In addition to answering some of my interview questions, cj petterson offers some wonderful insight in how to deepen a character’s point of view (POV). Welcome, cj! I’m delighted to have you as my guest today
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Like most writers, I think, I’ve piddled at writing creatively since I was a child. For me it was poems and limericks but never a story. The creative writing bug really bit me two or three years after I retired, but it took me five years to get anything published. That year two of my short story memoirs were published in two different anthologies, and the positive reinforcement kept me going. Born in Texas, raised in Michigan, now living on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, I am the mother of two sons, and grandmother of three Mensa-eligible grandchildren. ::grin:: My pen name “cj petterson” (no capitals, no periods) comes from my paternal grandmother in Sweden.
Has writing changed how you read books now? How so?
Oh my gosh, yes. I have such a hard time reading a book for pure pleasure. The snarky editor side of me raises her head. It takes a concerted effort for me to read to just enjoy the story. I can read past some glitches, but if I run into multiple punctuation, spelling, or word usage errors, I close the book and give it away to the Friends of the Library sales.
I’ve been known to throw a book against the wall for similar infractions. How do you handle spicy sex scenes and relatives?
I don’t write any spicy sex scenes to worry about. I would much rather be thrilled and flattered that my grandchildren want to read my books and share them with their friends. Everything I write is a definite PG-13.
What are you currently working on?
Currently I’m working on the huge marketing task that the launch of a new book requires. I just finished a historical fiction short story called “Bad Day at Round Rock” in an anthology of seven Western human interest stories, called The Posse. I’m really excited about “Bad Day”…it’s about history (some of it my family’s), mystery, myth, greed, and love, all rolled up into one short story. In February, the authors tag-teamed each other for live conversations and give-aways with fans for the cover reveal launch on Facebook. In March, we did another round for the actual ebook launch. And I’ve been posting on wonderful blogs like yours. Other than doing whirlwind The Posse marketing, I have a sheet of paper on which I typed a one-line idea for a second story in a new lady private detective series I’m writing.
I love lady private detective stories! Keep me posted. What is the best piece of advice about writing that you have ever heard or read? What would you tell aspiring writers today?
I would have to say the best piece of advice I’ve read and would pass along is: study the craft and learn deep point of view. There are many POVs I can’t identify by name, but the one that sticks in my mind in whatever POV I’m writing is “deep point of view.” This is the POV that can draw the reader intellectually and emotionally into the story. What is deep POV, you ask? Read on…
Dialogue tags—she said, he said—clarify a speaker, but they are also reminders that you are reading a story. In deep point of view, tags can often be replaced by action, body language, voice description, emotion. How the words are said and the actions behind the words reveal a lot about a character’s state of mind.
Distant point of view: “That’s not something I care to share,” she said.
The reader can’t understand what the character means. Is she naturally a private person? Or maybe she’s just being snarky.
Deeper: “That’s not something I care to share,” she said, wadding her napkin into a ball.
Her action gives a clue that what she doesn’t want to share upsets her. The “she said” reminds readers that they’re reading a novel, and it’s also redundant. (If dialog is in the same paragraph as the character’s action, then the action character is also the speaker.) We can go deeper still for this persona.
Deeper still: “That’s not something I care to share.” She wadded a napkin into as tight a ball as she could get it then started picking it apart with her fingernails, shredding the paper into a pile of confetti.
The character’s body language adds a deeper point of view. The character’s emotional state of mind is revealed…without telling.
Thought words and sense words are telling words. They put an author on the page and remind readers again that they’re reading a novel. These kinds of words are contrary to the “real life experience” of deep point of view.
How often do you personally think, I’m thinking about tomorrow’s party? Or I get a sense that if … whatever?
I know I don’t. And when you’re writing in deep point of view, your characters don’t either. Yes, they’ll think, wonder, and see, hear, and feel; but they won’t add the filter words. They’ll just do it.
Distant: She felt his hands around her throat and wondered if she was going to die.
The reader doesn’t feel what the character feels. The author has told the reader what the character thinks/feels.
Deeper: She tore at the fingers squeezing her throat. This is it. I’m going to die.
(No thinking. No wondering. Just showing what’s happening and pulling the reader into the scene.)
And from my short story “Bad Day at Round Rock” in The Posse anthology:
“I heard tell that Swede and Shorty got into a fistfight over that girl that works for Doc.”
Deeper: “I heard tell Swede about knocked Shorty ta hell and back because he bothered that girl that works for Doc.”
She set the plate on the desk with a clunk and whipped off the towel. “Take your look-see.”
The character’s actions and cryptic dialogue reveal her state of mind…anger.
Our reactions to things that happen are formed by our own experiences and expectations. These are the same things that make up our characters’ backstories. Ergo: Know your characters so intimately that you automatically know how they will react in every situation.
As you study deep point of view from different perspectives, you’ll discover tips and tricks. Remember, you are the captain of your story—use what works for you and your story. As always, there are many reasons to break the rules. Which rules do you break?
Thank you, Elizabeth, for your hospitality and the opportunity to post on your blog. And if you need a spot to promote your next work, I’ll have one available. cj
You’re most welcome. It was a pleasure to visit with you today. I hope to be joining you soon with the release of my next book, Love’s Courage.
Author cj petterson’s latest published work is a short story in the Western anthology, The Posse. “Bad Day at Round Rock” is a historical fiction story written in overlapping segments about four people—one of whom is based on her maternal grandmother—whose lives are forever changed by a cache of twenty-dollar gold pieces that the outlaw Sam Bass stole in a train robbery. The story is chock full of history, mystery, myth, greed, and love…as is the rest of the anthology. Seven authors contributed to The Posse, and the anthology launched on March 15. All are wonderful human interest tales with all the action you expect in stories about the Wild West.
Lyn Horner: The Schoolmarm’s Hero
Frank Kelso: One Way or Another
cj petterson: Bad Day at Round Rock
Charlene Raddon: The Reckoning
Chimp Robertson: Headed for Texas
Jim Stroud: Savage Posse
Chuck Tyrell: Set a Thief
Bonus- Frank Kelso: Tibby’s Hideout.
Look for The Posse anthology on Amazon.
Find out more about cj petterson at:
blog at: www.lyricalpens.com
Check out The Posse trailer on YouTube