Monday, November 9, 2009

Author-Speak Cheat Sheet

Upon occasion, I play golf. Perhaps I should say golf plays me. Either way, there’s a language to this game. Terms that make me grunt, “Huh?” Like: “Pick the ball clean.” “Get down on the ball.” “Play your drives off your left heel.” I can’t blame my game on these baffling words of advice, but they’re not helpful if I can’t decipher their meaning.

Writing has its own language too. I call it author speak.

The judge in my first contest critique had written POV error in the margin of my manuscript. What was it? And how was it an error? Thankfully my critique partner Shirley Jump translated. Laugh if you will, but I still remember the frustration of wanting to know but not having a clue.

For those intuitive writers who create wonderful stories without studying craft, this post is not for you. Hang around and poke fun at those of us who might see value in a cheat sheet. But please keep those smirks to yourself.

Ruthy, I saw that!

For those who appreciate clarity and brevity with a touch of levity—read on. I’m no stand-up comedian, but levity rhymed so I couldn’t resist.

I made some of the terms clickable to prior posts in Seekerville. Here goes:

POV—Point of View=revealing the story world through a particular character’s eyes—usually the character with the most to lose in the scene.

Point of View Switch=Changing the character revealing the story world—either at scene breaks, chapter breaks or seamlessly within the scene.

Head Hopping=moving frequently from one POV character to another in a short span of time.
POV Error=the POV character knows something or thinks something he wouldn’t know or think. Beware of characters describing themselves as in: She ran a brush through her long blond curly hair.

Setting=time and place as seen through the POV character’s eyes—setting can provide conflict if the character feels s/he doesn’t fit. The setting can even be an antagonist. Make the setting as real as the characters. A few chosen words will bring it to life.

Protagonist=the character the story is about. In a romance, both the hero and heroine can be protagonists. Protagonists’ actions drive the plot.

Antagonist=opposition—the character with opposing goals to the protagonist who gets in the way of the protagonist obtaining his goal.

Villain=bad guy—an antagonist has his own goal, ethics, needs and problems.

Back story=past events that shape the character’s actions.

Back Story Dump=the opening of my first book. LOL Withhold back story in the opening. Like peeling an onion, reveal a little layer of character at a time. Keep readers asking questions.

Set up=the first peek at the fictional world and the protagonist—either right before the conflict erupts or right at the time trouble starts. Conflict propels the plot forward.

Inciting incident=the occurrence that brings the hero and heroine together and launches the story—it should give a sense of who the protagonist is and set the tone for the book.

Goal=what my character wants badly—the goal can change or be sacrificed. The POV character needs a goal in every scene that s/he either gets or doesn’t get. Either way, make things worse. Scene goals feed into the main, overall book goal.

Motivation=the reason the character wants what s/he wants—make it strong and make it both internal and external.

Conflict=the fuel for the plot. Along with motivation--conflict raises the stakes and causes trouble for the character—not professional wrestling but it has its down and dirty moments. J

Book-length conflict=a single central conflict that relates back to the main goal—the book length conflict is complicated by internal and scene conflicts. Book length conflict forces the protagonist in a particular direction and challenges him to grow and change.

External Conflict=tangible obstacles to the goal that come from outside the character.

Internal Conflict=problems and issues that come from inside the character.

Episodic writing=unrelated conflict scenes with no rising central conflict—Alicia Rasley said to think sitcoms here.

Scene=character action taken to obtain a goal—with rising stakes that moves the plot forward.

Sequel=character reaction—brief introspection in which the character determines the next course of action. Avoid tea scenes.

Hooks=words/events that pull your reader in and keep him turning pages—use hooks on the first page, preferably in the first sentence. Use hooks at beginning and ending of scenes and chapters and within scenes.

Turning points= protagonist changes course because of plot turns.

Twists=unexpected story events/actions that surprise the reader. And sometimes even the writer.

Point of No Return=protagonist takes an action that commits him to move ahead. There’s no turning back.

Show Don’t Tell=show the character through dialogue, actions and physical reactions.

Climatic scene=confrontation in which the hero and heroine conquer the external hurdles resulting in the resolution of the external conflict. The protagonist must be involved.

Black Moment=all appears lost—the protagonists face despair and conquer their internal conflict and change.

Resolution=the resolution of the internal plot. Shows how the character has changed. In a romance the resolution promises the hero and heroine a happily ever after ending—HEA

It’s my belief that if we just had a perfect cheat sheet, the writing life would be easier. I haven’t found that perfect one yet, but I hope this one makes sense to you. Add other terms that you may need. And keep the list handy.

But remember above all—have a story to tell. Make it unique. Fresh. Twist the clichés. Have fun. Tell the story only you can tell.

For a chance to win a copy of Courting the Doctor’s Daughter, leave a comment. If you've ever been baffled by Author Speak, share your experience.

I brought fruit, various cereals, pastries and coffee…all labeled in plain English for easy recognition.



Mary Connealy said...

I remember it all. Oh so totally remember the notes in the margins of contest entries and I didn't even know what the notes MEANT.

POV error? What?

Such a beginner.

Then later I pointed to a paragraph in a published book and say, "She changed POV in this one PARAGRAPH three times."

Who ever I showed it to read it and said, "No she didn't."

So I read it again and ... no she didn't. I mean it could be read as a POV switch but also NOT as one. It's just hard to learn. And it is absolutely essentila to learn it...and, Janet why is your post up already? It's not midnight yet?

And, I'm not making coffee. Caffeine would be a disaster for me at 11:23 p.m. Are You CRAZY????

Perhaps some herbal tea.

Mary Connealy said...

I remember a contest judge underlining a sentence in Petticoat Ranch with the note, "This is in Hector (the mule) POV.
My reaction? By this time?

No it's not. I wouldn't do a thing like that. It's deep, close third person with Sophie knowing her mule so well she KNEW what that beast was thinking. But it was NOT in Hector's POV. Puhleeze!

The tea is decaf. Tetley's Earl Gray, extraordinarily soothing. It also makes me feel wise...and I have a little bit of a British accent for a few hours after I drink it. Strangest thing.

Helen Gray said...


I totally relate. Some of these terms are self expalnatory, but others have required gleaning definition from others--places like this blog.

I've been through these learning stages.

Thanks for the reminders.


Debra E Marvin said...

The first time I critiqued my 'then new' CP's work, I referred to her back story with the abbreviation "BS".

Yes, we're still working together. God is good.

We do have to be careful not to jump so fast on POV error because the POV character 'can't possibly know what {the other} is feeling'. Yes, sometimes they can. That's body language. Tell me you don't know when someone is angry, just by looking at them!

Virginia C said...

Thank you for this excellent post. I reread it several times, and I will keep it as a reminder to help my words from being "clear as mud". Sometimes, we are not able to easily communicate an idea which is so vivid in our own mind. Thanks for brining things to a sharp focus.

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Ann said...

Good job, Janet! I was reading along and in my head applying your points to The Great AMerican Novel.

Critters and contests drew my attention to several, and I know to work on those areas, but then there's others that made me stop and think, "Whoa, better look at this again."

I put the coffee on. Would anybody like scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, bacon bits and (optional) hot sauce?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Janet what a super list. I sooo relate to those first crits and references to these terms. Another one that always confused me and is still difficult to define is one editors and agents always say they are looking for. That elusive VOICE. Do you have a definition for that??

Ann thanks for the eggs and how nice to say hot sauce instead of salsa for Janet's English named foods. LOL

I have some yummy coffee and guess what I saw in the stores. Gingerbread creamer Now that almost makes me want to use creamer. Almost

Mary, get to bed darlin'

Tina M. Russo said...

Thank you, Ann. I hate sugar in the morning. Eggs with cheese!!!

Anyone hear sounds of the seashore? Or just me and Mary? Mary and I. Us two?

Janito!! Well done.


Why do people play golf?

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Janet,
Great post! I'm downloading and saving this one. So often I talk to writers just starting their journey. The information you've provided will help them so much!

Early on, I thought I understood POV. But I didn't. Then one day, it just clicked. A Eureka moment when the light bulb turned on.

Filtering was another biggie for me. Words like heard and feel. My characters had been "feeling" everything. Luckily a writer friend commented on the problem.
Example: Joe felt a tingle of fear crawl up his back. That's filtered through the writer. Take out felt and the sentence becomes stronger: A tingle of fear crawled up Joe's back.

Thanks for all the breakfast goodies! We're preparing for Ida to hit Georgia later today with rain and possible flooding. Praying for everyone's safety as Ida comes ashore!

Rose said...


Great reference tool. I'll print it for sure.

I laughed out loud at the "author speak" because my son's looked at me after I've said something and said...must be author speak, so then I tell him what I meant!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, I am not laughing, smirking or even furrowing my brow.

Not a smidge.

Because it's important to go over these terms, for newbies to familiarlize themselves with the 'lingo'...

Ever hear two teachers talk these days? Edu-speak has become its own exclusive language that sometimes leaves parents out of the loop. To a new writer, our terms are just the same and you did a great job of explaining and linking to back-up info.

I brought some Viennese coffee, a blend of vanilla and spice, kind of like chai only... Cafe au lait.

Amazingly good.

And I baked apple pies this weekend and plenty to share. Dig in, they're made with fresh Crispins, my absolute fave apple for pie!

And how about that tender, flaky crust???? :)

Just sayin'.


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Mary! We've all been beginners and can relate. I've made a pot of green tea for anyone who still feels baffled by craft terms upon occasion.

It was midnight here, Mare! :-) Glad you didn't drink the coffee before heading to bed. I made tat pot for those working the night shift.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

I heard waves, gently washing up to shore...



And then the kids decided four minutes of exceptional behavior was QUITE ENOUGH...


I don't know if the waves diminished as Ida moves inland or the kids drowned them out, LOL!


Janet Dean said...

I love Earl Gray tea. Excellent choice. Funny, I feel wise too. But I don't speak with a British accent. You really know how to get into character, Mare!


Janet Dean said...

Helen, it's lovely to hear you've learned from Seekerville posts. I have too. And no all of it is craft. ;-)


Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Janet! Great post for me to refer people to when they say they just started writing and want to know how to get published! I'll say, study these terms, then I'll give you a test. Then I'll say, Ha. Just kidding.

I can remember being completely confused as to what GMC was. But most of those terms I've understood since high school, when I subscribed to Writer's Digest. But I still had a lot to learn when I started writing again in my early thirties.

That seems like such a long time ago. Ah, to be young and naive again.


Janet Dean said...

LOL, Debra! That's hilarious! Bet your CP took a double take on your BS comment.

You make an excellent point and I agree that the POV character can read body language and physical reactions and can know or at least strongly suspect what's going on in the other character's head. Though characters like real people can misread others. I've done it. LOL


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Virginia. Glad you found the post helpful. It gives a tip of the iceberg peek at those tricky craft terms. There's so much to learn!


Janet Dean said...

Thanks Ann. Good luck with the novel! And thanks for the scrambled eggs and cheese. Yummy.


Ann said...

I thought I was just imagining the waves along with the new picture. Wow. How refreshing.

Learning this craft sure does have its hair-pulling moments.

Could be worse, though. I could be a junior high band teacher starting out the new reed players

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Janet, what a GREAT post ... uh, and one I wished I had way back when! Like Mary, I was clueless about POV, so that's what I got nailed to the wall on in my very first ACFW conference paid critique. Sigh. I could have REALLY used your cheat sheet then and many times since, so GREAT idea!

And, Debra, "BS"??? Too cute!! Thanks for my first laugh of the morning. :)

And, Tina, I have NO earthly idea why people play golf. I think it may be a nervous disorder ,,,


Pepper Basham said...

Oh Janet,

Thanks for the list of terms. Most of them I knew, but it was great to have the reminders because I had to learn about backstory dumping first hand from a judge too.

But once she pointed it out, and I moved chapter 7 to chapter 1 (AHHH!), I liked the story better too :-)

Do you guys find it easy to do POV switches when you least expect it? I know that's why editing is so important, but there are times when I'm like - what? There's no way my guy carried that purse! Who wrote that?

Maybe it was one of those pre-chocolate moments when my brain doesn't work properly.

Oh Mary, thanks for writing that it's a 'hard' thing to learn. I feel better already :-) See, writing that you were an encouragement was the truth ;-)

Thanks for the apple pie. Yum.

Off to teach class.

April said...

Great post. Although I am not an author, it was very interesting. The book sounds great. Please enter me. Blessings.

Jenny said...

I've written forever but in my own voice, my own way. Years ago I attended writing seminars that stressed so much on technical correctness that I was unable to actually write anything.

Sometimes the alphabet soup of your posts makes me feel frustrated! But then I realize that learning is in all things. Craft, slang, and figuring out what all the letters mean!

Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

Linda said...

SO MANY things to remember to write a novel!! But I find it in most books I read. Unbelievable! Thanks for sharing. Please add me in the contest. Thanks.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sandra. A definition for Voice? Talk about putting me on the spot. LOL

Perhaps we could say voice is our style, the way we put our words together, the words we use, the premises we're drawn to. It's individual, the way we sound, and is recognizable by readers, much as Willie Nelson can never be confused with Elvis Presley, even when they sang the same song.

Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird talks about voice. In a nutshell she said: the truth of exposing what's inside you can only come through in your own voice.

To tell what's inside us is to open ourselves on the page, the reason writing an emotional scene is exhausting.

Someone else want to share a definition of Voice?


Janet Dean said...

I hear the surf slapping againt the shore, Tina. It's so soothing, I'm thinking about a hammock and nap. :-)

Golf is my hair shirt. LOL The reason I golf? It's not for exercise. I love the carts. I love being outside. I love the comraderie of sharing the challenge. I love lunch afterward. :-) None of my reasons have a thing to do with the game. Well, except for the rare times I have a fantastic drive or sink that putt, then it's high-five fun.


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Debby! Excellent point not to filter your character's emotions by using felt. I avoid wondered as in Joe wondered yada yada.

Praying Ida loses power!


Janet Dean said...

Thanks Rose. Hugs to your son! How cute is that! I suspect you thought you were quite clear. LOL


Janet Dean said...

Wow, Ruthy, I expected at least a grimace of pain. :-) But you're right. We all need to familarize ourselves with the lingo. I feel for parents who don't get teacher speak. Then there's a verbiage to religion. The list is endless.

Ruthy's apple pie! Yours is the best!! Thanks!


Missy Tippens said...

Excellent, Janet! I remember the very first online writing class I took, the teacher jumped right in talking about backstory. And I had to ask what it was! So I totally relate.

Mary, I'm cracking up over Hector's POV!! :) And over Debra telling her CP she was writing, know what!! LOL

Janet Dean said...

Hi Melanie! So true! It was fun to be young and naive, full of joy at putting words on the page. Then we wise up and writing gets harder.

But then I wouldn't want a surgeon to hack away without knowledge of tying off vessels or the location of organs. Every art has its learning curve.


Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Janet,

Boy did that bring back memories! LOL. I didn't even know what the acronym POV stood for!

Another one that baffled me was 'SDT'. Figured out it was "Show Don't Tell" but that meant nothing to me AT ALL. I scratched my head a lot at the beginning. Still working on all those things. I guess it's a continual learning process - kinda like being a parent with on the job training!!

Thanks for the great list!

sbmason (at) sympatico (dot) ca

Janet Dean said...

Ann, are you a music teacher? I know nothing about musical instruments, but for a moment there, I could hear those new students using their reeds. Had to plug my ears.


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Julie. I suspect we all have to get nailed to the wall first before we're ready to study craft.

Nervous disorder? Naw, not the reason, but maybe the result. LOL


Janet Dean said...

Yes, Pepper, I've jumped heads without realizing it. Had my characters do goofy things. I've also changed the pov character for a scene then didn't get it all changed correctly. Thank goodness for revisions!


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, April. Glad we didn't bore you with our writer talk. You're entered. Thanks for stopping.


Edna said...

so nice to read the blog, I love books and am so glad someone can write, boy I can't.


Janet Dean said...

I agree, Jenny. Staying on your toes can get mighty painful just as too much focus on getting craft right can freeze creativity. The reason writers recommend getting the first draft on the page without revising. Hard if not impossible for me to do, but it makes perfect sense.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Linda. The tools of craft are just that, tools. Tools for us to use to improve our chances of getting our words in print. Still, it's the story we have to tell that makes an editor want our work. Hope that helps to keep all this in perspective.


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Missy. Your online class experience reminds us to define what we're talking about for those who are new.


Janet Dean said...

You said it, Sue! Writing is a continual learning experience. I may know the terms, but that doesn't mean I always remember to utilize them.


Walt M said...

Wonderful post. I'm still getting those and will get more, I am sure.

Janet, as I've already had the pleasure of reading "Courting the Doctor's Daughter" (as well as spilling coffee on it), please remove my name from the drawing.

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Edna. We all have different talents. Thank goodness! We writers love readers. Thanks for your interest in Courting the Doctor's Daughter!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Walt! I remember the coffee spill. A little caffeine didn't hamper Mary and Luke's happy ending. :-)

Feel free to add to the list of craft terms. I only covered a portion of them.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh,my, I had to go back to the home page once more just to hear the waves...

Where's my suit? My towel? Or an introspective walk on the beach, like Vince's thought-filled opening last week???

Give me a beach and a Golden Retriever with a stick or two. Best therapy ever.

Vince said...

Hi Janet:

Great post! I can use everything I learned here on my WIP – especially since it will have to go through several drafts.

One thing about golf: The body has a ‘mind’ of its own. That is, in golf the body usually does not do what the brain tells it to. At least in writing, the hand will usually do what the brain orders.

A cheat sheet is a great idea. Here’s what I’ve done on my short fiction pieces that might help. Use the ‘header’ and ‘footer’ options in Word to place important checklist items on every page you write. (I like listing the five senses at the top and major emotions at the bottom. I am big on five-sensing copy and also in trying to display more than one emotion felt per page. For my current WIP, I am developing a ‘reward’ reminder check list for the header.)

I did have a few observations:

Head hopping -- is this term always bad? Must the term be a preparative? If frequent POV change is expertly executed and causes no confusion, is it still head hopping?

About your comment: “POV Error=the POV character knows something or thinks something he wouldn’t know or think. Beware of characters describing themselves as in: She ran a brush through her long blond curly hair.”

I never thought of this as a POV error. I thought only in terms of putting character A’s thoughts in character B’s mind. So now, I have another problem to worry about.

“Make the setting as real as the characters. A few chosen words will bring it to life.” This is my pet peeve as a reader. I buy a book with a picture of the Outback on the cover and the book is so written that it could have happened in almost any country in the world. This is cheating the reader.

I’m not sure about this next one: “Either way, make things worse.”

Sometimes you need to actually make things better so you can get your characters out of trouble so you can knock them down again later. I’m a big believer in giving characters ‘small victories’ along the way to prevent the book from becoming a complete ‘downer’.

Thanks, for a very good post. I will paste you post at the front of my WIP along with Camy’s post on deep POV which is already there. This will remind me to read these again before I start my second draft.


Vince said...

Hi Mary:

You mean that was not Hector’s POV? I just read that and I though is was!

I also thought it was very good writing! The thoughts were appropriate to the mule and the mule had been fairly well personified by that point. (There was adequate foundation for heaven's sake.)

Hey, if Tolstoy can have talking dogs in ‘War and Peace’, a mule’s POV is pretty tame. Anyway, I don’t think it would ever bother a reader – just a judge. (And some of them even spend a lot of time in a mule’s POV. : ))


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarity, Janet. Gail Kittleson

Patty Wysong said...

What a great resource, Janet!

I'm off to share the link! =]

btw--I thought I was hearing things there for a moment! ROFL Loved it. Makes me want to pull out a good book and forget about the work I have to do! =]

Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, I'm with you! I love the ocean. The sound, the sight of it. It soothes and excites at the same time. Does anyone remember the song, I Hope You'll Dance by Lee Ann Womack? I hope you feel small beside the ocean. Ah, I do indeed. And very close to God.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Vince!

You're so right about golf. My body doesn't do what my mind says. I've been told to practice my swing until it becomes part of my muscle memory. Not helpful if I practice wrong.

Besides I have too many things to work on. Which reminds me--new writers can't learn all this at once. It'll be overwhelming. Learning craft is a process. Work on one or two elements, then as they make sense and get easier, add more.

Vince, putting a checklist in the Header and Footer is a fabulous idea!! I'm going to put in the header: Did the POV character have a goal in the scene? Hope I remember to delete and add my name before I send it to my agent. Wouldn't it be awful to have her send it back with a big bold NO!

Writers have their characters describe themselves because it's easy. Just as telling is easier than showing. If something is easy, maybe that's a clue it's wrong. LOL

You're right about the necessity of making things look good for the least for a while. Readers get a breather and characters get their hopes up so the fall hurts all the more. :-)
These definitions are just the tip of what the term is about. I'm not trying to be all inclusive. But if you make it worse with rising stakes and make your characters strong, your book won't be a downer. When conflict is episodic--doesn't fit into the central conflict--it just feels irritating.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Gail. Thanks! And thanks for leaving your e-mail address so I can get in touch if your name is drawn for the book.


Janet Dean said...

Patty, thanks for sharing the link. We love readers who invite others to Seekerville!

It's the ocean you're hearing, isn't it? The feel of that soft breeze against your skin? The scent of dead fish. Sorry. Trying to keep you out of that hammock and on your wip.


robynl said...

Courting the Doctor's Daughter has an awesome cover. I love it. It is art in itself.

As for the author speak, each one of you author's has a great talent in writing and it is a gift to us readers.

Please enter me for the drawing and thanks.

PatriciaW said...

I'm glad I knew what each of those was. The one that drives me crazy as a reader is the POV error. I hate when characters describe themselves while they are doing something, like "Her brown eyes twinkling, Sarah handed the cupcake to her daughter."

How does Sarah know her eyes are twinkling? And at that moment, would she really be thinking about the fact her eyes are brown?

pat jeanne said...

Such a great post, Janet, and all the comments, too. I've struggled with this thing called finding my voice and still do. But your explanation was clearer than anothing else I've heard. I love Anne Lamotte's insights. Thanks, Janet.

Janet Dean said...

Robynl, your kind words have made my day! I'm sure all the Seekers feel the same! Thank you!

You can check out James Griffin, the creator of the cover for Courting the Doctor's Daughter in an interview I did with him in Seekerville post. James did 3,000 covers for several publishers.



Janet Dean said...

Hi Patricia. Sounds like you find characters' describing themselves as irritating as I do. :-) I've gotten leery of writing: He frowned when I'm in his POV because I doubt we're aware of frowning. If I were, I'd stop. Who needs the wrinkles?


Debby Giusti said...

Just stopping back to say I may have been premature with worries about Ida. No rain in Georgia---yet!

Melanie, I started my writing journey by reading 7 years of back issues of The Writer. Lots of great info!

Vince, wanted to comment on your head-hopping question. Yes, you can move back and forth between characters within one scene--and many writers do just that. But the reader gets into a certain character and wants to stay immersed in that POV for a period of time. Switching back and forth too quickly -- or at least without the scene break to prepare the reader -- means the reader may become less emotionally involved.

I'm sure Janet will be able to explain what I'm trying to say in a far better way! :)

Janet Dean said...

Hi PatJeanne. I'm glad my attempt to define Voice helped. Not sure I nailed it, but I believe Voice will come naturally when we let what's inside us out, as Anne says. When we try to copy other writers we admire, we're a poor imitation.


Tina M. Russo said...

I knew it!!!

It's the lunch at the clubhouse!!!

May kinda exercise!!!

Tina M. Russo said...

My kind is what I was trying to say.

Janet Dean said...

Vince said referring to judges:(And some of them even spend a lot of time in a mule’s POV. : ))

You're such fun, Vince. I'm sure I've said more than I should to contestants. My motives were good, but no one can know it all. I'm always unnerved when writing advice posts. I hope readers run everything through their intuitive filter.


Janet Dean said...

We love to move our mouths in Seekerville, right, Tina? Eating and chatting it up. :-) Maybe if we stood up to eat, we'd burn a few calories. But these lounge chairs with the wonderful view of the sea are so comfy.


Heather Bernard said...

Thank you so much for this post Janet!
I so needed this cheat sheet!! I was completely baffled by the acronyms MS and WIP for forever (manuscript and work in progress). Debra had to laugh at the backstory thing! I could totally see myself making that mistake. The book sounds great. Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks,
Hchristinebernard at yahoo dot com

Janet Dean said...

Thanks for helping, Debby. I missed Vince's question about heading hopping. Probably subconsciously dodging it. :-)

Debby's point that changing heads may keep readers less emotionally involved is valid. But changing the POV character is not wrong. If it's done seamlessly, it works. Julie does it beautifully. Perhaps this is another aspect of Voice.

I always use a scene break when changing POV characters. I want to drain all the emotion the POV character has to give before moving on. I'd only call it head hopping when it's jarring or confusing to readers.

I think changing heads works best in romantic scenes so the reader gets both viewpoints of that kiss. But for some reason I don't do it. I like the POV character to see reactions/actions/dialogue clues almost as if the reader is experiencing the kiss along with the character, if that makes sense.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Heather! I wish I'd included WIP and MS since I've been asked to explain their definitions, especially WIP.

Another one: w/t=working title.


Sheila Deeth said...

It's a close-to-perfect cheat sheet. Now I just need to be closer to perfect at following it. Thanks.

Carol Denbow said...

As a golfer and a writer, I can completely relate!!!
Thanks for the great tips.

Vince said...

Hi Janet and Debby:

My ‘head hopping’ question was specifically directed at this:

if a writer changes POV often, between two characters. within one scene but the action is perfectly clear to the reader, would you still call this ‘head hopping’? In short, should the term ‘head hopping’ only used when the result is muddled?

I’m not in favor of multiple POVs in a single scene and I don’t try to do it either. But I can imagine a scene where the hero and heroine are pushed out of an airplane, without parachutes, (something like Cheryl Wyatt might write) and for two pages you have just their thoughts, in italic type, as they fall to earth. (Spoiler: they land on top of an old time rival tent and are saved.)

The above two pages might have 30 POV changes in a single scene but I would be reluctant to call this writing sequence ‘head hopping’. I’d call it exciting!

And thanks for your answers to my many questions.


Audra Harders said...

Good reminder, Janet!

Every now and then, actually more now than then, I stop and wonder if I've included elements necessary to move the plot along.

It really stumps me when a CP tells me *this part is too so and so* and I haven't a clue what she's talking about : )

HA! My mind is a spooky place. Thanks for the review, Janet!

Pepper Basham said...

Just stoppin' in to offer some viddles for the evening (since it's already dark over here in TN)
Buttermilk fried chicken
Potato cakes

and you can have some of Ruthy's apple pies for dessert to 'keep it southern' if ya want ;-)

Anonymous said...

I would love to read Janet's book.
Please enter me. Thanks.

Mary Connealy said...

I've got to toss in a comment to Jenny, she's written for years but the TECHNICAL stuff isn't fun.

So, here's my take. There are two different aspects to being an author.

1)The strange longing, the stories in your head, the willingness to be alone for long stretches of time in front of a computer.

2)The craft

Here's the deal.

You can learn the craft. You HAVE to learn the craft, the technical stuff. But I don't think you can learn the desire, the mindset, the weirdly working stories floating in your head. If you don't have the second, you can learn it. If you don't have the FIRST you're not a writer.

Make sense?

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sheila! Aren't you nice? Thank you!

Perhaps perfection isn't our goal. If we need flawed characters, why not flawed authors? ;-) With great stories to tell.


Janet Dean said...

Carol, thanks for relating, especially to the golf! If only the highest score wins. Now wouldn't that be nice? :-)


Janet Dean said...

Vince, if I was falling from an airplane without a parachute, I suspect--hoping never to know--I'd be incoherent in thought and speech. Just one long silent scream.

But since my characters are far more fearless than I, I can see the advantage of head hopping. Just not sure you could write their thoughts in a story for the CBA. :-)

Okay, I'll be serious. I still don't like the idea. But I think it's fine. Frequent shifts might work in a tragedy as well as in a romantic scene. But your average story, I'd avoid it. And for new writers, I'd avoid it like the H1N1flu.


Janet Dean said...

Audra, I feel for you! Hope your CP explains her comments.

All of our minds are spooky places. No other way could we live with all these voices. ;-)


Janet Dean said...

Pepper, thanks for bringing dinner!!! I love fried chicken and
potato cakes. What besides an egg do you add to leftover mashed potatoes to make them? Mac and Cheese? Talk about comfort food.


Janet Dean said...

You're entered, Jackie. Thanks for your interest in Courting the Doctor's Daughter.


Janet Dean said...

Thanks for bringing up a wonderful point, Mary. Writers can learn craft, but storytelling is a precious gift. Treasure it, ladies and gentlemen. It's God-given.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post...and I so enjoyed reading all of your all made my day.

karen k

Camy Tang said...

Janet, you rock! Great list!

Erica Vetsch said...

This was great. I remember being lost as to the jargon the first time I got a contest result back.

But, being a word lover, I embraced every new term I came if I could just apply them with some dexterity!

Project Journal said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the background noise : ) It's fantabulous!!

Anyway, Janet, I think that you're kind of talking about wording, correct me if I'm wrong. I have a terrible time with wording. Right now, in all my english essays(we have at least one per week) I'm working on making essays sound more like fiction, or at least more enjoyable to read. I'm using a lot of different describers and things like that that aren't necessarily associated with 12 grade essays : D It's kind of fun....kind of challenging! I can write a plain essay in no time now, but with this new project of takes me so much longer! Lol!

Great post once again Janet!!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Karen, the comments made my day too. Thanks for stopping!


Janet Dean said...

Hey, thanks, Camy! From a fabulous teacher of craft like yourself, that's a great compliment!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Erica. You hit the proverbial nail on the head. Understanding the terms doesn't guarantee a great novel. But they're the tools we can use to get our story across to the reader with the least author interference.


Janet Dean said...

Hannah, I love your enthusiasm for going the extra mile when you're writing those essays! You rock!


Carla Gade said...

Thanks for the great list, Janet. It took me a while to catch on, but I've got it now. It's great to have a list like that to share with others who are just learning the language.

Project Journal said...

Thanks Janet! I think that it will be well worth my while in the end : )

Janet Dean said...

That's great of you to share the list with others starting on the journey, Carla. Hope it helps someone!


Janet Dean said...

Hannah, most things that are hard are worth while. Wishing you success with your classes!


Project Journal said...

Thanks Janet! As long as you guys are still around and (what I percieve as) eager listeners, and I have enough time to come around, I'll let you know how they're going : ) Lol!

If you want to see more about what I am working on for my Honors Program Thesis Project, drop by my blog sometime : ) It is called Project Journal. I will not be offended by any means if you don't have time or simply don't want to! Lol!

Thanks so much!!

Janet Dean said...

Hannah, I visited your blog and I'm impressed with the project you're working on! How's it going? What topics besides Ireland will you be presenting to the kids?


Project Journal said...

Thanks Janet!!

I will be doing a session on Mexico in the beginning of January, right after we get back from Winter Break. The whole project is very exciting....I will really miss going down to the school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because I finished last week : (

Oh well...I'm still working on getting ready for the celebration next week and the next session in January!

Anonymous said...

love reading all of the posts :)

karen k

Vivian Zabel said...

Some people mix POV (point of view) with perspective. POV is first person, second person, or third person (limited or omniscient). Limited third person means only one character's thoughts can be "heard." Omniscient means more than one person's thoughts can be "heard."

Perspective means third person limited deals with everything from the perspective of just one character, which is what limited third person really is.

Janet Dean said...

Hannah, Mexico will be a fun project for the kids! Are you planning on teaching one day?


Janet Dean said...

Hi Vivian. You're well versed in Author Speak! Thanks for your insight.


Project Journal said...

I go down one day per week for 4-5 weeks. That was what I did this time anyway. I got to "teach" for about 30 minutes! It was pretty cool! The kids really enjoyed our activities and fun things to learn about. One week we got to make leprechaun traps! Very fun! They were sad when I told them it was the last time I'd be coming for a while : ( It was so cute! Lol....

It has given me a lot of experience before going off to college. It directly applies to my future, which is simply a bonus.