Monday, June 23, 2014

Stick to the Point of View

One fundamental thing that writers and readers alike notice very quickly in a story is the point of view from which the story is told. In other words, through which character's eyes are events being realized and related to the reader. We call this the "point of view" of the story. 

Some stories contain multiple points of view. In other words, the story is told from the perceptions of more than one character. Occasionally a story is told from the point of view of an invisible narrator who is not a character who is part of the action but an omniscient commentator. If you've ever seen the movie George of the Jungle, the narrator is a hilarious and integral part of the story. 

Where mystery and suspense are concerned, a narrator is rarely used. The story generally revealed through the eyes of one or more of the involved characters. In this blog post, I'm going to attempt to explain a few of the intricacies of "point of view" for the writer's education and the reader's delectation. 

The term Point of View is defined as a position from which something is considered or evaluated, a standpoint, or a place of perception. In fiction writing, the position from which anything is considered in any given scene should be the character through whose head we are viewing events. This particular character is the point-of-view character. For simplicity, I will refer to point of view as POV and the point-of-view character as POVC.

In order to remain firmly inside the POVC’s head, nothing in a scene can be presented for reader consideration that is outside that character’s awareness. When judging writing contest entries, I often see POV issues similar to the following.

* * * * * * *

        At a long creak from the attic above, Karen froze, heart pounding. Was that a footfall? Unaware, Karen’s hold on the vase of flowers relaxed, and she dropped it.

* * * * * * *

If Karen is the POVC and isn’t consciously aware that her hold on the vase slipped then it is a POV violation to mention that she dropped the vase until the very moment when she realizes her unconscious action. The segment could be rewritten like this:

* * * * * * *

       Karen froze, heart pounding. Was that long creak a footfall in the attic above? She held her breath.


       Cool moisture splashed her ankles. Karen shrieked and jumped back.

     That sound hadn’t come from above. She gazed toward her feet at a tangle of bright blooms scattered amid shards of glass and splotches of water on the hardwood floor. Her heart sank. What a fraidy-cat she was. One little out-of-the-ordinary sound and she dropped the beautiful vase of flowers Glen had given her.

* * * * * * *

See how this sequence flows in a linear and logical fashion with only what Karen sees, knows, thinks, and experiences in the moment? We remain firmly in the now. We haven’t run ahead of events, lagged behind, or inserted information that could only come from an invisible narrator. How much more poignant this event becomes when we stay inside the POVC’s head.

Another type of POV issue I commonly see is something like this:

* * * * * * *

       Bill turned away and didn’t notice Chet slip out the door.

* * * * * * *

If we are in Bill’s POV, and he didn’t notice Chet’s sneaky retreat, then the incident cannot be mentioned. So how does the writer convey to the reader that Chet has escaped? Here is a possible rewrite that doesn't violate POV:

* * * * * * *

       Fists clenching and unclenching, Bill gazed around the kitchen. Where was that louse? He had to be here somewhere.

       “Chet, I need to talk to you. Now!”

       Silence answered Bill’s shout.

       He strode toward the living room. A gentle whoosh of air behind him stopped him in his tracks. Bill whirled. The screen door was settling back into place. The coward was on the run.

* * * * * * *

Now the reader knows that Chet slipped out the door, but we haven’t left Bill’s POV. By refusing to take the lazy way out and “tell” the information through a POV violation, the story becomes much more immediate and exciting.

Feel free to shoot me POV questions in the comments section of this post. Anyone who comments or asks a question is eligible for a drawing to win their choice of a copy of my handbook for writers called Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View or a copy of my July release, Shake Down.

BIO: Award-winning author and writing teacher, Jill Elizabeth Nelson, writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. Jill is a popular speaker for conferences, writers groups, and libraries. She delights to bring the “Ahah! Moment” to students as they make new skills their own.

Visit Jill on the web at: or look her up on Facebook or Twitter: or @JillElizNelson.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Multi-award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin is the author of Christian contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction with 55 contracted novels and nearly 4 million books in print. Her novels have received several national awards, including: the ACFW Carol Award and RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. CBS local news listed Gail as one of the four best writers in the Detroit area. She is the author of Writer Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance and a cofounder of American Christian Fiction Writers  (ACFW) where she serves on the Executive Board. Gail is a member of Advanced Speakers and Writers (AWSA) as well as Christian Authors Network (CAN) and is a keynote speaker at churches, civic and business organizations. In her earlier career, Gail was a teacher of English, literature and public speaking at high school and university levels and still enjoys teaching workshops at conferences across the U.S. Gail lives in Michigan with her husband. Visit her website at    


One of my favorite genres is suspense, so when I became a romance writer I wove a suspense plot through the romance. This worked fine until Love Inspired started a separate line for romantic suspense with each novel providing an immediate life and death hook. This wasn’t the style I wrote. I like to build the suspense with each chapter raising the stakes and heightening the danger. An example is my Love Inspired from 2000, a stalker story that I titled See Jane Run but published as A Love for Safekeeping. The novel is still available as a Kindle.

When digital eBooks grew into a respected option for novelists, I made the decision to use some of the completed novels I’d never sold and publish them as a hybrid novelist (traditionally and independently published). Though I have been successful in traditional publishing, I had no idea how successful my novels would be, but I wanted the stories to live and I plunged ahead.

Whenever using an older novel, I’ve learned to edit it so it reflects my present writing skills. I read it and either make changes or take notes on what needs to be updated.

Here are techniques I used on an older novel to make it new:

• Cut dialogue and scenes that do not move the story forward in a dynamic way.

• Look for redundancy such as: repeating the same word (use a Thesaurus), telling and then showing, repeating major points fearing the reader won’t “get it.”

• Use dialogue tags only using the two words: said and asked. Anything else is weak writing. Let your words show the emotion.

• Cut dialogue tags when you can make the speaker clear through action or introspection.

• Read each scene and enhance emotion. Do not state the emotion but show it both internal for the POV speaker and external as viewed by the POV speaker who can only speculate the action’s meaning.

The first book I decided to Indie publish with the help of my agent is Treasures of Her Heart. It was one of my favorite novels with characters who remained in my memory.

The story: Nikki Townley a fashion-buyer, looking for a life with deeper meaning. She leaves her career and moves to a small, tourist town in northern Michigan to assist her ailing great-aunt Winnie in running her floundering antique business. There she finds herself caught in a mystery searching for her aunt’s missing fortune, facing an investment company in pursuit of her aunt’s property, and hoping to save long-distance relationship with her faithful male friend Rob Moore while struggling to escape her attraction to an exciting, smooth-talking womanizer. Can she overcome temptation, locate the fortune, find love and the truth to the treasures of her heart?

Don’t let your older manuscripts collect dust. Study them and see if some might be perfect for Indie publishing. I loved envisioning the cover idea and seeing it come to life through a designer and I enjoyed the challenge of reworking the book and working with a professional editor to make it even better. Use the eBook opportunity to see your novel in print. Treasures of Her Heart is available on Amazon as a Kindle and a trade book. Drop by Amazon and read the first two chapters. Click here to view

 Would you like the chance to win a copy of Gail's book, Treasures of Her Heart? Leave a comment, along with your contact information. We'll draw a winner on Monday!

Friday, June 13, 2014


Dani Pettrey is a wife, home-schooling mom, and the acclaimed author of the romantic suspense series Alaskan Courage, which includes her bestselling novels Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, and her latest release, Silenced. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of her characters’ faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland, where they enjoy time with their daughters, son-in-law, and super adorable grandson.

S.S: How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for eleven years now. I spent seven years writing and learning the craft before receiving my first contract. I now have four books out and have just finished writing the fifth.

S.S: Do you write full time? If the answer is no, what else do you do? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past? 
Up until now I’ve been a homeschooling mom and author. With my youngest daughter graduating I’ll no longer be homeschooling, which will be quite the transition. However, with the birth of my first grandson, I’ll be having a lot of Grammie time.

S.S: Do you write in any other genres? If so, what? 
I love writing inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things I love--the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one's faith and plenty of romance so I don’t see myself changing styles anytime soon, but only God knows what He has in store for me :)

S.S: How does your faith play into your writing?
My faith plays a great role in my writing, but I hope in a natural way. Just as my love of adventure permeates the stories I write, so does my faith. My relationship with Jesus is part of every facet of my life; it’s only natural to be part of the stories I tell.

S.S: Tell us about your current release. 
Jake Knew Something Was Wrong.
But He Never Guessed How Wrong.

A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna's route brings her face-to-face with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something darker? When the case is handed to overburdened sheriff Landon Grainger, he turns to Jake Westin for help. With Jake's past now revealed, he's ready to use his talent for investigation again--but he could never prepare for where the mystery will take him. Kayden's climbing expertise soon leads her and Jake to the realization that the death was no accident. And worse, it seems the killer is onto them. When strange things begin happening in Yancey, Jake is terrified that once again his world may put someone he loves in danger. But the truth is far worse than he could ever imagine.

S.S: Where did you get your inspiration for this book?Silenced is the story of deputy Jake Westin Cavanaugh and Kayden McKenna. The inspiration primarily came from the characters themselves as they grew and developed through the earlier books in the Alaskan Courage series. It’s been so much fun watching Kayden’s apprehension of Jake fade and be replaced by deep and abiding love. Unfortunately, a killer stands in the way of their happiness.

S.S: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story? I think Jake says it best:


S.S: Each of the books in your Alaskan Courage series focuses on a different adventure sport—in Submerged, it was cave diving, and in Shattered, it was heli-skiing. What adventure sport awaits readers in Silenced?
Rock climbing! Kayden is an expert free climber, meaning she doesn’t use any safety apparatus while making her darling climbs. While I love rock climbing, free climbing is far too extreme for me, but, of course, right up Kayden’s all-about-the-challenge alley.

S.S: What are you working on now?
I’m working on revisions for the fifth and final book in the Alaskan Courage series. SABOTAGED will be a February 2015 release.

S.S: Now let’s get a little personal. Name two things on your “bucket list” that you haven’t done yet.   
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and skiing the Alps.

S.S: What inspires you to write? 
I believe the love of story that God has placed in me. I truly love the power of story. How it can transport you to another time, another place. Books have been such a huge part of my life. There are many novels that have touched my life—helped me to see something in a different light, inspired hope, and made me a better person. I humbly hope that my stories touch my reader’s lives in a similar way.

S.S.: Where can readers find you on the internet?

S.S.: Anything else you’d like to share with us?  
I’ve got a lot of fun Extras on my website to really enhance the Alaskan Courage reading experience. I hope you’ll drop by and check out my story Pinterest boards, character dossiers, soundtracks, and, of course, say hi while you’re there. I love connecting with readers and fellow writers.

Thanks so much for having me!  

Leave a comment, along with your contact information, for a chance to win a copy of Dani's current release, SILENCED!

Friday, June 6, 2014

How I Decide on a Seatbelt Suspense® Story Idea

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling author of nearly 30 books and is best known for her Seatbelt Suspense®. She also writes insightful contemporary novels, often laced with humor. And she’s a frequent teacher and keynote speaker at writers conferences.

Brandilyn is giving away a copy of her latest release, Sidetracked, in either paper or ebook form. Please answer her question below in a comment to enter the drawing.

How I Decide on a Seatbelt Suspense® Story Idea
People always ask me, “How do you get your ideas?” Answer: Life! Watching people, reading newspapers and magazines, eavesdropping on conversations, watching true crime TV shows, and on and on. I find “what-ifs” all around me. But few of them turn into a Seatbelt Suspense® novel.

My Seatbelt Suspense® carries a four-point brand promise: fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists, and an interwoven thread of faith. Typically it’s the first promise—fast-paced—that weeds out many “what-ifs” that cross my brain.

Fast-paced means from the get-go. From chapter one. I don’t have time to build slow suspense after you’ve gotten to know my character for three or so chapters. I have to show it happening immediately. By the end of chapter one, the inciting incident—the event that kicks off all the rest of the conflict—must happen.

A lot of “what-ifs” would simply build too slowly. I’ll play with the ideas, looking for ways to get that bang-up first chapter. But if I can’t figure out how to start the story fast enough—out the idea goes.

Result: I find it very hard to come up with ideas that can live up to my brand. And the more books I write, the harder it gets.

Sometimes I sort of back into my ideas. My latest Seatbelt Suspense®, Sidetracked, is about Delanie Miller, a young woman who’s built a new life for herself in a small town—and must guard the secrets of her old life, even from the man she wants to marry. When Delanie’s good friend is killed—and a rather slow-witted man whom she knows is innocent is arrested for the murder—she faces a terrible choice: save herself and the life she’s created, or save the innocent man from going to prison. It’s a fascinating dilemma. How far will a basically “good” person go to protect another? At what cost does protecting an innocent person become too high? But even with that premise I wanted to up the ante. So … what if the character who’s torn between protecting her own life or staving off a huge injustice for another once suffered a similar terrible injustice herself? Aha. Now what will she do?

Here are some other ideas that have made it into a Seatbelt Suspense® book. Do you know the titles to any of these novels? (Respond in a comment to enter the giveaway of Sidetracked.)


1. A man asks his wife to use her “woman’s intuition” to assess the candidate he really wants to hire as his company’s V.P., and she senses something REALLY wrong with him—i.e., he’s a murderer.

2. A young woman who finds a murder victim in her apartment realizes her boyfriend is the killer and runs to her estranged suspense-author grandfather to help her decide what to do—but his muddled mind just might get her into even more trouble.

3. A young woman on the run finds the body of a famous actress in her hot tub—and can’t go to the police for fear of the national publicity.

4. A divorced mother of two discovers the killer of the woman across the street got the wrong house—and meant to kill HER.

5. A group of friends celebrating in a coffee shop are all taken hostage by three men who demand their “innocent” son/brother be released from prison—or the group will all die.

5. An embittered man seeks to change the opinion of a doctor—an opinion that drives medical treatment and diagnosis nationwide—by infecting the doctor’s wife with the very disease he denies.

6. The one man who is the clear suspect of a string of murders in a small town—is dead.

7. A woman who writes a newspaper column about all her fears, especially her fear of being stalked—really IS, but the beleaguered police who’ve heard her cry wolf one too many times won’t listen.

8. Three women discover they realize who the serial killer is in their small town—someone dear to them—and vow to bring him down. But each suspects a different man.

9. A skip tracer must find a missing girl in order to prove that the husband of her murdered best friend was the killer.

10. A young woman suffering from intense depression enters a medical trial for a brain chip that can restore her life—and starts seeing terrifying visions.
Sidetracked is available in ebook and paper at Amazon, B&N, and other stores across the country. Read about all of Brandilyn’s books—including their first chapters—on her website. Brandilyn loves to interact with readers on Facebook. On Twitter she’s @Brandilyn.