Revisiting Jill Nelson’s “Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View”

Where’d that gun come from? And watch where you’re lookin’, lady.

I reviewed Jill Nelson’s “Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View” previously and still give the book high marks.

I highlighted several concepts and dogeared several pages during my first read. The book stayed on my desk and I kept getting closer and closer to a reread.

Rereading is a Josephism. I often reread books that I learn from or enjoy, a dog sucking the last bit of marrow from a bone.

I mentioned in that previous review that Nelson’s examples could be better, that there were some I had to work at to understand and in truth, even after considerable work some didn’t make sense.

Last night, during a reread, my diligence prevailed and I found (what are to me) some logic holes.

Lock me inside the character’s POV
That’s what Deep POV is all about, getting so deep in the POVC’s (Point of View Character) psyche that lots of writing becomes extraneous. I still agree with that.

But let me demonstrate some logic holes.

Gun? What gun? Where’d it come from?
One of Nelson’s examples is a high action Deep POV segment: “She darted behind the trunk of the tree, and her foot kicked something hard that skimmed into the grass. She dove after it and came up with the Beretta.”

Compare that with her example of contemplative Deep POV: “Samantha studied the profile of the man behind the wheel of the pickup. Nice strong chin, a little on the square side, but not jutting, and definitely not weak.”

I completely agree, accept and understand that the second is Deep POV and, as I shared in that previous review, it’s how I write.

But that first one…no, that one’s not working for me. It’s not working for me because (in what’s written for the example) I have no idea where that Beretta came from and it reads (to me) like a ducks in the mechanism (deus ex machina). She kicks something and suddenly there’s a Beretta?

A rewrite that completely locks me into Deep POV is “She darted behind the trunk of the tree. Her foot kicked something hard. A Beretta skimmed into the grass. She dove for it and came up with the gun in her hand.” I used italics to demonstrate my edits. Another rewrite could be “She darted behind the trunk of the tree, and her hand kicked something hard that skimmed into the grass. A Beretta. She dove after it and came up with the gun in her hand.”

I prefer the first because the shorter sentences make for quicker action, something necessary in an action sequence of the type Nelson is describing. The reason both rewrites are better (to me) is because I, the reader, realize there’s a gun in the grass at the same time the POVC does. There’s no POV violation, no “Where did that gun come from?” and I’m a finicky enough reader that such things throw me out of the story big time.

I realized the logic hole by comparing the two POV demonstrations Nelson was using. The latter firmly puts me in Samantha’s POV. Samantha’s studying the man’s profile so everything else is obviously from her POV. Excellent (even better, if the description was introduced with a semi-colon as in “…of the pickup; Nice strong chin, …” I’d really be locked into the character’s POV). The former is using long sentences to convey action (not good) and then introduces a gun out of nowhere (definitely not good).

Watch where you’re looking, lady
This logic hole made me laugh because it’s a variation of guys staring at a woman’s chest while talking her up.

Nelson’s example is “Desi stared into the eyes of the lead motorcyclist. He wore a black denim shirt with the sleeves ripped off and the seams hanging ragged. His bronzed arms were a rolling terrain of muscle and ink. A massive pewter cross dangled from his neck on a leather cord, and a sliver of tattoo peeked from his shirt neck.”

First, I love “a rolling terrain of muscle and ink.” Beautifully descriptive and evocative. But Desi’s staring into the eyes of the lead motorcyclist. The next sentence, “He wore…”, reads like author intrusion to me and worse, like telling. Her eyes are looking into his eyes. If she’s picking up those details peripherally, I need to know she has good peripheral vision ahead of time because she’s in a threatening situation, her eyes aren’t going to wander a lot.

What would lock me into Desi’s POV would be something like “Desi stared into the eyes of the lead motorcyclist, the sleeves of his black denim shirt ripped off leaving ragged seams riffling in the light desert breeze and revealing bronzed arms that were a rolling terrain of muscle and ink. A massive pewter cross dangled from his neck on a leather cord, and a sliver of tattoo peeked from his shirt neck.”

No question (to me) that I’m inside Desi’s perceptions with the rewrite. Even better, that admittedly long sentence gives me (the reader) a chance to share Desi’s experience of her situation. I can visualize the motorcyclist, his arms, his clothing, feel and hear the wind, see his ragged sleeves riffling. Nice.

I appreciate that this might be armchair quarterbacking to some and that’s not my intention. I’m sharing my realization because it may help others who read “Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View” and get confused or lost as I did. I had a few other challenges and now that I know what bothered me and why, I can auto-correct them (yep, that’s me, a 6′, 225# iPhone).

And Nelson’s “Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View” is still a worthy read.

Walter Mosley’s “This Year You Write Your Novel”

Walter Mosley’s “This Year You Write Your Novel” is an excellent read for authors at any stage in their career

I picked up This Year You Write Your Novel because I was reading Mosley’s The Man in My Basement and Devil in a Blue Dress and wanted to understand Mosley’s choices in the book. There were some authorial moves I understood, some completely threw me.

This Year You Write Your Novel is a short, powerful book. I read lots of books on writing methods, techniques, scene, character, language, et cetera and I was truly impressed at how much Mosley packed into 103 pages. It’s all there. Now here’s the funny part; I wouldn’t recommend the book to someone who’s been writing for a while, say a year or two, and doing it as a past time or leisure time activity. My sense is it would prove too confusing or even misinformational. It’s a great book (full of gems) for people who are about to write and those who already have a career going for them. The former will find a useful guide into a world they don’t know much, if anything, about. The latter will find lots of triggers for things they know but not consciously, for techniques they use but can’t name and will find themselves going “Oh, that’s right, that’s right” more often than not (I did, anyway).

Example: “The cooler third-person narrator allows us to see the world of this novel from a certain impartial remove.” I read that and understood it immediately although I’d never thought of it as such. But the next line closed me, “This gives a kind of balance to the fiction that permits a reader to more easily suspend their disbelief.” For me those two lines together were a kind of “Whoa!” moment. I had to stop reading to let the power of what Mosley was sharing sink in. Here’s another one: “…there’s a difference between explanation and verbal action.” Authors who’ve agonized over whether you’re showing or telling (I do, a lot), here’s your answer.

There were eight major and several minor moments like that in 103 pages. That’s definitely a Whoa! moment.

This one’s a keeper if you’re starting out or even on your way in a writing career.