On Writing: Point of View

May 15th

Appetizers

Since moving to Colorado, I’ve joined a writing cooperative and several writing groups. I’ve been taking courses, having my work read and submitting to contests. One criticism has been constant: I try to cover too many points of view. Readers struggle to connect with the main characters because they know everything everyone is feeling.

Crafty idea

Huh.

Idea to do with friends

I hadn’t spent much time thinking of POV. I simply plowed forward, telling stories. In 4th grade, I started playing the viola. Orchestra time was Tuesdays and Thursdays, for an hour. I was pulled from class with the handful of others to gather in the cafeteria with Mr. Keene. The man must have been both slightly deaf and blindly patient. I can’t imagine trying to teach a handful of elementary kids how to play a classical instrument. And yet he did so with compassion.

wine charm case in Indiana

For three years of elementary school, I missed grammar to attend orchestra practice. After five years of trying to conform to a mold my mother was desperate to achieve — child musician — I quit. I’d gone to music camp (not that kind), biked my viola on my handlebars to school for years, and never ever shown even a sliver of promise. By junior high, I resented the entire idea of orchestra; it was eating up an otherwise precious elective hour I could have been spending in home ec, French, etc.

Collection of wine charms

Come to find out, playing the viola takes far more mathematical understanding than I could muster. I’ve never been a numbers girl. Words, on the other hand? Gimme. My backpack was weighed down with library loans. I was the first kid to sign up at the summer reading program each year. Nancy Drew, the Babysitter Club girls, and eventually John Irving became close friends during my youth.

Wine charms

The viola gathered dust during those summer vacations. I couldn’t imagine committing my life to such a lame instrument. A viola? They don’t even write good music for violas. You are the Robin to the violin’s Batman. Thank you, but no. Perhaps if I’d played the cello — which I wanted to play, but required transportation far sturdier than the handlebars of my Schwinn mountain bike — I may have cared.

Come to find out, missing three years of critical education in grammar has caught up with me as an adult. Apostrophes are my kryptonite. (See my first novel for supporting evidence.) Point of view? WHY CAN’T I JUST TELL READERS HOW EVERYONE IS FEELING? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THAT ISN’T SUBTLE?

perfect

Gah. Rules.

So, I’ve been studying POV books, talking with successful writers and reading with a critical eye. Alicia Rasley’s “The Power of Point of View” is the best read I’ve come upon so far. She gives solid advice to writers of all sorts on why selecting a POV is important, what it conveys to your reader and how to strengthen your writing by making such a selection

Mine

I’m 15 chapters into writing novel 2. And my POV is all over the place. I’ve recently edited the novel from the beginning and selected a POV for each chapter. I’m now in the process of rewriting each chapter from the strongest point of view. Cheryl Strayed — the critically acclaimed author of the recently published “Wild” — was in Denver speaking at Lighthouse. She said something I keep thinking of that went something like, “Anyone can write. Most books aren’t art. To create art, you have to give your work meaning that rings true across generations.”

It’s detailed, challenging work. And unlike playing the viola — I love every second of it.

~K

*These photos are from my trip to Indiana. The hosts have guests build their own wine charms. It’s a conversation starter and a way to showcase their cork collection. Pretty awesome idea, right?

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Journal, Media, Novel
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7 Responses

  1. Have to say, this technical approach to writing is foreign to me, but then I’m not a writer. I guess it’s easy to just blast something short out when you feel it strongly. It’s harder to sustain a thread (or threads) for a full story or novel.

    I think this particular post is one of your strongest recent posts. I really like the separate photo and text threads that you tie together at the end.

    Well done, Kelli Donley, well done indeed.

  2. Very interesting. That’s cool that you are getting such insightful input. I too dabbled in orchestra. I played violin for a year and a half. I too wanted to play cello, but was told, “No” because of the size. Silly.

  3. You have achieved a lot and a lot of work is still ahead of you……but you’re stubborn and brave enough to achieve everything your mind is set on……

  4. That is definitely the bad part of pulling kids out of class for band. My daughter quit for awhile because she was missing too much.

    I don’t know much about writing and I still need to read your book! Sounds like you are learning a lot along the way 🙂

  5. Writing is putting your soul into words and when you do that and share it with the world…priceless!

  6. Blame it on the viola, but I think your incredible honesty comes out in your characters. I can’t wait to read your next work.

  7. Writing POV IS hard. I know I’ve not even grasped it, much less mastered it.

    I have no doubt that with the amount of effort and love you’re putting into the process, you’ll end up with art. If you don’t have it already 😉

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