In my book Genre Writing, I included a dedication to “beginning writers who feel like avalanche victims.” I remember that feeling I often had when I started to write, especially when I read books or magazines on writing. The amount of information overwhelmed me.
In Genre Writing my goal was to include topics in the book that would be especially useful to beginners and help them avoid common errors that people make when they start writing. There’s nothing wrong with being a newbie, but it’s nobody’s business (especially publishers), and your mistakes can reveal your status. People in the business want fresh voices, not amateurs. The excerpt I’ve included can make your manuscript distinctive.
Point of View
Third-Person-Limited Deep View
This perspective characterizes the norm for genre prose.
With third person the main character (or perspective character) is referred to as he, she, it, or by name.
This spring he planned to visit Europe.
She received an interesting letter.
Jeremiah laughed when he heard the joke.
The limited aspect pertains to the story’s unfolding through the perspective of one character per scene.
Some publishers, especially in the romance category, allow a shift in perspective one or more times in a scene, often specifying the use of an extra space before and after.
Sometimes publishers include point-of-view requirements in the submission guidelines. If not, staying with one perspective per scene maximizes an author’s chance of acceptance.
With the third-person-limited deep point of view, no omniscient external narrator intrudes. Filters such as saw, thought, heard, and felt, aren’t used, so the reader can experience the story as closely as possible to the way the character does.
Example of External Narrator
The man saw storm clouds darkening the sky. He heard the thunder and felt the chill around him.
Example of Third-Person-Limited Deep Point of View without External Narrator
Storm clouds darkened the sky. Thunder roared in the distance, and wind gusts chilled his bones.
The reader learns the thoughts, feelings, and motives of multiple characters in a scene when an author head hops. Head hopping ranks as one of the major reasons editors reject genre manuscripts.
Why did he have to go to this stupid, boring play? Arnold squirmed in the uncomfortable seat.
Julie glanced at him. If only he wasn’t bored. Why did Arnold even agree to attend the theater? He should have just stayed home and watched the baseball game.
It’s so labor intensive to fix this problem, especially when the author has difficulty understanding about third-person-limited deep point of view, regardless of revision instructions. Publishers also generalize that if the author doesn’t know this important convention, he doesn’t know other usual practices. The writer gives the impression of being an amateur, so the editor may feel a lack of trust.
Instead of using italics to show thoughts, have the thoughts part of the third-person perspective. For one thing, italics are speed bumps that distract the reader and more effectively show emphasis (sparingly) or show the first occurrence of a foreign word.
Also it’s a point-of-view departure when you write the thought from a first-person perspective. Instead of I hate that man or I hate that man, he thought, consider the following: Ted spat on the ground. Evil ran through Jake’s veins.
Notice how the last example is in third person and without an external narrator. The thought is expressed through Ted’s perspective.
An exception to this convention occurs when a character speaks to another character in her mind, for example, I love you, Bob or with an interjection, such as Darn! or Ugh! Use the interjection in italics and then switch back to third person: Darn! How would he find the answer?