Tag Archives: Point of View

Do Not Disturb…I’m Killing Someone


I hate to be interrupted when I am killing folks. Nothing is more annoying than when, in the middle of offing someone, the kids come in and bug me. Seriously…don’t they realize how hard it is to kill a person?

On the one hand, I hope my kids never learn how hard it is to kill someone unless that is; they are a writer like me. One the other hand, I do wish that those around me would realize that when I am in the mode or the moment, I really need to be left alone. I live in a household with kids who have been raised to talk all the time. I was a newspaper reporter for a long time and needless to say they get their excessive need to vocalize constantly from me and, trust me, I am paying for it now.

It is really important to set boundaries when you are a writer. First, you work from home so to most folks in the family that mean easy access. Second, you are “just typing” after all, so the concept of interrupting is not as foreign as say if you were a bomb maker. (No one wants to bug that guy for some reason) And finally, because there is no way for a person who does not write to truly understand the process, well, folks just kind of sluff it off. “You aren’t really doing anything important…”

So how does a writer set these very important boundaries? Truth be told it depends on the age of your kids. If you have toddlers you can’t very well slam the door in their faces so with them set a time to write during nap time or after they go to bed at night. With teens, they get it so just simply make the rules known and then enforce them. Set your writing time and then declare it off limits. As for your spouse, they married you so they knew what they were getting into, just talk to them, they will understand. And if that doesn’t work, the next time they are taking a nice relaxing bath, go into the bathroom and go potty….this will reinforce the need for privacy, trust me.

As a writer you have to have time to write uninterrupted. Most of us either work from home or we are fitting our writing in during the time we are off the “real” job…this demands some periods of writing that can be done so that the stream of your scenes and story flow uninterrupted. So don’t be shy, demand that folks adhere to your boundaries and if they don’t there is always that bathroom thing which just may work on the teenaged kids too.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE IN HERE! When You Have Too Many Characters


Creating characters is fun. I know that personally there are times when I get all excited because the writing is really flowing and I start over creating characters. Over creating? Yep, I start over crowding my story and you can no longer truly see the story, much like the train in the photo above.

Sometimes a story can appear to require a lot of people to support it. We have all read that epic novel that has a gazillion characters in it and seems to work well but the truth is those are rare. A story that can carry all those characters has to be epic and long and, well, extraordinary; most of us don’t do extraordinary on a regular basis. So what is a writer to do when they are pecking along on the keyboard and suddenly realize that there are way too many people in their story?

-          Decide who the story revolves around – The first thing a writer needs to do when they discover an overabundance of characters is determine who the story is about. It sounds easy enough however sometimes it can be tricky. Your main character is the center of your writing universe. Determine who that is; it’s key to figuring out who you need.

-          Cut all the fluff – We all tend to add in characters that really don’t have anything important to do in the story. I once added a woman into one of mine just because the character sounded cool. Turns out she was a character for a whole different story.

-          Create your main character’s universe – This is where mapping software is cool. Center your main character and then branch out all the character’s connections. You will end up with the universe of your story.

These are just a few suggestions, I’m sure that some of you have more. The bottom line is that if your story is crowded it will be tough for your readers to see the actual story. Extra characters are a distraction for both you as a writer and for your reader. If you cut the characters correctly what you will end up with is a full-bodied story with characters who feel like they belong.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Writing the Story with a Different Perspective OR Find a New Crowd to hang out with

Writer’s Note: Here is Saturday’s actual column….the earlier one was Fridays….

A good writer sees the world through different eyes every time they look at it. A great writer uses that different perspective to color their world and the worlds they create.   —Me, 2012

The above quote is so very true. How many times have you been working on a story and suddenly, for no reason at all, all story production inside your head ceases. The little muses, (mine all look like a cross between gnomes and hobbits…short moody fellows) throw down their pens and go on strike. It happens to me all the time but recently I have begun to understand why it happens at all….I am stuck on one perspective.

When you are writing and creating a world with characters you have to pay mind to exactly what it is that you are doing; you are creating a world….you are putting people that you know inside a world that you create and you are, if you are doing it right, allowing them to tell you what they see. Here’s the rub though…if you don’t create those characters with the idea in mind that they are different people with different perspectives, your story will hit a wall. I have read stories by writers who’s characters are one dimensional…folks who all see the same story in the same way…BORING……. When you write a truly good story you have to populate it with difference. Difference of opinion, different morals, and different personalities and, for Pete’s Sake, different perspectives; it is the only way to round the story out.

We are not one dimensional people. We see our world through many eyes if we are paying attention. Me for instance…I see the world through the eyes of a writer, the eyes of a spouse, the eyes of a parent, the eyes of a disenchanted 40 something who wishes the world was all puppies and full kegs of beer….all of those things bring me a different perspective on the world around me…your characters have to be written in the same way.

Take some time today to go over the story that you are currently working on and pay mind to the perspectives of your characters…do they all agree with each other, do they all drive red Hondas, do they all like cold pizza and reruns of Castle? (I know I do) If you answered yes to these questions rethink your story. You are hanging out with the boring crowd….write new characters that showcase your story from different vantage points….trust me…if you do, your story will begin a life of its own.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on November 11, 2022 in Inspiration, Plot, Writing


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Questions You Never Want Your Reader to Have to Ask: Where the Hell Am I?

Now there’s a question you never want your reader to be asking themselves in more than one chapter of your book. I mean, it’s okay if you purposely lose a character and take the reader along for the ride but if it is a question that your reader is posing to themselves time and time again…maybe the writer is the one who’s lost.

I bring this up because I started reading a science fiction book that my son suggested and within the first 50 pages I found myself asking that question a lot…it got kind of annoying. Now keep in mind, my love of science fiction is limited to Piers Anthony’s Xanth series and the Bio of a Space Pirate series. (If it’s amusing I am there robots or not) So I kept giving it more pages because, well, I wasn’t sure if that was how it was meant to read. I didn’t want to be a book snob and decide that the book was beneath me just because I was “getting” the author. But, alas by page 50 I found myself scratching my head and looking for the nearest exit sign. (When you find yourself offering to do the dishes instead of read…the book has lost the battle)

When I read I want to be led along on the story. I want the author to be that unseen guide like a ghost in a campfire story beckoning…over here, (insert spooky voice) over here… I don’t want to read several pages and then have to double back to figure out where I missed my turn. (My spouse says I do enough of that in real life) I want to be at least clear enough to follow along. Too many authors get tangled up in parts of their story and forget that they are being followed by the reader. Like my dad when he is in front of you and someone turns on country music…suddenly you find yourself having to put the pedal through the floor to keep up because he’s driving to George Strait…it is not a pleasant experience. I have had to call more than once and ask him where the crap he went. He giggles, says sorry and doubles back to get me; as a writer you don’t get the luxury of doubling back to pick up your reader, once they are lost, they are lost for good.

Here’s the thing folks…we have a responsibility when we invite the reader in to at least be a good host (hostess) and not lose them along the way. Make sure that your story is fluid enough for the reader to follow along so that they can enjoy it rather than trying to piece it together. The last thing you want to leave your reader with is the urge for a map, a compass, a stiff drink and new author.

Writer’s Note: This is the first in a series of pieces entitled, Questions You Never Want Your Reader to Have to Ask.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on September 28, 2022 in Plot, Writing


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Wait…No…Hey…You..Character…Go THAT Way

Writer’s Note: This is Friday’s Column. Sorry it’s late.

I am the type of writer who allows their characters to do what comes naturally. You won’t find me being the control freak writer who needs to order all their characters around. Nope…I don’t want that kind of responsibility. Until, that is…my characters do something completely off the wall. Then I suddenly find myself whining incisively about how much I’ve done for them so they had better get back in line. Then it dons on me…I’m talking to myself.

When you write a story, you are creating, but if you are doing it right, it doesn’t feel like creating….it feels like “reporting”. It feels like you, the writer, are in the birds-eye seat, watching people you know do what they do. To be honest, for me, writing that way is more fun than the I-am-God-let-me-create form of writing. I get to be a bit voyeuristic and, well, nosey.

But what do you do when one of your characters goes rogue? You know, does something so totally out of character that it shocks you? Honestly, you do absolutely nothing. You let that character do what he/she was created to do…live within your story.

I often tell people that when I wrote my very first mystery thriller, I had no idea who the killer was until the end. They always look at me like I’m lame and insist that I am full of it when I say this but it’s all true. I honestly thought that the killer was a completely different character until I wrote the last chapter. There I was, writing along and wham! Someone else showed up in the doorway…I was floored. I sat there for a long time at the keyboard staring at the writing on the paper and thinking…how cool was that! I knew from that moment on that the key to really good writing was allowing it to happen.

Are we creators, well yes…it is you writing down the story and, at its core, it is you creating the story, but in the end it is something more than you…something bigger and more mysterious. This is the only explanation I have for how I find all of the words, how the story appears…how I write. So the next time you get stuck, literally stop trying and allow your story to flow…tap into whatever it is that is truly bigger than all of us and let the characters run with the pen. In the end your stories will surprise you and to be honest…that’s what makes it all so much fun.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Posted by on September 24, 2022 in Character Studies, Writing


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The Rule of Thumb is ….Use Your Fingers

Rules…. I almost don’t have to say anything else. I can hear many of you cringing as you read the word out loud. Do you know why? Because rules, while necessary in things like gravity and physics, can hold a writer down and that sucks.

Seasoned writers, (another phrase that describes know-it-all-I-published-one-book-so-I’m-great writers) will fill your head with all kinds of rules. Some of them make sense but then there are others that you kind of have to cock your head to one side and ask, huh? For instance:

Don’t ever edit your first draft: Here’s the thing…you should not focus on editing your first draft but you still can. I admit that there are times when I go back over a scene and feel the need to clarify before moving on. That’s okay. Don’t get bogged down by editing on the first draft but nothing earth shattering will happen if you do edit.

Stay with one POV: While staying with one POV can make you novel easy, sometimes shifting it can be fun. Don’t get me wrong…you have to have an understanding of what you are doing if you choose to switch POV within your story but the rule that you shouldn’t is crap. Ask yourself, does following this rule strengthen my work? If it doesn’t, trash it.

Rules, when it comes to writing, should be fluid. There are times when following them will make your work better. However, there are also times when breaking them will make it better; either way, it is a personal decision, so don’t let some yahoo who has published a book or two tell you different. The way I see it, it’s simple….if breaking the rules will make my novel better, then by Pete, I’m gonna break em…in fact, I just might break em all.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on May 15, 2023 in Writing, Writing Tools


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A Sandwich Always Requires a Good Amount of Meat

I love a good sandwich. Give me a good sandwich, a handful of chips and an Izze and life is good. But here’s the thing, screw up that sandwich and I will be one unhappy camper; especially if you skimp on the meat. I like my meat, it’s what gives the sandwich it’s A rating. Skimp on the meat and all you have is two lonely pieces of bread, some mayo and perhaps a depressing little dab of mustard….what you don’t have is a sandwich.

Stories are just like a sandwich. (Bear with me) You have two pieces of bread…the beginning and the ending…., you have mayo…the description and “dressing” of your story and you have that dab of mustard, something for a little spice and/or mystery. Then there is the meat…the thing that makes your story a story. The meat of your story is what makes it’s all worthwhile. It’s why we came…it’s why we ordered the sandwich…we wanted the meat.

I have read a lot of writers over the years that have plenty of mayo and even more mustard than you can shake a stick at but they left out the meat. Their story is intertwined with description so clear that you can see the places they describe in your mind when you close your eyes. But as you read the story you quickly realize that there is no actual substance to the story. It’s all condiments…who wants just the condiments? (Besides my 2 year old grandson who thinks that ranch dressing is a side dish) A story has to have the whole package. It has to be the foot long sub, the Swiss, rye and corned beef, the BLT with extra “B”. Let’s face it, anything less wouldn’t be a sandwich…ummm…I mean story; you get the picture.

So while you are pounding away at the keyboard this week working on that novel that’s gonna make us all rich…don’t forget to beef up your story so that it has substance. Make those main characters strong parts of your story, focus you main storyline so that the reader feels compelled to read on. You don’t want to feed your readers condiments…if you do…they will just find another deli. (Gotta go, I’m hungry now…)


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on May 13, 2023 in Plot, Structure, Writing


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When Things are Tense…

I have an 11 year old daughter. She has a bit of a learning challenge in that she still has trouble with tense. She will often say something with the wrong tense and we have to correct her which irritates the crap out of her.  (Did I mention that she is a pre-teen in full bloom too? It’s all kinds of fun at our house.) While pondering this the other day, in an attempt to try and figure out how to help her better, it occurred to me…that’s probably how readers feel when writers screw up the tense too.

There are some types of stories where it is easy to mix up the present, past and future. One of my first novels took place in both the present and, in flashbacks, the past. I was a young writer and that particular novel, “Beyond the Call” was quite the challenge. If I wasn’t careful I would bring things into the present that needed to have been addressed in a flashback and vice versa. At times it became difficult because with this type of novel, cause and affect are a really big deal. The story’s foundation was firmly planted in both the back story and the ongoing story which, if I did my job right, would meld together at some point towards the end of the story. It wasn’t an easy task, finishing that novel, but it ended up getting me more than a few pats on the back when it was completed and on the shelves.

Is it easier to just stay in one time frame? Why yes it is…but where’s the fun in that? I like giving the reader the history behind why my characters are acting like a bunch of donkeys. I admit that this is a personal thing as well, I’m an answer person…I need answers as to why and so I feel obligated to do the same for my readers. Many writers are afraid to use all or even two different tenses within their story and I get that…it can be daunting. I learned a lot reading other writers who also used more than one tense in their stories. The first one that pops into my mind is Dean Koontz and his story “Lightening”. It’s a great book and great use of all three tenses. (If I tell you any more about the story I’d have to kill you, or Dean Koontz would kill me so buy the book)

Don’t be afraid to bounce around and play with your timelines. It’s a great tool for allowing backstory in and it’s a great way to draw the reader into more than one aspect of your novel. Past, present or future…just allow your story to flow naturally and you’ll know what happens when. Just remember that when you are making more than one stop on the time train…don’t get your train stops mixed up…don’t want to drop your reader in 1941 waiting for the microwave to heat up his coffee because that would just be awkward.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on May 11, 2023 in Plot, Structure, Writing


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Character Studies – Don’t Spoil Your Characters

A good writer will create meaningful and full-rounded characters. A great writer will create characters that are meaningful and full-rounded who can think for themselves. Think for themselves? Whatever do you mean O’ wise Jai? (lol, some days I tickle myself…) Well, you have a choice when you create characters and embark on story telling….you can either, spoil your characters and tell the story yourself, or you can get the heck out the way making them do the work and let the characters tell the story. No…I’m not crazy – hear me out.

Story characters are very much like children. If you do everything for them you will spoil them, making them lazy, thus goofing up your story. Your characters should be created in such a way that they can do their job…tell the story. I create my characters, give them the storyline and then step back and see what they do. You, as the writer, are sort of a game show host. In my head it goes a little like this:

“Burt Cummings come on down! You are the next character in the story! Now, your position within the story is that of a victim and you’re being chased in a subway by a creepy woman carrying a rather large knife wearing nothing but striped socks! What – Do – You – Do?!”

And then I sit back and watch Burt do his thing, recording what happens like a reporter. You see if I know Burt (and I think I do, I created him) he will react naturally. He will do what a guy like Burt will do, run until he falls down, beg for his life and his last thought will be something stupid like, “hey I have those same socks”. I know this because it is what Burt will do based on his personality and his life choices. I’m not “making” Burt do these things, if I did, Burt would have no life.

You have to allow your characters to be the story and you have to take the role of observer. If you don’t you will spoil the characters and spoil your story. We often hear other authors say that they have no idea how a story will end or that the ending was quite a surprise even for them….I get that, I am the same way. I have had more than one character take a story in a totally different direction because it’s what they decided. So let your characters do their thing and don’t spoil them. They are big kids and they know what to do.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Some Days it’s a Good Thing I don’t Own a Gun

Some days I want to shoot my computer. My choice of firearms often depends on the degree in which I am irritated with my writing. If I am having scene detail issues I could easily break out the BB gun. For character or plot issues there’s the handy 45. When the POV isn’t working I could employ a shotgun or perhaps even an AK-47 but when it really isn’t working, and the dreaded monster writer’s block has locked me out of my keyboard, it’s find a cannon time! And believe it or not…I’m not a violent person.

Being frustrated with your writing is normal. As much as we would like it, there is rarely a week that goes by when at least one day finds us held hostage to part of the process. This is normal and being mad about it is healthy. There are several ways to deal with the frustration. I don’t actually own a gun so I am not really advocating shooting up the electronics. (Although I hear it works to shoot your teens laptop if they post crappy stuff on Facebook about you…but that is an entirely other story) I vote for a calmer yet productive approach such as:

Just walking away – Take some time away from your computer. Try changing the way you write. Pick up a pen, a tape recorder…something other than the “normal” way.

Exercise – Personally, I am a bit allergic to this approach but I hear that it works. Get out and sweat out that frustration.

Go play with your kids – My kids tend to remind me that things are not as bad as they seem. I watch my son get lost in his X-Box or my daughter playing the WII and just seeing them get lost in the world of pretend is inspiring.

Read – Sometimes we have to be reminded of what it is that works. I happen to love the book “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova. Whenever I am having a tough time with any part of the process I pick up the book and remind myself of what it is supposed to look like. It works for me.

Take a day off – Sometimes it just isn’t working and the best thing to do is…well…something else entirely. Go for a drive, hit the beach, go shopping…just do something that has nothing to do with writing at all. You’ll miss it and everything will come raging back.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to shoot your computer, however, unless you live in Texas, the neighbors may complain so you might want to choose a different avenue. Besides…there is a good chance that, after your anger is spent, you just may want that computer back again. Let’s face it; if that’s how you handle it, getting mad could get really expensive.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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