are you?"
The whispered question made him search her eyes. What he saw there made him glance away. She was concerned, warm, sensual, all in one glance. And it took his breath away.
He took a moment to smile at another relative who had turned round to wave at him, then looked down to where his hands held hers, "They all mean well in their own way."
"Where I come from, it's called rubbing your nose in it."
"No," He shook his head, his eyes still on their hands, "If they thought that then they'd be very hurt. It's okay - really."
Teagan waited until he'd raised his chin and given her a reassurring smile, "Well, it's not okay with me."
The smile changed to one of open affection, "Just as well I have you to look out for me then, isn;t it?"
Her annoyance at his family faded under the depth of his smile. She looked into the dark blue pools of his eyes, at his thick lashes blinking slowly at her. And she felt lost and found in the space of a heartbeat.

I've highlighted the beats in bold so you can see where it has happened. So the first beat changes from her pov to his and the second changes it back. The third doesn't actually change it over again - what it does is act as an echo or a repeat if you like, so that it's very clear we've switched. The first beat might have been enough on it's own, but I guess it's just part of my voice to occasionally do that. I've discovered I do it quite a bit since I went looking for a piece to use as a demo so thanks guys... something else for me to obsess about...

The thing to remember about switching pov in either the Tender/Romance line and to a slightly lesser degree in the Modern Extra line, is that the lines are heroine driven - so at no point should the amount of time spent on the hero's pov overshadow the heroines... So, the amount of times you do it is up to you - just don't leap frog so much that we never get a chance to get to understand the thought process of one character properly.

Next up we'll answer Janet's questions on the show not tell aspects of layering in emotion and introspection - how much is too much?


Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Oh my goodness Trish, you are so forgiven! ;-)
This is BRILLIANT. Thank you x 10!!!
Sue :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh Trish. Is there a quick way transfer that template into new templates in microsoft word? Or do I set up a mew one copying the page set-up etc?
Thank you for sending it --it's just what I needed.


Trish said...

You're welcome Sue!!!

And Janet - Keeping in mind the lack of technically minded me... I open the template as is - save it titled as my Book Title and then just write on it ;) - Anything more difficult than that would cause me to drink more... That way I always have an empty doc as a template and if I've already made notes or worked on my Alphasmart - I just go ahead and c&p or upload my words straight onto my newly named book file... Make sense???