Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Archive for the ‘Point of View’ Category

Thanksgiving Exercise 4

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Devin and I think writing outside of your story really helps improve your writing. We thought we’d change up the routine this week for Thanksgiving and show our thanks to our readers by offering short exercises to improve your craft.



Today’s Thanksgiving Exercise is on point of view. A lot of people think the trick to PoV is choosing between three options: first, second, and third. Guess what? Not true! After you pick that, you’ve got to choose between the level of penetration or how much you want readers to be inside your viewpoint character’s head.

So, how can you make the best decision for your PoV? The best example is to think about all of your options. Would your story be better told by this character or this one? Would it be better in first or third? Would your viewpoint character be more sympathetic with an objective or subjective standpoint?

Well, the best way to find out is to learn how to write from all of it.

Here’s the exercise:

1. Research. I know this isn’t school, but the best idea when you don’t know something is to learn about it! You need to know all of your point of view options in order to make the right choice about it for your book. Start with our easy descriptions of omniscient, limited omniscient, subjective, objective, and detached.

2. Pick from one of these two situations. Situation one: Two characters are looking for a turkey for dinner at the store. They both just watched a film on animal cruelty the week before. Situation two: One of your characters leaves the store, arms full of bags for Thanksgiving, and slips on the ice. Your character gets up to look around and notices another one of your characters watching with interest.

Create new characters from any of your other stories or WiPs for this task  to exercise your imagination!

Here’s the writing part:

3. Write the situation you choose while narrating their thoughts and feelings without using dialogue (you can use a maximum of 7 lines of dialogue). You must convey the situation in three different ways. First, write it from single character subjective from the first character’s point of view (in first or third person). Next, write it in single character subjective from the second character’s point of view (in first or third person). Write the last one in objective PoV or omniscient PoV.

Take only half-an-hour to an hour to complete each version. They don’t need to be complete, they don’t need to be fancy; they just need to be there. Compare each version and decide whose point of view tells the story better. This task will show you how many choices you can make for telling your story 🙂

Feel free to post your exercises on your blogs or in the comments! I’d love to read what you come up with 🙂

I'm a freak for using this, but it sparkles! And is therefore awesome!


Written by Jessica Lei

November 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Sage Advice from Last Week

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How do you see things?

Last week we tackled point of view for our lesson. We weren’t the only ones! Theresa Stevens from Edittorrent wrote about point of view as a sliding scale over at Romance University. You can’t even imagine how quickly I read this post (and reread) because it gets straight everything I’ve been uncertain on.

A professor of mine recently told me that I was writing too objective for what I was trying to do. He wanted more than what my characters were doing, he wanted to know what they were thinking. I thought being subjective meant that everything was merely colored by my main character’s perception.

Guess not.

It’s a bit more than that. Readers won’t know if it’s through your main character’s viewpoint if you never make it explicit from the start. They’ll likely think your narrator is jumping out and making some kind of comment. So here’s a few things I’ve learned to get your point of view straight:

  1. Start objectively. This allows you to describe what your main character looks like. A lot of books do this! And it’s okay to!
  2. Slide into subjective by showing your main character’s thoughts.

    You can do it in single quotations. ‘Hmm,’ she thought, ‘that’s not right.’ Or perhaps you’re better acquainted with italics: Hmm, that’s not right, she thought. Or you can be sneaky and perhaps slip completely into the brain of your main character, almost as if you’re slipping into first person entirely (She dropped her fork with a gasp. I can’t believe what I’m seeing).

  3. Slide in and out of objectivity and subjectivity. Be conscious of what you’re writing.

    You need to equally show actions (objective) and thoughts (subjective) throughout your book. Some scenes will require more objectivity and less subjectivity, or vice versa. No one wants too many thoughts, it slows down the pace–but when you want to slow things down, throwing in thoughts (even stream-of-consciousness can be fair play depending on your writing) can help you.

  4. Never, ever switch viewpoints. You can’t be in one person’s head and then another person’s head when you’re writing subjective. That’s omniscient. (Tricky, isn’t it!)
  5. Once you’ve gone into someone’s head, you can’t come out of it. If you’ve given us a taste of their thoughts, you have to let us take nibbles the entire book. We’ll remember what it tasted like, we’ll never forget it, and we won’t forgive you from withholding it from us.

Point of view is a tricky subject. I hope this post can bring another round of clarity!

Written by Jessica Lei

October 18, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Advice, Point of View

Lesson 15

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The world is completely different if you look at it in a different way.


Point of view. It’s one of the most important things to your story. I am, however much I love writing, not an English major. I was recently informed that PoV is much more detailed than 3rd omniscient, 3rd limited, 2nd and 1st. I’m going to focus on third person.


Third person omniscient helps writers create huge, epic stories with complicated stories involving many characters. It can hinder the ability to connect with the characters. The best example of this is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Omniscient means the reader knows everything and everyone’s thoughts at all times. There is no limitation. My example below:

Sally stepped into the gym with Emily at her arm. Sally had a baby pink gown with sparkles all over it and her blonde hair tied up in a bun. She thought she looked beautiful. Emily thought she was pretty too, as did her crush John. Emily was wearing white and had her brown hair in curls. She felt self conscious with cleavage, but she was told it looked cute. There was a gaggle football players in the back hanging out with their girlfriends, more than a few wondering if they were going to get some. The prom queen and princesses were glittering under the stage lights, thinking of how hot it was. The seats were taken up by the misfits and a few loner girls and nerdy boys. No one would be dancing with them. John was across the way and watched both of them enter. He was in his brother’s tux and all the girls were looking at him. Especially Sally.

Limited Omniscient

Limited omniscient is almost the same as omniscient point of view. You still know almost everything, but the reader can only get into the head of one character. Good example of this is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though Snicket gets into three of the main character’s heads, the reader only knows what they are thinking. All other characters are only viewed externally. My example below:

Sally stepped into the gym with Emily at her arm. She had a baby pink gown with sparkles all over it and her blonde hair tied up in a bun. She thought she looked beautiful. Emily was wearing white and had her brown hair in curls. Sally wondered if she felt self conscious with all of that cleavage, but didn’t pay it any mind. John was across the way and watched both of them enter. He was in his brother’s tux and all the girls were looking at him. Especially Sally.

Single Character Subjective

Single character subjective point of view shows the main character’s thoughts, emotions and opinions. Subjective and limited are similar with the sole exception that the reader sees the main character only from the inside instead of the inside and the outside. The reader learns as the main character does. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a good example of this. My example below:

Sally stepped into the gym with Emily at her arm. She thought her gown and hair were great. Her friend, Emily, looked a like a harlot with so much cleavage, but Sally didn’t pay it any mind. John, her crush, was across the way. He was in a tux. Sally caught eyes with him when he looked up. He smiled and she could’ve swooned.

Single Character Objective

Single character objective point of view only cares about the facts. With this perspective you only see actions. Objective has a “fly on the wall” feel at times. Novels using this make the character’s feelings obvious through the actions they make. A good example of this is Aesop’s Fables.   My example below:

Sally strutted into the gym with Emily at her arm. She had a baby pink gown with sparkles all over it and her blonde hair tied up in a bun. She brushed the loose hairs at the back of her neck away and smoothed out wrinkles in her dress. Her friend, Emily, was wearing white and had her brown hair in curls. Sally gave her friend’s open chest a disapproving glance before looking across the floor. John was across the way in a tux. He looked up and caught eyes with Sally and smiled. Her heart fluttered.


Detached doesn’t go into detail about motivations, thoughts or emotions of the characters. The narrator is–as I’m sure you could guess!–detached from the happenings of the story.  The best example I can think of this is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Just actions and dialogue. My example below:

Sally stepped into the gym with Emily. She brushed the back of her neck and smoothed out her dress. Sally looked at her friend’s dress. There was a great view of her ample chest. She looked away into the gym. John was across the way. He looked up and caught eyes with Sally and smiled. “God, he’s dreamy,” she said.

Of course, most of these are a review, but it was a good lesson for me! (In more than one way.) Hope it was for you, too!

Written by Devin Bond

October 13, 2010 at 5:30 am

Posted in Lessons, Point of View