Ask the Book Doctor
By Bobbie Christmas
Ask the Book Doctor: About Viewpoints, Word Choices, and Creating Anthologies
Q: My story is written in the third person omniscient viewpoint, but there are a few characters with dialogue that appear in the story only a few times. Could you please explain briefly how viewpoint problems can be avoided in this situation?
A: Point of view (or viewpoint) is the vantage point from which a story or a piece of information is presented. POV simply refers to the person or thing that observes the action or thinks about it. Dialogue itself does not affect point of view, except in the case of internal dialogue. Watch the narrative near the dialogue, though. Some writers trip up when they tell what the speakers are thinking when they talk. The following example slips into the viewpoint of the speaker of the dialogue: "I’ll be leaving now," John said, thinking he wasn’t wanted.
If the dialogue simply shows what John said ("I’ll be leaving now," John said.) and doesn’t go into the narrative of what he’s thinking, the viewpoint is not compromised.
Q: What is the preferred usage, "His eyes lit up with excitement" or "His eyes lighted up with excitement"?
A: Sometimes English gives you a choice, just as you can say, "He dived into the pool" or "He dove into the pool." Both "lit" and “lighted” are past-tense forms of the verb "light," but in my opinion, because of the use of the word "up,” "lit" sounds better in the sample sentence: "His eyes lit up with excitement." If I were to use the alternate word, I would say "His eyes lighted with excitement."
Q: Has something happened to the word "than"? Has it been deleted from the English language? See this example taken from a nationally distributed newspaper: "A friend worked as a nurse caring for patients in the hospice wing of a hospital. She didn't like the job at all and often complained that the patients needed more compassion and nurturing then the facility provided."
A: Not to worry; the word "than" has not been deleted from our language. What has been deleted is the position of copy editor on many periodicals. An eagle-eyed editor would have caught the error, but some of the most otherwise astute writers do not know the difference between "then" and "than."
An excerpt from my book, Purge Your Prose of Problems, explains the difference between the two words:
Be sure to use then and than correctly. They are not interchangeable.
- At that time: Sandy was single then. If you’ll go Tuesday, I can go with you then.
- Next in time, space, or order; immediately afterward: Nancy danced to the last song and then left for home.
- In addition; moreover; besides: The flight was long, and then there's the ground transportation time.
- Used after but to qualify or balance a preceding statement: The injury hurt, but then what injury doesn’t?
- In that case; accordingly: If you must work there, then be careful of falling objects.
- As a consequence; therefore: The sale, then, is a done deal.
- That time or moment: School starts Tuesday; until then I’ll brush up on last year’s subjects.
- Being so at that time: The then president of the club vetoed the idea.
- Used to introduce the second element or clause of an unequal comparison: I am a better editor than most.
Q: What resources do you recommend for writers who are seeking anthology submissions?
A: Send your call for entries to every resource you can find, as long as it’s free. Post it on www.craigslist.org and send it to every organization for writers that you can find. Send it to every writing publication you can dig up. Search the Web for newsletters and web sites for writers and send it there, too. The more submissions you get, the more you have to choose from, a position you want to be in, so you can use only the best in your anthology.
–Send your questions to Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas for a personal answer. Contact her at Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.