Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wordy Wednesday - On Wednesday

And we are back to our regular scheduled programming! Whew! Wipe that sweat from your brow. Hopefully I won't make another mistake - I say with a wry smile, since making mistakes are kind of a part of my whole shtick. Did you know Wednesdays are almost my favourite day of the week? Truth! They are only trumped by Saturdays, which is kind of unfair because it's the last day before my weekends start. This 'wordy' feature is kind of awesome, if I do say so myself.

Today's word comes with a story.

The word: Omnipresent 

It's origin is Medieval Latin, which is sort of awesome all in itself, and the definition is a widespread and all-knowing presence (kind of like God and Santa). It's an interesting idea,isn't it? To be all places at one time. If we apply this 'all knowingness' to writing then we will be heading in the direction to the reason why I like this word so much.

A long time ago, I think it was 2004, or maybe earlier, I joined a writing website and uploaded a couple chapters of the first novel I ever wrote - Seeking Eleanor. I did this for a couple of reasons, mostly because I wanted to be a better writer, but also to see if I had any chops at all. The thing about writing a book, anyone can do it, but that doesn't mean they are actually any good at. Sure, you can put a sentence together and it could be grammatically gorgeous only to come up short when it comes to the art of yarn spinning. (Not talking about knitting here, but the way in which wonderful writers weave words together to form paragraphs that keep you up at night) Now, I always thought Eleanor was a beautiful girl, but her original condition is a little embarrassing to admit and, when I think back on it, I cannot believe I allowed strangers to read her. After all these years, she's undergone many changes, rewrites and edits have morphed her into a much more appealing novel.

In the beginning, on this writerly website, my little book was noticed and rapidly moved up the ranks, which I can openly admit gave my a boost of confidence. Except, there was a fair bit of debate circling her. Obviously, she needed work, the amount of adverbs were atrocious and the tense was a little mixed up in parts, but those things were easy to fix. The point of view was another thing all together. I distinctly remember a man named JayG who left a comment about how there was way too much head-hopping going on in the narrative.

Head-hopping?

I didn't know what this meant. After all, I was a green writer who only wanted to tell tales and had never concerned herself with reading up on structure and format, or any of those other things that are (or so I feel) secondary to voice. So, like any good writer, I looked it up because I wanted to learn and get better and grow and, maybe one day, be able to sell a book to a publisher and make a modest income off of writing.

Head hopping is when the author jumps between characters in the narrative, changing their voice as they do so, telling what one person is thinking only to flip to what another is feeling. All the while maintaining multiple character voices. This can, of course, be muchly confusing. A thread sparked a debate in the forum, led my me actually, because I wanted to know if my voice was changing throughout. Was I head-hopping? Or was there a different term for what I was doing?

For the majority of readers, the voice wasn't changing, which meant it wasn't head hopping but an omnipresent (or third person omniscient) point of view. Meaning, the voice was the author/narrator's, not a character from the novel, who knew what everyone was thinking, feeling and doing. All seeing. All and powerful. Kind of like Oz. Authors are kind of godly when writing a book, aren't there? I mean, a little, right?

What I find most interesting is that the third person omniscient point of view used to be more commonly used, by Jane Austen, Tolstoy and Tolkien (to name a few), but over time this preferred way of writing has fallen to the wayside. Nowadays, limited third person and first person POVs are hugely popular due to their ability to create a more personal connection between the characters and the readers. I myself always enjoyed the omnipresent way of writing because it allowed you to see into  each character.

One day, when Seeking Eleanor is published and available for readers to fall in love with, I imagine there will be people out there who will say, "I remember when she had an omnipresent POV and was riddled with adverbs." That's right, I changed the entire book. Why? Because I felt there was a distance between the reader and the story going on. Besides, I wanted to develop Eleanor and Devon's voices, to bring them to life, and make them believable. I suppose if I was a truly gifted writer I would have been able to do this while maintaining the omnipresent narrative.

It seems strange to love a word for the role it once played in your first novel. Well, the reason I have such an affection is because I learned something from it. And isn't that why we are all here? To learn and grow, and be better, even the things we do for fun.

1 comment:

William-Stephen Taylor said...

It happens in real life and in the movies.
I call it "multiple POV". Done badly it's called head-hopping.


“Mrs Jones, please!”
His voice halted her in her tracks, it wasn’t a command she heard, but a request, the word ‘please’, obvious in his tone.
She saw his eyes upon her as she turned her head, no sign of animosity, ‘Okay, I’ll listen,’ she decided.
He stood still, wondering what her tone would be, would it match his own. He put on his best smile as she faced him.
She’d thought he would rant at her … now he’s smiling…‘What the hell is going on here,’ was all she could think.
“Mrs Jones, can we talk, inside my office, please,” he said, seeing success as her eyes responded to his voice.
There was something in his voice; it wasn’t the sound of impending doom, but empathy, as if he had more to say. Then she realized she hadn’t given him a chance to speak, in fact she’d never heard him speak in the time she’d been there. She’d passed him about a dozen times in the corridor with nothing more than a friendly nod from both of them. Okay, so he was going to let her down easy. She had nothing more to lose, but she was determined to have her say in the matter.
He watched as she approached. Her eyes showed determination. He hoped she wasn’t the argumentive type, would accept his proposals. He stood aside as she brushed past him into his office. Her scent was neutral, no perfume, just a refreshing womanly smell.
“Take a seat please, Mrs Jones.”
She sat on the sofa he indicated.
He seated himself in a matching armchair, facing her, leaning towards her, elbows on his thighs, fingers interlaced. “First of all, you are not going to lose your job. I’m not happy with the accusations made against you in fact I intend to look into the matter personally. For a start I want you to take two weeks sick leave with pay. After reading your qualifications, the reports from all the doctors and most of the medical staff I have come to the decision that you are too valuable to lose. What do you have to say?”
She watched his lips move, kissable lips, showing white even teeth. As she listened to his voice her fears melted away, it wasn’t the words coming from those kissable lips that gave her a warm feeling, leaving her light-headed; it was the way he said it, in a thoroughly masculine way with a look from those soulful eyes that denied deception. She took a deep breath realizing she had just dodged a bullet by not being fired. She started slowly, “Thank you, Doctor Siemens, I value your words. I am aware of the accusations that a certain party has made against me. Of course I deny everything. Thank you for the offer of sick leave, I believe it is a right and fair decision.”
He felt a great weight lift off his shoulders, said, “In my opinion, Mrs Jones, this is the best solution for all concerned.”
Her brow dipped slightly, “What do you propose I do after the two weeks is over?”
His expression copied hers. “To be honest, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet, but be rest assured, I’m anything but satisfied with the events.”
‘Who is he kidding, that a smoke screen, come back, someone in my place.’
Her brow creased even more, she took a deep breath, leaned towards him. “Excuse me, Doctor Siemens, but my livelihood and my son’s health depend on me keeping this job, if you want to take the word of my superior against mine, then go ahead and I’ll find some-.” She stopped as she realized she had been almost shouting, she expected him to retaliate, but to her surprise he didn’t.
The essence of a smile creased his lips.
‘Oh, those lips.’