CALL ME OLD FASHIONED (Yes, I know, “you’re old fashioned”), but when I hear the phrase Point of View I always think of the cosy voice of the BBC’s Robert Robinson reading out viewers letters.
Only recently, though, did I start to understand the concept as it applied to novel-writing.
To be honest, I thought there were only two points of view: Writing in the first person or writing in the third person. The truth didn’t come as some great epiphany, a bolt out of the blue while I slept, but rather from the expert advice from a prolific best-selling novelist who I have been lucky enough to recruit to the cause.
Well, I say recruit, but I think Kerry Wilkinson – writer of the immensely popular PC Jessica Daniel series – probably felt sorry for me. We have a mutual cross to bear having both worked for the tyrannical Mr Desmond on the Daily Star Sunday.
Kerry, a fellow west country-ite originally from Frome in Somerset, was a sports sub-editor who had just turned 30 when he decided: “I think I’ll write a novel.” He felt he had all the equipment: A good grasp of English and the ability to work quickly and under pressure to a variety of deadlines.
There, though, the similarities end. Not only did Kerry self-publish his first book, Locked In, in 2011 but by the end of that year he had added two more to the series. Four years later and he is so prolific it gets to the stage where you need an abacus to calculate how many books he has brought out: If my O level maths is standing me in good stead it is 14 including a standalone ebook and his latest effort Renegade, released last month, which is part of the Silver Blackthorn Series, a trilogy for young adults.
When I contacted Kerry he seemed immensely laid back. I couldn’t quite equate his attitude with the authors I meet in general who spend years tearing their hair out as they try to get to grips with one particular project (there’s one right here, in fact – notice I’ve lost the middle parting).
You would think someone who must spend 24/7 at the computer coming up with the next bestseller would have little time to disperse advice, so I was extremely fortunate that he agreed to read my opening chapters.
Of course, I wanted him to say it was brilliant and all I needed to do was press the button to publish. In fact, I was hoping he would add a few words to my cover: a personal stamp of approval from an established chart-topper now signed up to Pan Macmillan.
Not a bit of it. Truth is his words stung, but pretty soon I knew I needed to rewrite again… over the last few weeks I haven’t had time to, well, blog.
One of the most salient points Kerry made involved points of view. My first chapter was almost schizophrenic. “Who’s telling the story?” he asked. “It starts with The Kid – but then there are lines like “the bigger man had seldom encountered such animal savagery”. That’s a second person. Then there’s: “some might have pondered their next move” – which reads like a narrator telling the story.
He added: “It’s fine to have chapters from different characters’ POVs, perhaps even scenes split up by a paragraph break, but it doesn’t read well when it’s all part of the same scene.”
The other really sound advice involved dialogue. “There’s a lot of ‘author speak’,” said Kerry. “Look for where your quote marks are – and there are nowhere near enough. That’s how the characters tell their own stories to the reader – they talk to each other. You’re telling the story instead of your character(s).”
I couldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth so I took another look… I’ll show you the contrasting starts to my original attempt and what I’ve come up with now in my latest re-draft.
Update on the Book: Crossing the Whitewash is now available for pre-order on Kindle. The physical version will be available as soon as myself and wife Liz have managed to read the proofs in between organising our five-year-olds birthday and real life commitments like work.