Dennis Coslett

I am a writer and novelist. Welcome to my blog and website. Here, you can learn what is going on in my life and in my writing career.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Seeing it through your eyes ... or mine ... or his and hers

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:

First 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.

Some 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 thati  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.

3:56 pm cdt          Comments

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Two into one

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.

It 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.

2:54 pm cdt          Comments


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About me: I have been writing since the early 1980s, ever since discovering a passion for writing during my senior year in High School. My completed writings include novels, short stories, and newspaper articles. I have completed four novels in that time, and have partially completed two others. I have had little success in finding an agent or a publisher for any of my novels, and have recently taken my efforts online. During the years that I have been writing, I have also served my country as a member of the United States Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps. In the last five years, I have been deployed to Army bases in Iraq, Kansas, and Virginia.

Look for my novel Taylor Made, available from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. taylor_made_banner.jpg