Writing Wednesday–I’m stuck on POV

I know, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… POV is hard.

I have a thing with POV. Maybe it was because in my first couple of contests, I got thoroughly dinged on my POV, and I realized just how hard it is. Oh, the comments were lovely: “You head hopped a lot. I love your writing, and it didn’t bother me, but you can’t get away with this,” and “Here’s the rule. Only the greats can break the rules.” And you know what? Those contest judges were right. I head hopped. A lot. So I get it. POV is hard, especially when you’re a newbie writer and just trying to figure things out.

Deciding whose POV to write in is harder still. Here’s what I mean: you want to write from the perspective of the person who has the most to lose in that moment. Even if you have an emotionally tense scene, where one character’s heart is breaking, but the other has more to lose, then you need to write it from that character’s perspective.

Say Bob is moving away for a new job and leaving Alice behind. While it’s hard for the person leaving, it’s harder still to be the one left behind. So while it might be tempting to write this from Bob’s point of view, don’t. Bob might be sad, but he will have new experiences to shape him, and that can be really exciting. Alice might be sad, and she will have a hole where Bob once was. Who stands to lose more? Is it Bob or Alice? Having been on both sides of this issue, I’d argue that this is harder for Alice. Your opinion may be different, and that’s cool. Just make sure you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and you’re golden. Just make sure that once you start the scene, you end it in that same person’s perspective.

From the moment we first decide we want to be writers, we’re told that multiple POV shifts per chapter are bad. Given that, I find the number of books from big name publishers where there are four or five perspective shifts in a chapter interesting. In the beginning, we’re told to do some sort of break to let the reader know that there is a POV shift coming, but lately I’m seeing less and less of that, even. A paragraph from her. A page from him. Back to her for seven paragraphs. Maybe three or four paragraphs from the POV of the dog. Or the dog’s cat’s uncle’s brother-in-law’s mouse’s POV. (Yes, I know, I go too far)

I’ve read the big names–you know, the ones who can get away the omniscient POV–and I find it a little jarring even then, but I can follow it. But if you’re not in the hands of a master, the shifts are downright disturbing. Especially with so many of them.

Right now, I’m reading a romance novel (of course I’m reading a romance novel–when am I not reading a romance novel?) where, in the second chapter, the POV shifted 7 times. It made me nuts, (nuts enough to go back and count). The POV shifted twice in a single page, and really, it was just both characters ruminating on the relative attractiveness of the other. (He: super hot. She: well, she’s just been wounded, so not so much. At least in her estimation. In his, he can see that she’s pretty beneath the bruises)

Do I need to know that both parties think the other is attractive RIGHT NOW?

No. One character can wait. That’s just my two cents. Also, how much ruminating on relative attractiveness can one do? By the third chapter,  I’ve begun to weary of hearing about how sexy she thinks he is. I get it. Either jump his bones or think about something else. At this point, I’d be happy if she thought about the weather.

No, seriously.

In any case, I’m sure this is very clear, but I’m not a fan of omniscient. Doesn’t mean my way is better. But with so much head hopping, I feel like I’m being told what to think about the characters. She thinks he’s sexy, and thinks about it a lot. Ergo–he’s sexy! But I want to see the sexiness. I want him to demonstrate how sexy he is in the way he handles things both large (heh) and small (aww). I want to understand why she thinks he’s sexy, and if we’re constantly jumping to his POV, it’s hard for me to see that. Sure, one could argue that this is a matter of telling, not showing (and it is), but it’s also a matter of not allowing me to stay in a person’s head long enough, and spending too much time with internal thoughts, for me to see the sexiness through the eyes of the POV character.

That’s what I want out of a book. I don’t want to be told to love a book boy. I want to fall in love with him because of what he does, and how the heroine sees him.

The nice thing is, in writing, there is no “right” way or “wrong” way. There is simply a matter of taste, which changes with each generation. After all, we’re still forced to read James Joyce, right? Gah, I hated Ulysses. Stream of consciousness made me want to vomit. I wonder, if James Joyce queried now, would he be picked up? Or would he wind up in the slush pile like the rest of us?

Just wonderin’.


Fun With the Phlebotomist

So, today Chewey had his first blood draw.

God bless him. (For those of you who are teachers, you will recognize this statement for what it is)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore my son. He’s funny and smart and cute. He’s also, sometimes, a pain in the ass.

Today we went to the pediatrician, and he needed to have some lab work done. Now, I’ve been fighting a migraine for two days, so maybe I’m not in the happiest of moods. Light is too bright, people are too loud, my head hurts, and I’m running a fine line between starving and nauseous.

So, now that that’s been established, suffice it to say, I am not in the best mood.

Neither is the boy. (Or the girl. But more on that later)

So, after a series of mishaps, I finally got Chewey to the phlebotomist. He was actually okay with this entire process. Surprisingly okay. Given how he flipped out over simply having numbing cream placed on his arms, I should have recognized this for what it was…

The calm before the storm.

(Also, Chewey complained loudly and often that the cream “burned like fire.” Bad mom that I am, I said, “Little dude, your arm is numb. It can’t be burning.” More on that later)

Anyway, once we were called back, Chewey got up in the chair. The phlebotomist, who can find my veins with ease (no small feat, that), then had him get down so he could sit in my lap.

Chewey broke out in a sweat and started crying.

Then howling.

Then screaming like he was being attacked with an axe. I started to wonder when the two cops I saw outside were going to come in and search the place for a victim.

“No! You can’t have my blood!” he wailed. He punctuated this with a blood curdling scream. “I still need it!”

“Chewey,” I said softly (meaning, I shouted this into his ear, trying to make him hear me over the sound of his wailing). “If you do this, I’ll take you out for ice cream!”

“Really?” he asked. Then: “Ow! You’re killing me!”

Phlebotomist: “I’m standing over here. I didn’t even touch you.”

Chewey: “Oh.” Then: “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

Now, Chewey was being tested for allergies, and, as the phlebotomist had me peel off the tape holding the numbing agent in place, we discovered the first one: adhesives.

You know that arm I told him couldn’t hurt because it had a numbing agent on it? Yeah, totally swollen with hives less than a half hour later. Poor little dude. I felt bad. I’m allergic to adhesives, too. My arm swells up like that, too.

It really does hurt. Wretched Mommy.

In any case, needless to say, this did nothing for Chewey’s mood.

He started screaming bloody murder. As the phlebotomist approached, he shrieked, “Get away from me, you bloodthirsty villains!”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed. I mean, how many times have you wanted to call a phlebotomist a bloodthirsty villain? Also, if I didn’t laugh, I would’ve started drinking, and all the hooch is at my house. Super inconvenient, that.

Eventually, the phlebotomist got the blood drawn (thank the Lord), and we were allowed to leave. Chewey was still yowling.

As we were walking into the waiting room, the place went silent. it was almost like doing the walk of shame after a significant wardrobe malfunction. Almost.

Anyway, as we were closing in on the door and my escape to freedom, I heard someone say, “So, we’re going for ice cream, are we?”

I laughed. “Sure,” I said. “Right after his dad comes home.”

**Chewey did get his ice cream, though I wasn’t entirely sure he deserved it, given the screaming. But then, he’s six, and he admitted he was scared, and he doesn’t do well in managing his anxiety. In all, a good time was had by all.**

***But you know what could have made it better? Jeremy Renner. There, I said it. If the phlebotomist had looked like Jeremy Renner, played the piano, and professed his undying affection for me, perhaps I may have enjoyed my time at the lab. Alas, despite my very vivid imagination, even I couldn’t make a forty year old female phlebotomist into Jeremy Renner. Can’t blame a girl for trying, though.***

A Rumination on Hot Guys

So, I was going through one of my social media sites, and looking at the pictures of hot guys.

A hot guy, with no shirt on, frolicking in the surf. Wearing jeans with his pants undone.

Another hot guy, leading a horse, wearing a leather jacket. He, too, has no shirt on, is wearing jeans with the buttons undone. He has a fine sheen of sweat going, as well.

A firefighter, in his turn outs. He’s wearing his helmet, carrying an ax, has the sweat thing going, and… he’s not wearing a shirt. As to whether he has pants on under his turn outs is unclear, but if he does, I am sure they are undone.

The pictures range from firefighters, to cops (Hubs is a cop–I’ve never seen him in his pants and gun belt but with no shirt on. I think that’s a dress code violation), to lumberjacks, to lonely dudes on the beach.

It’s all nice to look at, but does it make sense?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy firefighters, I do. But one does not see them washing their trucks–or whatever the boys call it these days–in their skivvies. Or in their turn outs. Particularly without shirts on.

On the point of the man frolicking in the surf in jeans and no shirt… Dude, wet jeans are totally uncomfortable. There is surely a chafing issue involved in that, right? And, with the pants undone, it’s likely he’ll get a little sand in there. Sand, inside tight, wet jeans, when one is quite obviously going commando? Ouch. I suppose it could be the ultimate exfoliation. Don’t know if it’s either necessary or wanted, but hey.

And the horse, the leather jacket, and the pants undone? If it’s so cold you have to wear a jacket and a hat, why, pray tell, is there no shirt involved? But if it’s so cold that a jacket must be worn, then why is he sweating? Or, more to the point, why is he sweating oil?

And why, oh why, can none of them button their pants?

Do they have fine motor deficits and need OT? I mean, it’s one thing if my five-year-old can’t keep his pants zipped up, but I would assume by 30-something, one should have mastered that.

Do they have some funk in the junk that needs airing out? Because if it’s that bad, maybe he needs a doctor.

Is he a pervert? (This one actually seems the most likely. I’d be scared if I saw a hot guy with his pants undone carrying an ax, even if he looked nice without a shirt on. After all, I doubt he has any fun lumberjack games in mind.)

But then, I’ve never frolicked in the desert wearing nothing but a bra and my Guess jeans, either. I guess I’ll leave that to Claudia Schiffer.