Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Week In Review

In Monday's post on POV, Kitty mentioned one of my favorite books Bright Lights Big City which is famously written in the second person

"You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy.  You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head."

Kitty asked "I've often wondered if McInerney had to really sell the 2nd person, because some people have a knee-jerk reaction to it, or did his writing sell it for him?" 

I'll opine that the writing is what carries this book. Using 2nd person POV was a device to bring the reader along with the narrator, in the closest narrative proximity possible. There is no "you and I" here, certainly no "they" there is only "us."

I've read other books in the second person POV notably CharlesBenoit's YOU which I might have enthused about here a time or two, but it's a tough POV to carry off well.

ADD ON: I just read a great piece in Publishers' Weekly by Angelina Mirabella on writing her novel in the second person. 

Long time blog reader Julie Weathers gave me a new favorite phrase on Monday too: "Holy rolling armadillos." 

That pretty much had us all in stitches here in the office.

And I really liked Colin Smith's list of questions about how to figure out which POV suits the story:

* How emotionally intense is the story? How closely do I want the reader to feel what the MC feels?

* How important is it that the reader is as surprised by plot developments as the MC?

* Do I want the reader to have a broader perspective of the story than the MC? Perhaps there are multiple plot threads with minor characters that your MC isn't aware of, but play into the main plot.

* What's the focus of your story: solving a mystery step-by-step, knowing the solution to the mystery and seeing how your MC solves it (like Columbo), the hunt for a bad guy, or the unraveling of a deadly scheme? I think you can use pretty much any POV for these scenarios, but some favor particular POVs more than others (e.g., Columbo-style is probably best as 3rd Omniscient; the step-by-step would be 1st or 3rd Limited like Harry Potter).

On Wednesday's blog post on characters' names, oh-so-useful Felix Buttonweezer (I think there are at least two spellings on that floating around!) reappeared.  This was immediate license for all the blog commenters to further build his backstory.  We're going to need a Buttonweezer Bible here before too long.

I did Facebook post on what I found to be an insightful comment at LibraryThing about building tension in historical thrillers.

Thursday was a really odd day. I posted the details of why on my Facebook page.

This week I paid my annual AAR dues which may seem like a small thing, but I remember when I wasn't an AAR member and how much I wanted to join as soon as I could.  For those of you who aren't familiar with AAR, it's the literary and dramatic agents professional group.  There's a Canon of Ethics which members agree to abide by, and a minimum standard for associate and full membership.
Some very reputable agents elect not to belong to AAR, but I'm very happy to fork over my dues and count myself among those who do.

I can't believe next week is the last week in January! Time is just flying by...even without those flying cars or personal jetpacks that I'm still hoping for!


Unknown said...

Thank you for the Week in Review. Though it's one more thing to do in (I'm sure)your busy week, it's become a quick favorite of mine. Jet-pack cheers!

Anonymous said...

Something I noticed out on your FB posts is you get as many commenters there as here - more in some cases. I saw the post from Thursday, and didn't comment b/c it was already filling up, but GOOD, GOOD, GOOD on what you did. If you had done nothing, assuming it was nothing, I'm sure it would have been "the thing" that would have bugged you all night, wondering, wondering, wondering - what if?

Anyway, have a restful Sunday all!

Just Jan said...

I, too, love this feature. Thanks for giving me something to read on Sunday mornings!

And thanks for being vigilant.

Mister Furkles said...

Suspense is harder than tension. Your post, on Facebook, appeared to be about suspense not tension.

Please correct me if I'm wrong but:

Tension is needed on every page; it happens when a character is upset, two characters disagree, or the MC is trying to do something difficult.

Suspense is created when the reader doesn't know what will happen but desperately needs to know. Will the mission be a success or will the MC's party be captured? How will Anne Frank meet her demise?

Tension keeps the readers' attention while reading a page and suspense makes them plunge into the next scene or chapter.

Of these two, suspense is harder to create.

And if I'm mistaken, let me know. Also, any references to methods to manage suspense would be most welcome.

Megan V said...

Thanks for this week in review. I always look forward to these posts :)

Anonymous said...

@Mister Furkles,

Not that you're looking for a response from me, but suspense and tension are synonymous. Your comment made me think though, (enough to go look in the dictionary) and each is stated as a synonym of the other, along with a few other synonyms like anxiety and apprehension and anticipation, to name a few.

Anonymous said...

I just posted a picture for Janet on her facebook page. I don't know why when I go to pictures, it automatically goes to my Wrangler patch collection. *pondering*

Regarding character names, I'm working on the brothel scene where Tawna Fenske makes her appearance. I'll have to change the name a bit for my lovely madam, since it doesn't quite fit with the culture. Tawana maybe.

Then it's back to my pipe smoking, whiskey drinking, horse trader Jetreid.

Bonnie Shaljean said...

I love, love, LOVE the weekly news roundup! Thanks so much -

[Oh goodie, thinks the Shark. Just what I needed. More work. On my day off, too.]

That's what ya get for making this blog so addictive.

- - -

The deletion above was me. I screwed up the HTML. Did I mention that in addition to being a blog/book addict, I'm also a bit OCD about typing?

Bonnie Shaljean said...

I love, love, LOVE the weekly news roundup! Thanks so much -

[Oh goodie, thinks the Shark. Just what I needed. More work. On my day off, too.]

That's what ya get for making this blog so addictive.

- - -

The deletion above was me. I screwed up the HTML. Did I mention that in addition to being a blog/book addict, I'm also a bit OCD about typing?

Bonnie Shaljean said...


Jenz said...

Lol, ah, that's funny. As I read the repeated post, I knew what was coming.

Which actually created a little tension as I continued on down the page to see if I was right.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Reading the blog's week in review makes me realize what a bum I am when it comes to my blogs. And writing, right this second. In a bit of a dry patch.

I saw the post on Facebook on Thursday, though, and I'm glad you said something. In cases like that, I'd rather report something which turned out to be nothing than blissfully go about my business only to find out it was a Real Thing.

Colin Smith said...

Shamefaced to say I missed the FB post on Thursday (I *try* to remember to pop over there, but fail too often). Yay, Janet! Not only an exemplary Literary Agent, but a an exemplary citizen too. We're all proud of you here in the Commenters Tank. :)

I mentioned this week my hesitation over agents who are also active authors. On the positive side, I give favorable ranking to agents with AAR membership. I understand there are outstanding agents that aren't AAR members, but with the bad agent horror stories floating around, it gives comfort to the wary soul. :)

Another great week of posts and comments! Thanks Janet--and everyone else. :)

PS: I think the ButtonweAzer variant was my error. Before I start getting nasty letters from Felix, let me apologize for misspelling his name. Sorry! My 100 pages of "I will remember to spell Buttonweezer correctly in future" is in the mail.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and speaking of Columbo--one of my favorite episodes, and one I recommend to Janet, is "Publish or Perish" from 1974. Not only does it feature Mickey Spillane as a writer (murdered by guest villain Jack Cassidy), but the big clue that helps Columbo wrap up the case is provided to him by Spillane's character's literary agent. And she's a warm, lovely, and smart character too.

DLM said...

All this talk of spelling and tension has me thinking too, but I am going to give y'all a break and take it to my blog. Possibly after a very short Sunday late-afternoon doze ...

Anonymous said...

"And she's a warm, lovely, and smart character too."

Colin, you expected otherwise? :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...


I'd do a WIR on my blog but I love my latest post so much I may just leave it there forever.
And my life is much too boring.

NO that was NOT a shameless ad for readers, it was just a thought.

BUT, and Janet will love this, I am painting. We're down-sizing so we're gong neutral. There's something about beige that is just so b-e-i-g-e.

Hey, this comment was a truncated WIR and a beige one at that.

Colin Smith said...

@Donna: Weeeell... ;) Actually, I can't say I've seen many literary agents given as prominent a part in TV drama. It was nice to see the literary agent in this Columbo portrayed along the lines of my experience of literary agents: nice, warm, friendly people who genuinely care about their clients.

The murderer was the author's publisher (or soon-to-be former publisher). Not sure what I'm to make of that... :)

Anonymous said...

Colin, here's what you make of that:

EEEEEK! At least, that's what I make of it.

2N's - beige? Beige? Come on, can't it be like, coffee mocha cream at least?

DLM said...

Carolynn, what donna said. Also, I love her paring your handle down to "2N's"!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Well it's not actually called beige, it's called "Kilim Beige" which is kind of funny because "Kilim" rugs are really colorful.
MY Kilim is the nice neutral color that makes all the other colors look good. So there, you beige haters.
Actually it's very typical of blah ole me, making everybody else look good.

Janet Reid said...

*looks up from reading couch*
Did someone say paint??

Carolynnwith2Ns said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MGT said...

Thank you for the Week in Review !

The consistent narrator said...


Hi there
This letter is for you.
To read it once was.
Thank you

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yes Janet, you heard correctly.

When we decided it was time to take the personally historic step in our lives toward the peacefulness, only simplicity and order can duplicate, I asked myself, WWJD.
Paint, my inner voice said, paint.

DLM said...

2Ns, I came close to alluding to your spelling in my spelling post here (, but it was getting too parenthetical even for me - but you are there in spirit!