My Point of View

A big hint you get when reading “how to write gooder” material is that you need to obsess about a lot about Point of View, and learn a lot of terms and sub-divisions of POV. Lately this obsession has flared out of control. I hadn’t actually heard the term “POV violation” (Which I interpret as a disguised way of saying “slap some sense into me”) until lately, but there it is.I’ve responded to forum knuckleheads who get off that whole idea that POV is: 1)Something to be rationed out sparingly and
2)even really worth a writer THINKING about any more than a sprinter thinks about his shoelaces, with paragraphs showing completely natural shifts in viewpoint even within a single sentence.
(They always yelp about the paragraph sucking and being confusing)But “head-hopping” is just so du jour.It’s crazy and lame, but understanding the why of it can be really helpful to young writers. MOST of the crap you hear on the internet about writing is absolutely worthless. Most of what you read in writing tips books is also. And definitely seminars.Here’s what happens, at two different levels.Writers are, for some weird reason, a high target demographic for scamsters, some of them even well-meaning. We are INUNDATED by ways to spend money to get better at what is basically a pretty simplistic art with almost no real technique involved. Ninety percent of the “help” being offered for sale is by people who have never sold anything in their lives except “how to write and sell” books. Writing/marketing advice is the standby first pubication of the truly bogus.So, since writing just, sorry to say, doesn’t have the sort of technical requirement of, say, ballet or photography or playing the saxophone or hitting baseballs for power and placement, they have to come up with things to fill up their books.So they cook up all this CRAP. Screenwriting is the worst, poetry the loopiest (duh) but you just hear all this complete cowflop.Adverbs are bad. Headhopping is bad. Flashbacks are a sign of a weak mind. Voice overs are a sign of laziness and probably syphilitic communism. Yada, yada.

Add to this the whole schmear of editors and critics and the way THEY talk about writing (which is TOTALLY USELESS TO THE CREATIVE TALENT–you DON’T need to even be aware of the word “protagonist” to write, just to jabber about it) and you have a blather of solemn, heartfelt, brass underlined twaddle that is pretty much unique in the world of the arts. Okay, maybe acting (another area in which there is very little actual technique to balance talent) is worse for sheer lameness. Maybe.

Then there’s the second level–people passing these little cowpies of wisdom on to others. Either in other books that are just like the ones they’re knocked off from, or The Internet Forums.

People want to seem cool, expert, knowledgeable. It’s natural. I’m a bit of a know it all showoff myself, believe it or not. So they grab these little nuggets, put their own shade of lipstick on them, and pass them on as if they’d baked them themselves after nine months of gestation in the oven.

And defend all this second-hand pablum RABIDLY. They have never sold anything, they don’t work in the business, but they go ballistic if you challenge the idea that adverbs are some dangerous thing to be avoided.

(Think about that: telling writers that certain words are no good, like telling painters to avoid certain hues or musicians that there are bad notes. But they DO IT)

If challenged, there is a pattern you see unfolding. Somebody says don’t use adverbs (or multiPOV or flashback or gumdrops or whatever) and get some hipster agreement.

Somebody says some degree of “That’s nuts.” Maybe even, “So tell me how you’d rewrite this sentence without adverbs” (And what is really screamingly hilarious/pathetic is when they DO the rewrites)

Then somebody says, “You need to know the rules before you can break them” and everybody thinks THAT is very wise and cool. So the question has been begged and whatever stupid fad is being discussed is now being called a “rule”. Like, you know, the RULE against using adverbs or flashbacks or more than one POV in a (sentence, paragraph, “section”, page, novel, lifetime, whatever)

The argument quickly becomes, well, sure you can use them sparingly, but should be careful.

The obvious question (“Why?”) sometimes gets asked and the answer is always some variation of “well so many use them badly that they’be started to become bad by association so watch out or the readers will shred your MS or script, and probably also your feet and firstborn child”

Challenge to that usually devolves into “Well I went to Clarion… (know an editor, got a really glowing rejection from an ezine, was in creative writing classes in Community College for six years, etc) and you go right ahead if you want to be a total failure and loser and writhe in limbo.”

In other words, there are tools in a writer’s work box that should not be used because they have been used badly. And, of course, have a cute buzzword against them.

DON’T let people hem you in. DON’T take seriously the advice of whatever anonymous nobodies who have a good rap on the internet. DON’T take seriously the hooie of people trying to flog books to you.

A writer uses whatever is at hand and maybe invents a few more things that aren’t around.

Critics and hucksters and teachers and losers tell you there are places not to go.