Get On With Telling More Stories

Leonard Campbell Stevens Gouache and marker pen on canvas board Drawn by author, circa 1972
Leonard “Lenny” Stevens
Gouache and marker pen on canvas board
Drawn by author, circa 1972

Hi. Lenny Stevens here. You may remember me from my last post, Help A Guy Out.

I think Steve Campbell is making a mistake rewriting the Margga’s Curse story so that Vree Erickson’s parts are in first person point of view. He’s trying to be trendy because many of today’s young adult books are written that way. I say “Leave it third person and get on with telling more stories.”

But I know he’s gonna tinker more with Vree’s first story, so that’s why I’m butting in with my two cents and publishing it at his blog. Then he’ll see it and maybe listen to me.

So, Steve, I know first person point of view makes the character seem closer to the reader: we follow along in their heads as they, or “I” do their / “my” business. “I went there, I saw this, I did such and such,” blah, blah, blah, etc. But by doing so, you can only tell the story of what the narrator experienced, or experiences (as in the case of writing in present tense—please don’t write in present tense and make me box your ears with how much I hate that, too).  When you write in good ole time-tested, reader approved third person past tense the way you did with the original Margga’s Curse, you can cover all important points of view and tell the story from different angles without switching back and forth from third person to first person. Many readers hate all that switching back and forth. And I’m one of them.

Another reason I dislike reading first person stories—suspenseful ones especially—is I find myself distracted from the story by thinking “I know you’re gonna make it out if this alive. You’re telling me the story!” Yeah, first person point of view kills suspense, and Margga’s Curse is full of suspense.

If it’s closeness that seems lacking in Margga’s Curse, I suggest writing it with deep point of view. Deep POV is common when writing first person. It’s that feeling of the reader being in the characters’ shoes. The story is seen and felt through the characters’ experiences, history, thoughts and feelings, but told in third person and without markers.

Markers, you may remember from those writing classes you took ten years ago, are the reminders to us readers that a character is doing something. She felt, he saw, she watched, he thought and so on. It’s reporting. It keeps readers removed from story events and the characters’ feelings. Get rid of ’em. Doing so pulls us readers deeper into story events and deeper into the characters’ minds and hearts.

Here’s an example with the markers watched, thought, saw, and felt:

Lenny followed Vree to the pine tree behind the house and watched her toss her backpack atop a branch. When it stayed, she hurried back, never once looking to see if she was being followed.

And she thinks she’s being sneaky, he thought as he saw her go inside the house. Please.

Lenny waited a few minutes, then took Vree’s pack from the branch. He hesitated before he stuck his hand inside. He thought that the creature living in the green crystal would turn him into a toad as soon as he touched it. He flexed his hand and sucked in a breath before he felt three of the crystal’s smooth, icy facets burn at his fingertips.

Here’s an example without markers:

Lenny followed Vree to the pine tree behind the house. She tossed her backpack atop a branch, then hurried back to the house, never once looking to see if anyone followed.

And she thinks she’s being sneaky? Please.

After waiting a few minutes, he rescued her pack, hesitating before he stuck his hand in. Would the creature living in the green crystal turn him into a toad as soon as he touched it? He flexed his hand, holding his breath before three of the crystal’s smooth, icy facets burned his fingertips.

Without barriers like watched, thought, saw, and felt, the reader moves deeper into the story world by being one with the character instead of watching the character perform and react.

So there you have it: my stance to keep the story and all following stories about Vree and me at third person past tense and with deep POV.

If you take my advice, you’ll thank me that you did. I guarantee it.

Now, finish more stories about Vree and me so I can get more fans. I plan on starting a fan club and you’re not helping.

Thanks for listening. Don’t make me keep commandeering your blog.

Published by

Steven Leo Campbell

I am an artist and indie-author. I draw and paint wildlife, draw cartoons, and write mostly paranormal fiction featuring Vree Erickson and a strange Pennsylvania town called Ridgewood.

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