Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Three Thoughts About… Point of View and Storytelling

Three Thoughts About… Point of View and Storytelling
By Brad R. Cook

Having seen some movies over the holiday season, including the really big one, and then reading the backlash online, I wanted to talk about how writers use POV – Point of View. This isn’t a post about the differences of First Person and Third, or if Omniscient is better or worse than Limited, I want to talk about how writers use POV to tell stories.

1 – POV limits the storytelling to one or a couple of characters.
It doesn’t matter if you use First Person and switch characters from chapter to chapter, or if Third Person is used in limited or omniscient. By selecting one of these storytelling techniques, the writer is choosing to tell the story from a certain character’s point of view. Every story needs a main character, or maybe an ensemble of central characters. But every person in your story, even the poor side character that only walks into the scene with a glass of water, has a story, a life, or actions that take place off page, or off screen.

2 – Point of View filters all information to the reader
Locking in a Point of View causes the reader to see and feel the story through that character. What would Star Wars be without experiencing everything for the first time like Finn, or through the hope Rey sees in the galaxy around her? We experience the horrors and pain of the hunger Games through Katniss, and her interactions with the other tributes. As writers, we control the emotional journey of the readers, and that’s a good thing. We take the reader on a roller coaster through our books, leading them through the low moments and raising them up to heights of tensions and joy.

3 – Readers might think they want everything but they really don’t
Readers or movie goers might think they want to know what every character is doing when not in the scene, or every character’s back-story, but in truth, they don’t. Victorian novels, the really thick ones that everyone had to read in school, but really we just watched the movie. The ones we tell people we’ve read, but only really paid attention to in class. Except for some of us – I love those novels, as well as a small group of professors and literary types. Victorian novels are notorious for including characters that didn’t matter, or jumping into elaborate back-stories that made readers wonder where the plot went. The world has moved on from that kind of story telling – writers don’t get paid by the word anymore. Readers want the plot, the action, and the emotion, in a refined and polished story.

The trick is to give a reader everything they need. A main character may not be able to see everything a villain does, or every little moment of the story, but the challenge for us as writers is to find ways to impart that information to the reader. There are right ways (POV switches) and wrong ways (Info Dumps) to include what can’t be directly experienced, but that is something for another day.

I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sure it was overly nostalgic and made me ask a thousand questions as I left the theater, but part of that is a time and pacing issue, and part of it is that Rey, Finn, and Poe didn’t have all the answers.

Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Horsemen - and Iron Zulu -  He currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. Learn more at, on Twitter @bradrcook, or on his blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr

Friday, December 25, 2015

Baker discusses “The Empowered Writer” at Jan. 9 Guild workshop

Writers will learn the three biggest mistakes that keep them from building a fan base and a thriving career at Bob Baker’s “The Empowered Writer” workshop from 10 a.m. to noon, Jan. 9, at Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd, Kirkwood, Mo. Free to St. Louis Writers Guild members, $5 for nonmembers.
 Baker will show you simple ways to overcome these obstacles so you can make more of an impact with your words, books, articles, poems, and blog posts. This workshop is guaranteed to be interactive, eye-opening and fun.

Bring a notebook and pen so you can take lots of notes and leave with some easy but powerful action steps to build your writing career.
Bob Baker is on a lifelong mission to help musicians, authors and creative entrepreneurs use their talents and know-how to make a living and make a difference in the world!
He is a full-time author who has developed a successful niche writing and speaking about music marketing and self-promotion for songwriters, musicians, and bands.
He served six terms as president of the St. Louis Publishers Association and is an advocate for the self-publishing movement.
Bob is the author of the highly acclaimed "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook" (which appeared in the movie "The School of Rock," starring Jack Black). He also created the "Music Marketing 101" course, which ran for five years at Berkleemusic, the online continuing education division of Berklee College of Music in Boston.

He has appeared in the media on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "Marketplace" and in such publications as Publishers Weekly, Electronic Musician, Music Connection, The Guardian, Canadian Musician, VIBE magazine, E! Online, and even The Onion!

 Bob's other titles include "The Empowered Artist," "55 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Book on the Internet," "The Guerrilla Guide to Book Marketing," "Unleash the Artist Within," and more.
Check out Bob's free ezine, blog, podcast, video clips and articles at, and
Learn more about the St. Louis Writers Guild at

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Julie Whitley: Stand-alone fantasy evolves into sequel "The Stalker"

Welcome to Julie Whitley, a retired nurse who lives in Ontario with her husband and mother. Julie is the proud mother of daughter Jennifer and enthralled new grandmother of grandson, Hamish. Secrets of the Home Wood: the Sacrifice is her debut novel and represents a labour of love over twenty years in the making. Julie also loves to fill her time with painting, travelling, sailing with friends and scuba diving/snorkelling. Life is good!

1.  What brings your writing into focus-- the characters, the stories, the love of words? I have loved to write since I was nine years old and I would sit for hours in my room writing stories and illustrating them. I have to say that the love of words got me started, but it is the love of a good story and the development of characters that inspires me now. I try to appeal to all the senses as I write, without being too poetic. Learning how to tell a story effectively has been an interesting journey and my skin has become much thicker through the process. I was once asked if I ever met an adjective I didn’t like. After being taken back for a minute, I realized there was a great deal of truth in the question. Having mentors and honest beta readers has helped me cure a lot of tics, but it is an endless fight to keep from developing new ones.

2. What inspired your latest book? My latest story, The Stalker, is the sequel to my debut novel Secrets of the Home Wood: the Sacrifice. The first story was decades in development from a creative writing exercise, to a one character journey that transformed into the story of a family. After all the time it took to complete The Sacrifice, I was positive it would be a stand-alone story. In fact, even as the last chapters were being written, it suddenly hit me—hard!—that a sequel was brewing. The arrangement of characters has changed a little, but the danger and suspense and three points of view is the same. I am enjoying the further growth of the two main characters, while the feisty third has been a pleasure to get to know.

3. What do you think readers will like about your book? Readers of The Sacrifice have said that they enjoyed the intricacy of following the three journeys of the protagonists. The read was quick even though 80,000 words and each chapter ending spurred on the turn of the page. I think that readers of the Stalker will be delighted with the same format and growth in the characters as well as the excitement of the new dangers they face. What has also been most fun for me is that while originally written for a YA audience, my readers have ranged in age from 10 to 80!

4. How much fact is in your fiction? Even though my story is fantasy, I have used some names of places and people from my life: a place I once worked, my best friend, my uncle who passed away just before I introduced his character. As well, I had saved up names that I had heard over the years and thought were wonderful. The world I created was an amalgam of countries I have visited and would like to visit and historical time periods. I researched the designs of medieval castles, but the rest came from my imagination.

SECRETS OF THE HOME WOOD: For Jonathon, the Home Wood that borders his grandfather's farm has always been a source of mystery and dread. Strange half-heard rumours passed among aunts, uncles and cousins never quite add up. More than twenty years ago, his father-when he was Jonathon's age-was swallowed up by the Home Wood for more than a day and came back badly injured. That was when his grandfather forbade any family member from venturing back there. And so when, from his bedroom window one morning, Jonathon sees his father once again cross into the Home Wood, he knows something is very wrong. Deceiving his grandfather, Jonathon sets out after his father and makes his way, for the first time in his life, into the woods. What he finds there is beyond even his wildest imagination.