Elvis, Hound Dogs and Point of View? Stay tuned authors – you’ll want to read this unique take on POV! Don’t forget to check for Peggy Webb’s giveaways too!
One of the most important decisions a writer makes is whose point of view best tells the story. Do you stick with only one point of view and let the major character tell the story? That worked for me in the women’s fiction novel, Driving Me Crazy (Harlequin NEXT, 2006). Because Maggie was central in every scene and she had the most to gain or lose, I let her tell the entire story. I chose to use first person, present tense because I like the sense of immediacy that brings to a story. Third person, past tense would also have worked with only one narrator, but the reader would not have experienced the feeling of being in the moment with Maggie.
In some of my early romance novels (Taming Maggie, 1985) I used only one point of view because that’s much easier for a beginning writer. Using multiple points of view, as I did in my later books, requires the skill to make clear transitions so the reader is never confused about which character is telling the story. Using multiple points of view also requires discipline. There is the temptation to let every character have a point of view, even the mailman! It’s important to use multiple points of view judiciously, selecting only the characters that are central to the story.
When I made the transition from women’s fiction to mystery (Elvis and the Dearly Departed, 2008), I also moved from character-driven to plot-driven stories. Using only one point of view can work with mysteries, but it creates a dilemma for the writer to find ways for the major character to discover the body, all the red herrings, and the leads on all the suspects.
Secondary characters can, of course, tell the major character about the deceased and throw suspicion on the suspects, but telling instead of showing drains the story of color and excitement. Using multiple narrators for mysteries allows more flexibility in writing the story. Sometimes it’s not logical for the major character to be on the scene. In that case, her sidekick, who also has a point of view, can be there.
When I first created the Southern Cousins Mysteries, I discovered the perfect sidekick for the major character, Callie Valentine Jones. I wish I could take credit for the discovery, but that has to go to my faithful chocolate Lab, Jefferson. Until his death two years ago, his favorite place to be was under my desk while I wrote. Since I live in the hometown of the world’s most iconic entertainer, I had decided to make Elvis a ghost in the series. Suddenly my Lab stood up and did his little “Shake, Rattle and Roll” dance which meant, take me outside now before I pee on your shoes.
Oh, my goodness! Elvis was a dog! Still I had no idea he’d have his own point of view in the series.
Late that night I awakened hearing his voice. “Nobody asks my opinion around here, but if they did I’d tell them basset hounds are the most brilliant dogs on earth.” Knowing I was onto something good, I hurried into my office to take dictation.
The next morning, faced with those late-night scribbles on the back of a file folder, I was also faced with a problem. The scribbles were in first person, present tense – in the point of view of a dog! Surely, the dog who thought he was the reincarnated King of Rock ‘n’ Roll couldn’t narrate the entire story. What to do?
Instead of worrying, I started writing to see what would happen next. “Elvis just peed on my shoes.” Lo and behold, I was in the first person, present tense point of view of Callie, Elvis’ human mom. I loved the idea that Callie, who owned a little beauty shop in downtown Mooreville, MS, population 650, and also did the hair and make up for the dearly departed over at her Uncle Charlie’s funeral home in nearby Tupelo, could be in a position to hear all the local gossip and goings on. But it wouldn’t be easy to transition from two first person points of view, one of them Elvis, the sleuthing basset.
Instead of writing transitions, I decided to tag the dog’s point of view. Those late-night scribbles became Elvis Opinion #1 on the Valentine Family, Zen Buddhism and Leftover T-Bone Steak. Callie’s point of view then became Chapter One: Love, Vodka and Red Pasties. For the four books in this series, I have continued to tag the dog’s point of view as Elvis Opinion #…and to give Callie’s point of view a chapter and a title.
The great thing about having a dog as one of the narrators is that he is not constrained in any way and can be wherever I need him in order to convey information to the reader. Elvis is, in a sense, an omniscient narrator. As a bonus, he’s quirky and funny and a great vehicle for humor. Since I cut my teeth on humor, I absolutely love writing lines such as “Give me a good Cuban cigar and a splash of Bourbon in my dog chow and even I could write a book.”
I love channeling a dog! I hope you’ll follow Elvis and the Valentine gang on their next adventure in the latest Southern Cousins Mystery, Elvis and the Tropical Double Trouble (September 27, 2011).
Giveaways: Three lucky winners will receive signed paperback copies of Elvis and the Memphis Mambo Murders, the third book in Peggy Webb’s Southern Cousins Mystery Series.
Join us tomorrow for author Jo Robertson as she talks to us about her favorite famous couples.
Bio: Peggy Webb has penned 70 books in the genres of mystery, romance and women’s fiction. In 2008 Peggy brought Elvis back to life as a sassy sleuthing basset hound who thinks he’s the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. A former adjunct instructor of writing at Mississippi State University, Peggy frequently tops the bestseller lists and has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Romantic Times Pioneer Award for forging the way for the sub-genre of romantic comedy. In 2011 she took the pen name Anna Michaels for a literary fiction debut Pat Conroy calls “astonishing.” Publishers Weekly and RT love her fourth Southern Cousins Mystery, Elvis and the Tropical Double Trouble (Sept. 27, 2011). Follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and visit her at www.peggywebb.com and www.annamichaels.net.
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for September 26-30, 2011
- The Story is in the Eye of the Beholder: Choosing the Best Point of View (Part 1) Heather Webb
- Virginia Kantra on POV, Part 2: Switching POV
- Lessons Learned at the Killer Nashville Conference with Kelsey Browning
- Five Ways Point of View Can Make You a Better Writer by Janice Hardy