Copyright July 2016 St. Louis Writers Guild – All rights reserved
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Cover design by Brad R Cook
T. W. Fendley
Brad R. Cook
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[In this issue
by Ryan Freeman
by Jennifer Stolzer
By Ryan Freeman
“To have what we want is riches; but to be able to do without is power.”
- George MacDonald
I will often write until something comes to mind. Sometimes it’s good just to let yourself wander. After all, as the infamous Mr. Baggins once wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.” The quote is on a piece of art hanging up next to me in my office; I think it serves as a timely reminder for us all. Since writing can often be a bit of a head game, despondency can be a real creative killer. When it’s basically up to you, the writer, to keep going, the long lonely stretches can be challenging.
One of the things I’ve learned along the way is how by continuing to write you build muscles. When I first read in Stephen King’s On Writing how he types about 4,000 words a day, I was admittedly staggered. Immediately, my mind went from awe, to jealousy, to disbelief, and finally to dreaded despondency. ‘How could I EVER write that much on a regular basis,’ I grumbled. Likewise, on Amazon’s new author updates I receive, I’m bombarded by all these smiling, successful authors who gush about their dedication to their art.
And then there’s me. I’m lucky to find spare moments to peck out a few pages at a time, much less dedicate scheduled time for ‘making good art’. What’s to be done for the rest of us regulars?
Any way you can – do it. Only you can express it. Only you can write it just so.
Also, remember you’re not Stephen King. You’re (probably) not any of those gushy, successful new authors featured in Amazon newsletters, either. But you’re you (and they’re not; in fact, nobody else in all existence is) So long as you keep going as best you can, your work continues to live and grow and ultimately, be yours.
One of the types of stories I like to read is about near-death experiences. (I know, I know, please forgive the apparent randomness) In some of them, they describe a sort of library filled with all the books ever written. For a fantasy writer like myself, this sort of material is gold! Imagine, a place where every book ever written exists (including your own). In these descriptions, in this library, there resides a large wing filled with all the books and stories, which exist but were never actually written down. Whether you believe in this sort of stuff is entirely up to you, of course – but I think the notion remains rather sobering.
What great wonders and heartfelt treasures never grace the earth because someone never wrote them down?
Now, I don’t tell you all this to shame you or guilt you or anything like that – but to remind you: what you write, big or small, great or just for fun, matters. We write for ourselves and other people. We write because we must. We type and scribble on because we love to. We write because it matters.
We are given each day what we need to keep going, and sometimes we must be forced to slow down in order to appreciate it. Sometimes (gasp, dare I admit), we need to be stressed, tired, and generally over-worked, so we are forced to go back and shelter in what we love best. And as we stumble on, we must look around with new eyes upon the everyday, in order to see the mundane afresh. When we next pick up the keyboard or pen, we’re ready to bring keen literary life into our world. Our hands may be callused and weary as we write, but they’re still our own. They make each word we spell and each sentence we string that much more ours. So come marauding dragons or those long, boring work weeks – Write on!
Workshops For Writers: Point of View – It’s More Than First Vs. Third, with Brad R. Cook
By Jennifer Stolzer
Article Photos by Steven Langhorst
“Point of View is the focus of your writing,” young adult author and Guild historian Brad R. Cook said at the Guild’s July 9 workshop. “Any time you ask a writer what they write, they’ll tell you the genre and the style . . . It is how the story is told.”
Stories can be conveyed through three types of point of view (POV): first, second, and third person. Choosing a point of view defines how a story is told by determining how information is filtered to the reader. Some books use multiple points of view to tell their stories; others let genre or age group determine the POV. Sometimes POV is chosen to challenge the reader with new perspectives and ideas. Each of the three points of view – first, second, and third – can be broken down into three more subtypes – limited, omniscient, and objective. Each of these represents a different distance from the reader. The closest is first person perspective.
First person perspective is defined by the use of “I” and “We.” The camera, and therefore the reader, resides inside the main character’s mind. It’s very popular in young adult fiction because the genre is reliant on feelings. “It’s a beautiful way to tell a story but a little limiting,” Brad said. “If you are inside a character’s mind, every thought that character has is on the page. Every action and everything that takes place is filtered through that main character, therefore when things happen away from your main character, you can’t show it – only what “I” hear and see is what the reader can hear and see . . . The fun part becomes trying to convey these actions to your main character without getting them up and having them spy on all their friends. Text messages are good; the modern solution is always the cell phone.”
Another drawback is that the main character cannot read minds, only observe. It is possible to have multiple point of view characters, but because the camera filters from the mind of a person, having more than one POV per chapter can be confusing to the reader. Whether there is one main character or many, emotions of other characters in first person chapters must be shown through visual cues and dialog, which can be difficult to communicate in a natural way.
Main characters in first person novels also cannot see themselves, which makes describing a main character’s appearance difficult for the author. A common trope is to have main characters describe themselves by gazing at their reflection. This has been used so often it is considered cliché and amateur. A way to work around this is to have other characters remark on appearances, but Brad’s advice was to just let it go. “We tend to project ourselves into a first person novel. We form our own conclusion about what our character looks like,” Brad said. “Just let it go. Focus on the story. Focus on the emotions. Focus on thoughts.”
Other dangers include overwriting and listing events. Because the main character is always holding focus, authors must determine what should and should not be told. “It’s hard to get the nuance of telling a story through someone’s eyes without relaying everything they do,” Brad said. An overabundance of “I”s is another hazard as characters list every action and event. Authors must include the senses in perceptions in first person, so an abundance of “I looked,” “I heard,” “I felt,” etc, can bog down a narrative. “I don’t need to know 100 pages in that ‘I’ did something,” Brad said. State actions directly and avoid sense words like “looked” and “smelled.” Considering the main character is always holding the camera, an audience will understand that anything stated in the narration is observed by the main character.
First person POV connects a reader directly into a story. Everything that happens to the main character is happening to the reader as well from blows taken in battle to sadness and joy. For this reason, fewer children’s, middle-grade, and adult novels are first person than young adult novels. “Young adults want to be included in everything and experience every life event they can,” Brad said. “First person novels tend to be very powerful.” Young children need a bit of distance from intense situations that may be frightening or confusing to them, although middle-grade has seen an uptick in first person novels in recent years as middle-school aged readers become more confident. Adults trend toward distance as well. Many would rather be told a story than live one, although first person novels have seen their share of popularity in certain, more intimate genres of adult literature.
Sometimes the POV character in a first person novel is not the main character of the story. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is about Gatsby and the nouveau riche, but it is told through the eyes of Nick – an outsider. Experiencing the story from Nick’s perspective highlights the extravagance and tragedy of Gatsby’s life in a way that Gatsby himself would not perceive it, making a more interesting tale than if the titular character had the camera, instead. Other examples of first person are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox, Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen, and Iron Horsemen by Brad R Cook. “I chose first person because I wanted my readers to experience going on a steampunk adventure with my main character,” Brad said. It was a good choice considering his audience is young YA and upper middle-grade.
As first person point of view is defined by “I,” second person point of view is defined by the word “you.” Second person is a conversation between the writer and the reader. The reader becomes the main character as the story is told to them and sometimes about them. For this reason, second person perspective is often difficult to use.
“I did not think there were novels written in second person,” Brad joked. “I was mistaken.” The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende uses second person in the portion of the book where the boy is reading the story. In the “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel series, the protagonist “You” gets to decide how the story continues, using specific page numbers. You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes is written entirely in second person perspective.
“In movies, they call it ‘breaking the fourth wall’,” Brad explained. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Deadpool, and House of Cards use it to communicate directly to the audience.” Shakespeare was a fan of the “aside,” in which characters break the action to whisper to the crowd. These film and play examples use second person sparingly. “It is hard to keep up through a whole novel because you can’t predict your character’s emotions and thoughts,” Brad said. “It keeps the reader directly engaged with what’s going on. They feel like they’re a part of the story.”
Unfortunately, such inclusion can be off-putting for some readers, and not every reader is the best character for the story. “The minute the reader says ‘I would never do that,’ you’ve lost them.” Brad said. “It’s hard to write one thing that will apply to everybody, but there are possibilities.” Universal tropes all people can relate to include everyday things like the love of a friend, being caught in a lie, feeling left out of events or decisions, or desiring fair treatment, but even these generic concepts have exceptions. “It’s hard for me to tell you what you’re going to do in every story and keep a linear storyline,” Brad said.
“You will not find a single genre of book that is mostly written in second. Blogs are the exception, but even then, most people tell you not to write conversational blogs because it’s ‘too casual’ if you’re trying to portray yourself as an expert.” Considering every user on the Internet can create and contribute to an online journal, expertise and authority are vital to helping one blog stand out from the pack. Because second person has a strong conversational element, many writers avoid it to achieve a professional air. “I’m an exception because I’m trying to have a conversational discussion about a topic we both agree on,” Brad said, concerning his blog articles published on The Writers’ Lens. “I’m not trying to place myself as an expert over you and that works beautifully for me. I’m not expecting you to know nothing about the topic; I’m a writer talking to another writer about writing.”
Third person point of view is the most distant of the points of view and the most common for adult fiction, picture books, and middle-grade. It is categorized by the pronouns “he,” “she,” “they,” “them,” and “it.” Like the other points of view, third can be broken into subcategories each with a different degree of distance from the reader. The three most common, in order, are limited, omniscient, and objective.
Limited third person point of view equates to the camera hovering over one character’s shoulder. Similar to first person, third person limited relies on one character’s perspective and many of the same rules and limitations. “It’s about one character,” Brad said. “The POV character who the reader wants to hear about. It’s great for conveying action. It’s cinematic.” Examples of third person limited are The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Enders Game by Orson Scott Card, Zero Time by T.W. Fendley, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It is the most commonly used point of view in fiction, providing the closeness of a single character’s perspective and the distance of third-person pronouns and descriptions. The distance makes it harder to show internal thoughts and feelings unless there’s a narrator. Like first person, it is possible to use multiple point of view characters, but writers are generally limited to one character per chapter to prevent the reader from being confused.
A unique issue of third person is the need to define the lead in every scene, usually with names and dialog tags. There are more words to choose from in a third person novel than a first person novel, including names and descriptions of the main characters and actions. Still, it’s usually best to stick with common dialog tags like “said.”
“Dialog tags have a plethora of stuff to use,” Brad said. “Don’t get too crazy, or you’ll confuse the reader.” Another issue with third person limited is that it can be expected. “I’d say 90 percent of books are written in this POV,” Brad said. “Since it’s so common, it’s hard to break new ground. That’s not a bad thing. Meeting everyone’s expectation of how a book should be won’t challenge the reader. The story you are telling is completely unique but not in any tricks of POV.” That said, using a conventional point of view encourages readers to pay more attention to the story than how it is being told.
Third person omniscient is categorized by “knowing everything and everything and everything.” The audience is granted God’s perspective—knowing not only what the main character is thinking, but also what everyone else is thinking as well. “It’s everything that’s going on the scene,” Brad said. “You can jump heads, and it’s okay. You can tell everyone’s stories.” A classic example of this POV is The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, in which the audience is allowed to know the thoughts and histories of every person, place, and thing the characters encounter. As a side effect, some problems with omniscient is overwriting, lack of focus, and meandering prose. Readers can become too disconnected from the action, or confused as it jumps from one character to the next, especially in the same scene.
“It can be good to hide something like motivation from the reader,” Brad said. “Telling a reader everything can be overwhelming. It can spoil the tension. Sometimes hiding things from the reader is what the reader actually wants.”
Third person objective point of view is the most distant of the points of view types. It equates to the reader being read a book by the narrator. “It’s like a nature program,” Brad said. “The narrator doesn’t care. There’s no imparting of anything other than what is happening in front of you. Unbiased.” This distance comes with unique POV problems. It can be too disconnected for readers used to the emotional engagement that connects a reader to a character. For that reason, third-person objective is not used as often as the other two sub-categories.
There is no right or wrong way to tell a story, and any rule can be broken if done in a deliberate way. The important part is engaging with an audience. Point of view is about how information is filtered to a reader. It controls the emotions and how and when those feelings are encountered. Each point of view has its positives and negatives, and not all stories are a good fit for particular techniques. Choose your point of view wisely, and you will be able to create a moving and intimate experience for any reader and any story.
For the latest information on poetry events in the St. Louis, MO area, visit the .
Second Friday notes, second Friday of each month, 7 p.m., at Whole Foods Town & Country, Clayton Road just west of Highway 141
RIVER STYX. Third Mondays, 7:30 p.m., Tavern of Fire Arts, 313 Belt Ave. riverstyx.org/events.
POETRY AT THE POINT, 4th Tuesday of the month, at Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Ave. Read their ezine at
Sheila Nolan Whalen Reading Series at SLU, 221 N. Grand Ave., Dubourg 409.
Tuesdays at 4 p.m.
CHANCE OPERATIONS on the last Monday of each month at Tavern of the Arts, 313 Belt Ave., just off Pershing, between Union and DeBaliviere. 7:30 p.m. Open mic follows featured poets.
EVERY WEDNESDAY open mic for poetry and music at Stone Spiral Coffee & Curios, 2500 Sutton in Maplewood (2 blocks N. of Manchester). Great food and beverages. Open mic, 8 until around 11 p.m.
GOODY HOUSE, 7 p.m., fourth Thursdays at Art Marketplace, 2028 S. 12th Street. Featured poets.
R_SPACE. Last Saturday of the month, Lenny Smith and friends at 2 p.m.
ST. LOUIS WRITERS GUILD open mic for prose and poetry, second Tuesday of each month, 7 p.m., Kirkwood Train Station, Argonne Drive, just west of Kirkwood Road. Allow time to find parking.
ADDITIONAL OPEN MICS at The Wolf, (every Tuesday), Legacy Books & Café (every Friday), The Historical Crossings (every other Tuesday), Shameless Grounds (Wednesdays at 7), Venice Café (Mondays at 9)
A Quick Guide to St. Louis Writers Guild Events
It’s as easy as
Workshops for Writers
First Saturday of every month (except holiday weekends)
10 a.m. to Noon at the Kirkwood Community Center
Station Open Mic
Second Tuesday of every month
7-9 p.m. at the Kirkwood Amtrak Station
SLWG Authors Series
Third Thursday of every month
Query for “SLWG Authors Series” on YouTube or check the Members’ Room on our website, .
Brad R. Cook, author of the young adult steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles (Treehouse Publishing Group). A former co-publisher and acquisitions editor for Blank Slate Press, he is a member of SCBWI, and currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as President. A founding contributor to , a resource blog for writers, he can be heard weekly as a panelist on Write Pack Radio. A cover designer since 2013, he also creates posters, bookmarks, and other marketing materials. Find more @bradrcook on Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr.
T.W. Fendley is an award-winning author of historical fantasy and science fiction for adults and young adults, including Zero Time (2011) and The Labyrinth of Time (2014). She’s a founding contributor to , a resource blog for writers. Her short stories are available on Kindle and Audible. When she’s not writing, T.W. explores the boundaries of consciousness through and shamanism. twfendley.com
Steven W. Langhorst is a life-long resident of St. Louis with an insatiable hunger for the facts and trivia of St. Louis history. He is a retired elementary school principal who still serves education as a mentor and consultant focusing on leadership. Steven has dabbled in poetry and photography since his youth and still plans to publish a book of poems and photographs as well as a memoir of his years at principal. Besides holding membership in the St. Louis Writers Guild he also proudly holds a membership in the Professional Tour Guides Association of St. Louis. Steven also contributed to the design of the new St. Louis Writers Guild logo.
David Lucas is the President of St. Louis Writers Guild, a published fiction short story author and poet. He has a Master’s Degree in Management from Webster University. For two years, David has been the host and producer of Write Pack Radio (WPR), a podcast with a panel of authors exploring the changing writing industry. In 2016, David decided to take his experience in podcasting and his love for radio dramas and start Winding Trails Media, which will produce podcast audio dramas beginning in the fall of 2016 as well as continuing WPR podcast.
Lauren Miller reviews books quarterly for the Historical Novels Review and has a fifteen-year background in library science. She has over fifty nonfiction reviews and articles in print and spends her free time discovering new reads, RPGs, period films, and surrounded by dogs. To read more about Lauren, visit her blog at .
Jennifer Stolzer is an author and illustrator living and working in St. Louis, MO. She graduated from Webster University with a degree in digital media and animation and uses this skill set to create bright and engaging characters. In addition to illustrating books for clients, Jennifer writes and illustrates original work, serves as secretary for the St. Louis Writers Guild, and commentates on the weekly writing podcast Write Pack Radio. See more of Jennifer’s work at , as well as Twitter, tumblr, and Facebook.
With special thanks to this issue’s guest contributor:
Ryan P. Freeman is a fellow adventurer. After miraculously surviving childhood cancer and several near-death experiences, he launched into the world of AM talk radio, hosting his own live program out of Albuquerque. Ryan is a former International Red Cross guest speaker, Pastor, and medieval-enthusiast who loves sampling craft-beers and is an unapologetically proud kilt-wearer. In his down time, his interests range from exploring real-world pan-mythology, survivalist camping, and copious video gaming. His debut high fantasy epic, The Phoenix of Redd, Volume I: Rienspel, will be published late 2016. Ryan’s fantasy novella, The Grey Isle Tale, is now available at Amazon. For more on Ryan and Rienspel, visit
For more than a decade, The Scribe has been the mainstay for communicating with members of the St. Louis Writers Guild. It began as a way to showcase the organization and share insights into the publishing world. Back issues give a wonderful record of the Guild. The Scribe is now available to everyone, not just members. It features stories, poems, and essays from our members, as well as information about our events, most of which are open to the public. The July 2016 issue features a report by Jennifer Stolzer on the Guild's July 9th workshop presented by Brad R. Cook, and an original essay by Ryan Freeman.