Category Archives: Point of View

Animal Testing? NO WAY!


Long ago, I met Claudia Mills when shecame to speak at an SCBWI event. Oh, I LOVED her immediately. Little did I know, I had found a writer who’s books I loved right at the same time and had been reading all the author’s works. AND IT WAS CLAUDIA! AND THEN I MET HER AND REALIZED THIS IS MY FAVORITE GAL!

Anyway, I said to Claudia, “Do you like Oreos?”

She gave me an odd look. “Yes. Why do you ask?”

“Because your characters always eat them when they have a snack.”

People know who I am when they read my books, too. Bits and pieces of me slip through.

As writers, we must remember we are writing for teens or kids and not writing to drive home an agenda. Spoon-feeding a reader isn’t fun for the reader.


What is the most controversial thing in your book?
Is it there because you want to make a point? Is it there because you are trying to change someone’s mind about something? Or are you just telling your story?

Go through your work.

Is this what a kid would say? Think? Feel?


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Filed under CLW, Exercises, Point of View, Voice, writing process

15-Minute Monday

Last week I was served papers.

I don’t know why, but this feels like the last big bump with this individual. Like, if I can make it through this, if I can be dignified, honest, and do my best to protect myself and my family, this will be gone for good.

Of course, life always has ‘things’ in it, right?

‘Things’ that make us stretch and hurt and worry and laugh and rejoice and wish and pray and talk to our friends and write blog pieces.

We’re different after each battle, after each joyous occasion.

Just like our characters should be.

Once I got a book on someone’s recommendation. I remember the title but I won’t tell you.  There was a lot of buzz from the publisher. The writer was gonna go places. Make tons of money. I have to admit I was both excited and jealous. So I opened the book and read. To my disappointment the feisty main character never changed. She started out a smartie-pants who wanted something, got this something, and was neither better nor worse for it. She never struggled. Never failed. Never really won or lost.

The deal is, by the end of the book our characters must change.

They cannot be the same at the end of the novel as they were in the beginning. They have to have ‘papers served ‘ to them. They have to have hard times-even if this is a funny book. There have to be obstacles that the character has to get over, on her own. As we read and watch a character stumble, get back up, try again, grow, change, become more exciting, we root for them, weep with them, love them.

What I find really cool as a writer is that I change, too, as I work on my books.

When I start a new work, I am one person. By the end of the novel, if I’ve done my job as a writer, I see the world a little differently. I’m more compassionate. Want better things for my friends and for those I read about in the news or see on Facebook that I only know there. I’ve learned things about people and places and events. A topic I may have felt fiercely about–I see it differently. Maybe more fully? It’s an exciting to see I am what? better? more human? because of my work.

Writers can change bits of the world.

We start with our characters, move to ourselves and hopefully touch our readers.


A deep breath, now, as I step into a scary part of my life.

I’ve got a few obstacles to overcome.

Let’s see what happens.


Filed under Character, CLW, Life, Point of View, writing process

What’s Your Point of View?

by Lisa Sledge

I finished reading The Tale of Despereaux two days ago. I’d never read it before. Shocking, really, since it’s a Newbery winner, a movie, and written by Kate DiCamillo.

I love Because of Winn Dixie.

In Despereaux, Kate used a strong omniscient voice. I’ve experimented with this for my own WIP. It’s really hard. So I wondered, as I read, what makes an author choose one point of view over another?

There’s a huge trend in YA and children’s books for stories in the first person because it brings the reader closest to the protagonist. Third person is a standard POV in novels.  It puts another degree of distance between the reader and the characters, yet still keeps them close. But what about omniscient?

I watch Brandon Sanderson‘s writing classes on youtube. He said that using an omniscient POV puts the greatest degree of distance between the reader and your characters, that it’s been out of favor for at least 20 years, and basically stamped the words “DO NOT ATTEMPT ” across it. Everything else I’ve heard or read seems to be in agreement.

Why did Kate DiCamillo use the omniscient POV for her story? And don’t tell me it’s because she’s awesome and therefore she can do whatever the heck she wants. That’s true, but she’s also a gifted and inspiring artist. She wouldn’t have done it without a valid reason.

This is my theory. I think the POV can help define your novel’s voice and become part of the entertainment. And I also believe that sometimes you need distance in your story. The Tale of Despereaux is a book for young children, yet terrible things happen. There are death sentences, rats who strip little mouse bones clean, tortured prisoners, child slavery, abuse, a dead queen, and a kidnapping. The distance of the omniscient voice allowed her to present difficult material to a  sensitive audience.

And you know what? I liked it.

I also think it takes serious talent to make omniscient POV work. Which is why Kate’s book won a Newbery and mine is being rewritten.

What is your favorite POV as a writer? Is it different from what you enjoy reading?


Filed under Point of View, Revision, Voice, writing process

Three Things Thursday!

Cheryl Van Eck

“The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and work off the resonance.”
Richard Price
I love this concept. Disney/Pixar in particular are geniuses at this. They can wrap so much emotion into the smallest object. Remember Mulan, when they reach the village that had been burned to the ground and they found the doll? Or Pocahontas, when Kocoum dies and he grabs her mother’s necklace as he falls and it shatters? And the note in the back of Ellie’s Adventure Book in Up?
All of these tiny, nearly insignificant artifacts pack major emotional resonance. If the big picture is too overwhelming to you as a writer, then it will be to your reader as well. It’s all in the details. A three page description can (and should) be replaced with a small, emotionally significant detail. And suddenly you’ve gone from long winded and dull to memorable. Unforgettable, really.
As you’re revising (and hopefully cutting), keep an eye out for this. Make your descriptions carry their weight. They aren’t there just so you can string pretty words together, and they aren’t there so you can have a laundry list of what a place looked like. Infuse emotion and character. Descriptions have been deadbeat freeloaders for too long. Let’s put them to work!
Brenda Bensch
My husband was lucky enough to be in Greg Leitich Smith‘s class at WIFYR this year.  Again.  Greg was his teacher two years ago, the first time Herb had attended this great workshop.  One of the things I admired, at a distance, was the variety of small writing assignments Greg came up with.  Here’s one of them from this year:
What does the person closest to your antagonist think about him or her?  (My first reaction: WHO is that person? Why is s/he that close to someone who is purported to be the “villain” by the end?  Why is s/he close to such a person?)
And my challenge for you: write a 300-500 word response to Greg’s question.  You may choose to write this in either 1st or 3rd person.
From Me
How is your summer writing going?
Are you letting life get in the way of your goals to work on your book?
Who in your family might help you accomplish your writing by giving you some free space?
Is that person you?
Remember, we give ourselves what we think we deserve, we make time for what we truly love and what’s important to us.
Are you doing that for your novel?

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Filed under Character, Exercises, Point of View, three thing thursday, writing process

It’s Over! Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers 2014

It’s Monday after WIFYR and I feel like I’ve been run through a wringer. Or a wronger. (I am wronger than you.)

My class was amazing.

The mini workshops were amazing.

Next year will be amazing. Yes. I am already working on it.


One of the best things I did in my class this year was read Ann Dee Ellis‘ book The End or Something Like That out loud. This is the 2nd time I’ve read the book (we only read for a total of 50 minutes, so we didn’t finish) and I saw so much good in it. Ann Dee is amazing at literally weaving plot lines together. They come from all angles. This way and that. They side step each other, side swipe each other, inform each other and support each other. I’m not sure how she does it.

Another best thing was my song with Cheri Pray Earl. Yes, we had to start over. Cheri always makes us start over. And yes, I looked like a blue bowling pin. But the lyrics to the song were funny.

Finally the very best thing we did was the dance. One person commented it was weird. Another said never do it again. But I danced and laughed and had so much fun. The best best part, however, was we asked for gently used or new books as a ticket into the dance. These were gathered for the Hopi Community Center (and maybe a library some day?) in Arizona. The good people at Writing and illustrating for Young Readers–Attendees and Faculty and Assistants–gave nearly 400 books. 400!

Thank you to Cynthia Leitich Smith, Greg Leitich Smith, Brodi Ashton, Jen White, Ken Baker, John Cusick, Michelle Witte, Amy Jameson, Sherry Meidell, Cheri Pray Earl, Ann Edwards CannonKristin Ostby, Ilima Todd, J Scott Savage, Shawn Stout, Lisa Mangum, James Dashner, Emily Wing Smith, Jennifer Nielsen, Ann Dee Ellis, Jan Pinborough, Courtney Alameda, Natalie Whipple, and Wendy Toliver. You gave the conference great depth. You were funny, kind and sincerely supportive to the writers and illustrators who came.

Thank you, too, to the assistants who made this possible: Debbie Nance, Becca Birkin, Alison Randall, Michelle Hubbard, Kevin Smith, Joel Smith, Amy White, Bruce Luck, Becca Ogden Jensen, Cindy Stagg, Melanie Skelton, Robin Johnson and Stephanie Moore. I could never have done this without you. I wouldn’t want to.

And finally, Caitlynne Williams and Kyra Williams ran around like crazy helping me. Thank you, Girls. I love you both.

And now, Everyone, start setting aside funds for next year! Yup, we keep doing this crazy event. Or am I the crazy one?


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Filed under Agents, Ann Dee, Character, CLW, Editors, Exercises, Kyra, Plot, Point of View, Publication, Revision, Voice, Writers Block, Writing Marathon, writing process

Points of View and Encouragement – by Debbie Nance

“The reader, you see, has come to you as a storyteller seeking entertainment—and as I have pointed out in other posts, entertainment only occurs as you put the reader under stress in a safe manner and then negate the stress. So you create a protagonist, a character that acts as a surrogate for the reader, and you make that character likeable, someone that we admire, care about, and perhaps even envy a little. As we read a story, our subconscious mind is swept into the tale, and incidents that occur vividly in the tale affect our readers’ emotions. In effect, the reader “becomes” the protagonist on a subconscious level…” David Farland.

I like that quote and I think it is true. Readers relate to and can “become” the characters in the books they read. So what do you think is the best point of view for your writing? Do you change from book to book? Do you prefer reading books in one POV over another?

Rick Walton once told me that sometimes it is good to have a step of separation between the reader and the MC. I understood his point when the story you’re writing or reading is too close, too personal, for the reader to be comfortable. For instance, when something happens that the reader doesn’t want to feel as his/her own pain or embarrassment or fear.

First person POV is currently very popular in YA, but I read an article that says it rises and falls in popularity. 3rd person POV remains constant in popularity. Why do you think that is true?

Years ago when I began writing, I took a course that explained the difference between POVs and then said that 3rd person was the easiest and most natural way to write because it was like telling a story. However, when someone writes 3rd person POV really well the reader can forget that it isn’t written in 1st person.

Take a look at some of your favorite books. Are they in 1st or 3rd person POV? Are you surprised?

If you’ve hit a sticky spot in your ms, try writing that scene in a different point of view and see what you learn about your character.

Does it make a difference to take a step back and see what your MC is doing from an outside view or to take a step closer and see what the scene is like only from your MC point of view?

Which POV do you like better for your scene?

There is room for all kinds of books written in various POVs. Indeed, agent Stephen Fraser said (at a WIFYR conference) that there is a place for every book. I think he should know, and that encourages me.

I hope you’re coming to WIFYR this year. We all need encouragement and I hope to see you there!


Filed under Character, Point of View, Revision, writing process

Guest Post–The Amazing Ilima Todd!

First Person Present Tense in YA Fiction

Writing a story from a first-person point of view has been popular in young adult fiction for a while, and understandably so. When you can experience what the character does without any degree of separation, there is an immediate connect to what happens to him/her, making it easier to feel invested in the story. The emotion factor jumps up a level, and the stakes feel that much stronger.

One of the big challenges in writing first person is the blinder the narrator must wear. Every description is filtered through one set of eyes or ears, and you can’t jump heads. It can be a fun problem to have, though. The narrator confides things in the reader he/she wouldn’t with other characters. It also makes the voice fun to play with, and you really get to know the character you’re writing.

Also with first person, info dumps become painfully obvious, and it’s easy to end up ‘telling’ too much or overdoing internal monologues. When a person walks into a room, they don’t usually start describing the finish on the table or the whirring sound of a ceiling fan, so having your character do it can feel jarring if not done naturally. Despite the challenges, I love to read and write in first person for that accessibility factor.

I’ve also noticed a recent trend toward present tense in YA fiction. Why present tense? Again, it brings immediacy to the story. You experience events as the character does, and the tension level rises. It can be quite stressful for the reader, but exciting too. In stories with high stakes, you might not even know if that character will make it, a powerful tool to maintain urgency and a need to know what happens next, keeping those pages turning well into the night.

I wrote three books before I tried first person present with my fourth novel and haven’t looked back. In fact, I’ve thought of story ideas I know won’t work with FPPT and pushed them to the side, not wanting to give up my favorite POV.

How about you? Do you like to write/read in first person present tense? What is your favorite point of view to write in?


are just a few examples of first person present in popular YA fiction, pulled right off my bookshelf. As you can see, it works for a variety of genres:


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Matched by Ally Condie

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

The Forest of Hands and Feet by Carrie Ryan

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


Ilima Todd was born and raised on the north shore of Oahu and dives for octopus with her dad every time she visits—otherwise she’s diving into books in the Rocky Mountains where she lives with her husband and four children. She graduated from BYU with a degree in physics and eats copious amounts of raw fish and avocados without regret. But mostly she loves being a wife and mama and wouldn’t trade that job for anything in the world. Her first book, REMAKE, will be published this summer!


Filed under Point of View, Voice, writing process