I thought I'd say a few words about point of view.
One of the most important decisions a writer can make is deciding
what point of view to tell a story in. As a quick reminder, there are three widely recognized points of view. They are:
person -- I did this
Second Person -- You did this
Third person -- He or she did this
I will repeat what
I said earlier: one of the most important decisions a writer can make is the selection of the proper point of view for a story.
writers are very good at first person. Lawrence Block, for example, has written a great many novels in first person, and I
am happy to read any one of them.
Sometimes, the decision will be made for you. Private eye fiction, for example, is
predominantly, alhtough not exclusively, written in first person. A sprawling, multi-generational story will almost certainly
require third person.iha
I have told stories from both first and third person points of view. Taylor Made,
False Witness, and The Body of the Crime, are all first person. Jane Doe, Striking Out,
Dad's Legacy, Homecoming, and Trophies are all third person. Jane Doe and Striking Out are from
mulitple points view, the others are from a more limited point of view, that of one character.
And sometimes a story
won't work in a certain point of view. For example, I have read several first-person stories in which the protagonist is killed
at the end of the story, or, more accurately, is in a situation in which death is inevitable. I personally don't think this
works. First person implies that the hero of the story survived and is telling you about something that happened to them some
time ago, some days or weeks or months or years in the past.
So, when I read a first person story where the hero/heroine
dies, I think, "How are you telling me this when you are dead?"
I say this because of my own experiences
writing Designated Angel. The earliest version of the story was in third person, and I thought it went nowhere. I
simply didn't like what I had.
Then one day, I thought, why not change to first person? So I did, rewriting
the entire manuscript that I had from the point of view of my hero. I could do this because I didn't feel the need to tell
the story from any other point of view. That, and the decision to combine two stories into one, allowed me to come up with
a story I am happy with.
So, what is the takeway? If you are not satisfied with a story, one of the ways you can attempt
to salvage it is to at least consider changing yourpoint of view.
I recently finished the first draft of a new story, Designated Angel. I like this story enough that I will more
than likely try to submit this story to one or more of the major magazines before I think about independent publication. I
would like to see this story get wider circulation, and it would help me to build my following if I have publication in a
major mystery magazine in my resume.
The process of writing Designated Angel also allows me to talk about an
aspect of writing that played an important part in getting this story finished, and that is the willingness and ability to
combine two stories into one.
Designated Angel started out as an outline for a story called Guardian Angel.
I put a little work in on the story, but didn't do much with it becasue it simply didn't work. According to the outline, a
character had to commit a nasty deed, but there as absolutely no reason for her to do so, except possibly misogyny. So I put
the story aside after writing only a few pages.
In my notes, I had a story idea in which a cop helps a former Marine
to get even with the man who killed someone close to him. The law couldn't touch this killer, and the cop and the Marine both
knew it, so the cop gives the Marine the information he would need to take care of the perp himself.
The problem with
this story is that it wasn't really a complete story, just an idea for an incident. I read it over, realized this, then thought,
"It would make a good ending for Guardian Angel, if I change the actions of one main female character.
did so. I outlined the combined story, using the original story as the basis for most of the new verison, changing the actions
of the one character -- which, among other things, made a great deal more sense -- and using the second idea as the ending.
This gave me a complete story that is better than the original story, and uses an idea that I would never have written otherwise.
The rest was relatively easy. I knew where I wanted the story to go, and all I had to do was write it. Now, the first
draft is finished and I'm going to let it sit for a few days while I work on other things.
The lesson from this, I think
is, even if a story idea of yours isn't workable, don't be afraid to combine it with other ideas and stories, and make whatever
changes are necessary. The result might be something good.