Friday, April 9, 2021

What We're Writing--Debs and the Difficult Duo

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I have loved being gripped by Lucy's and Rhys's wonderful excerpts this week, and it's made me a bit envious of their single viewpoint narratives. It's so thrilling, as a reader and as a writer, to get caught up in one person's voice. But in my books, as soon as I really get my steam up, it's time to switch to another character. I can't imagine, however, giving up Duncan or Gemma, or any of the other viewpoints that insinuate themselves into one of my stories, but the juggling can be a challenge. 

There's also the issue of having two equal detective protagonists who are no longer professional partners. In A BITTER FEAST, I solved this by having Gemma, Duncan, and my other two main characters, Melody and Doug, all work together on a busman's holiday sort of case where none of them had official standing. In GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS Duncan and Gemma had two entirely separate cases. (My editor said it should have been two books!) In some of the novels, Gemma has the official case, and I have had to find a way for Duncan to help out. But in the book-in-progress, the official case is Duncan's, and I need Gemma to play an important part, too.

Duncan calls her in at the beginning of the investigation because she and Melody are working on a knife crime task force and the murder is a stabbing. And then, a little later, we find that the victim has a connection with the Kincaid/James family friends, Wesley and Betty Howard, so that involves Gemma in another aspect.

But, wait, there's more! In this little snippet, Duncan and Doug have interviewed the manager of a bar in London's Soho. They are driving back to Holborn Police Station through Chinatown and the theater district, so here's a photo to put you in the scene.

 


“Wanker,” said Doug as he fastened his seat belt. “What a poser. Who does he think he is, James Dean?” He frowned. “Or was it Paul Newman who wore the white t-shirts?”

Kincaid grinned. “Maybe you’re thinking of Brando. Since when did you become a classic film buff?”

“Bugger all else to do these days,” muttered Doug, signaling as he eased the Astra round the bend at the bottom of Archer Street and back into the traffic flow in Shaftesbury Avenue. “But, whatever, I still think Mr. Jonathan Gibbs is a tosser. I didn’t believe a word of that bollocks about his sister—or anything else he said, for that matter.”

Kincaid considered this. “You spent some time with Tully Gibbs. Would you say she had a penchant for drama?”

“No. Not at all. Her reactions seemed pretty straight ahead to me. Normal shock. Normal grief. And she didn’t try to make it all about her, either. Like some people.”

It seemed to Kincaid that Doug’s reaction to Jon Gibbs was a little extreme, but he trusted his sergeant’s instincts. “I don’t think Gibbs is telling us the whole truth, I agree. I don’t believe he didn’t know why Sasha wanted to talk to him about her little brother. He’d have denied knowing anything about it if he hadn’t guessed Tully had already told us.

“We should take a closer look at both siblings. Or maybe I should say, all the siblings, so as to include Tyler Johnson.” Kincaid thought for a moment. “And I’d like to know more about what goes on at Gibbs’ club on a busy Saturday night.”

“Well, we can’t check it out in person,” said Doug. “Not if Gibbs is working the floor and we want to be circumspect. What about Melody?”

“Probably not a good idea, on the off chance that Tully Gibbs frequents the club. Tully would recognize her.” Kincaid could ask Sidana to do it, but on his life he couldn’t imagine her fitting into the trendy club scene. Did she own any clothing other than white blouses and dark skirts? And what on earth did the woman do in her off hours?

Not that it was any of his concern. Or not by the book, at least, but in reality, he’d learned that a team functioned better when its leader knew the other members well enough to have some sense of their personal lives. Maybe he’d been remiss in not making more effort with Sidana.

His two detective constables were too new to be tasked with a job that probably wouldn’t be sanctioned by the brass—and he didn’t yet know how good either of them were at playing a role. Simon Gikas could do it, Kincaid thought--he had quite the man-about-town persona--but he didn’t want to pull Simon away from his computers.

To tell the truth, there was only one person he trusted to read a situation as accurately as he could himself, and to not get herself in trouble in the process—his wife. 

 Now I can't wait to see what Gemma thinks about having her Saturday night spoken for, without a thought for whatever she might have had planned! But a little undercover op--what fun!

What do you think, readers, about multiple viewpoints versus single viewpoint? Do you have a preference, or do you just dive in and enjoy? (That would be me!)

 

 

68 comments:

  1. Gee, now I want to know what Gemma has to say about all of this . . . but it would be great fun to see her go undercover in the club . . . [and now I want to read the rest of the story.]

    As far as multiple viewpoints and single viewpoints are concerned, I don’t have a preference either way as long as the story makes sense and/or pulls me into the telling of the tale . . . .

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  2. I just dive in and enjoy. When multiple viewpoints are done well, I think it's great as something a little different since so many of the books I read are first person narration (which I also love). What can bother me about multiple viewpoints is the constant switching in one scene or it not being clear when we are switching.

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    1. Mark, I've always been fanatic about staying in viewpoint in a scene. I don't want to be confused about whose head I'm in!

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  3. I dive in and enjoy. If done right, multiple viewpoints should flow with the story. It shouldn't be abrupt.

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    1. Sometimes I don't even think about the viewpoint, and then a few chapters in I realize I've been reading first person.

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  4. It may be more complicated to write, but as a reader, I usually enjoy multiple viewpoints in a story. But it really does depend on the book. Sometimes, first person narration makes more sense, other times it is good to see how different characters see/react to the situation, and how they know things that the main protagonist will find out later on in the story.

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  5. Great way to pull Gemma into the investigation, Debs! I can't wait to read this book.

    I also dive into books I'm reading. I don't care about POVs unless they aren't done well. I've written only one with two POVs, and they are co-sleuths. I to be careful they weren't spending the start of each scene after they'd been apart catching each other up on what they knew. It's tricky!

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    1. It is tricky, Edith, I'll agree! But I admire you writers who do either viewpoint. Maybe because I don't write in first person, but the ability to do that well always seems like such a special gift to me.

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  6. I don't care Debs. I just want to read a new book of yours!

    However, during the past pandemic year, my ability to concentrate has been less than, and I find it easier to have limited viewpoints to sort out. Recently I started a book -- which shall remain nameless -- that alternated time periods per chapter. I found I had to keep stopping to rewind, and halfway thru I stopped reading. Reading that becomes an effort is no longer a pleasure.

    Gemma and Duncan never fail to please.

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    1. Oh, yes, Ann, RIP Prince Phillip. I just read the news when my internet came back up.

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  7. I try to dive in an enjoy a book regardless of the POV storytelling. However, I have read some books that had so many viewpoints that it did become a bit of a pain to keep track of the proceedings.

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  8. I remember a book with more than ten points of view. I made a cheat sheet to keep track of the characters. Because I write in close third single POV, that's easiest for me to read. Usually, I go with the flow...and because I "know" Gemma and Duncan, their kids, their team members, more than one POV isn't a problem. Having Duncan ask Sidana to go clubbing undercover is hysterical. Who would coach her? Melody? Or a cool police officer?

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  9. We can't wait for this book Debs, no matter how many viewpoints. And Gemma undercover was a brilliant solution...

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    1. Will she pull out the "little black dress" she bought so long ago in that mall with Constable Will Darling or will she have to go shopping? I'll always remember the scene in the bar when Kincaid saw her in that dress!

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    2. Maybe that's what put the idea in Duncan's head this time? Fond memories.

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    3. Thanks for reminding me of that, Judy! That was such a fun scene. And I wonder whatever happened to Will Darling?

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    4. Thank, Reine! That was a fun one!

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  10. Now that you mention it, I really enjoy multiple POVs--in the hands of my absolute favorite writers, it lets me know all those great characters better. Offers ore complexity and more nuances. Of course, I'll never pass up a book written from a different POV if the writing grabs me. And yes, can't wait to see what's going on in this book!

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    1. That's 'more' complexity. (Not enough caffeine or something this morning!)

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  11. As I reader, I just dive in. I don't really care - as long as multiple is done well.

    I write a series of each. Laurel Highlands is multiple and Homefront is first person. As Edith said, the trick is making sure I don't spend the first part of each scene they are together catching each other up on what happened while they were apart.

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    1. Little transitions can do the trick. As in Gemma saying to Duncan, "You want me to do what?"

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  12. I am so missing Gemma and Kincaid! Multiple view points are fine with me if that's how the story works.

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  13. Like you Debs, I just dive in and enjoy.
    Thank you for this snippet. I’m so looking forward this next book.

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  14. One thing that I have learned, yet again, from this week is how recognizable our individual styles are. I think that’s just so wonderful! No one what you could have written this, Debs, and it’s so perfect.

    As for multiple points of view, I always am baffled when people think they are complicated. If they’re written well, they aren’t. You’re in someone’s head, seeing the world through their eyes. Then in the next chapter, you’re in someone else’s head. I’m just not sure why that’s difficult. Maybe someone can explain it?

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    1. Maybe if the author doesn't give clear cues at the beginning of the chapter or scene?

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    2. Listing the character at the top of the chapter gives the reader a clear cue that the POV is changing, but not always necessary. A skilled author can write multiple POV and the reader can follow without a problem. If we have to go back/forth to re-read the section, then we are taken out of the story.

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  15. I can’t wait for the book to see how it works out. I just dive in and try to keep up.

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    1. Thanks, Ann! I can't wait to see how it all works out, too:-)

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  16. It's the only kind of diving I do these days! I love the way you handle multiple POVs, Debs. Full stop.

    Because we were traveling all day yesterday (and I mean ALL day, because our daughter had to take us to the airport in Portland four hours early so she could make a meeting), I missed Lucy/Roberta's good news! Brava, my dear. Love, love the idea of using the quirky beach as a murder scene.

    And I so agree about the recognizable styles, Hank. Your voices are each unique, not just to the other Reds, but to every other author, as well.

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  17. Ooooo! I anticipate Gemma's frosty reception to Duncan's plan for her Saturday night. I know he will talk her into it and we'll see her close up, sitting in that bar, silently questioning how he'd convinced her to do it! LOL

    Debs, I love your characters and want to follow each one of them and know what they are thinking. Multiple POV's is your super power!

    For me, POV is a delivery system and whatever works for the author, works for me. Jumping around in time and space, looking at the story through different sets of eyes, we know when it works. I am pretty tolerant and usually have no issues with these methods. If I like the characters, I will follow your creations no matter how you present them.

    Debs, I can hardly wait to read this book!

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    1. Judy, you always say things so well. That's exactly what POV is, a delivery system. I just want my fix!

      I've only written one thing in first person, a short story, and I loved writing it. It would be fun to experiment in a novel, but on the other hand I love telling complicate stories with lots of characters. Such choices.

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  18. I think Gemma will love the opportunity to dump the kids on Duncan for a change, and rave it up with some gal pal on a Saturday night, wearing that little black dress and flirting madly with all the studly young men. Too bad Melody can't go with her. If it's a trendy enough bar, Melody might even have run into Andy, out trying to mend his broken heart. Although, if Andy showed up, he'd probably just take over Gemma's table and grouse about Melody, getting in the way of the undercover op.

    That's the thing I like about multiple viewpoints. They remind you that life is complex, and different people have different agendas, all at the same time. I dive in!

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    1. So true, Gigi, and I think the studly young men will flirt right back:-)

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  19. Sorry to be late to the party this morning--my internet was mysteriously down but seems to have healed itself.

    I've been reading The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths, and she does multiple POV so well. When it's done well, it really pulls you through the story.

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    1. I have The Night Hawks for you, too, Gigi. This has been my Elly Griffiths week! (Gigi and I have our own little book swap going!)

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    2. I haven't read Elly Griffiths yet. I know all the REDS love her. Maybe I'll get to her by the summer. I have to get to some of my pals' (like Edith's) books first. I've been stocking them up in my Kindle and can't keep taking 10 books out of the library every week and finishing them first.

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    3. I haven't read her Brighton novels yet, but I highly recommend the Ruth Galloway books (start from the beginning!) and the Harbinder Kaur books, Stranger Diaries and The Postscript Murders. She is one of my favorite authors writing today. And so prolific!!! She wrote three novels during lockdown!!!!!

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    4. I've read her Magic Men series and thoroughly enjoyed it.

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    5. Gigi and Deborah, thank you. Just ordered the first Ruth Galloway to see me through any side effects of Moderna 2.:Your enthusiasms for Elly Griffiths are infectious (no vaccine wanted or needed for them).

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    6. Elizabeth, so happy you were encouraged to try the Ruths! I envy you starting the series from the beginning--especially since I've just finished the latest (The Night Hawks) and will have to wait for the next one!

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  20. Definitely dive in and enjoy. The multiple povs have to serve the story though, not serve as an alternative to head-hopping by a different name.

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  21. Sebs,

    Always a joy to read your Duncan and Gemma stories. Regarding multiple POVs, it depends on how it is written.

    If it is clear from the writing who is speaking and the transition between characters are smooth and clear, then I do not mind.

    Sometimes the writing (I cannot recall which author or novel) is written in a confusing way that it is not clear who is who. For example, I keep on confusing one character with another character.

    Diana

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  22. I just jump right in and enjoy the ride! The only time I've had issues with multiple POVs was when the writing was disjointed and the characters kept repeating the same information in different chapters. Nothing new, just the same stuff. Very repetitive. Who knows? Gemma might be up for a night of clubbing, no babysitting or housework!

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    1. Yes, and Duncan can take over all the domestic responsibilities!

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  23. I think the story dictates the choice - I like to create a main character who's increasingly isolated. Claustrophobic. So a single viewpoint suits. But it limits what I can show the reader firsthand because I'm stuck in one head. Multple POVS are so perfect for your books, Debs - SO perfect.

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  24. And honestl, there's a ton of readers out there who'd say: Viewpoint? What are you talking about?? When it works well it's invisible to most readers.

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    1. I’m one of Hallie’s ton with the “what are you talking about?” Duncan and Gemma and Melody and Doug are all involved in telling Deborah’s story...and it is Deborah’s story well-told that matters.

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  25. Multiple POV would be difficult for some writers to pull off with any believability. You do this very well Deborah and so does Louise Penny. The extra dimension that brings can really make the story more interesting as we read the various perspectives. There are some authors though who pull off single point of view but also seem to give a really good perspective of what else is going on. Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day and Carlene O'Connor come to mind. As long as the author tells an interesting story and keeps me turning the pages - I'll read it!

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  26. Love this excerpt, Debs. And I love Gemma and Duncan. I can't wait for their next adventure. I think the book dictates the POV. My current romcom is a shared POV switching from heroine to hero, but my mysteries tend to operate from one POV for the entire mystery.

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  27. I don't really notice POV unless it isn't clear whose POV it is. I'm reading The Postscript Murders, too. I like all her series and also yours. Stay safe and well.

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  28. I just dive in and enjoy...especially if it involves Duncan and Gemma!

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  29. Different POV are wonderfully interesting, when they are written as well as your books Deb! Some authors, none of the Reds I'm sure, seem to jump back and forth too much and muddy the story. But single characters are fun too. However I do have to tell you that you are one of my very favorite authors. And I've had to go back and re-read or re-listen to your books when I can't find any thing else compelling enough. I find if I read one book, then listening to it a couple years later gives me a slightly different perspective, and vice versa.

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  30. It takes a deft hand, but when it works, it gives wonderful insights. I use different colors of highlights or post-its to help keep the narrators straight while reading. Looking forward to this adventure!

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  31. I’m just seeing your post, Debs, and it’s almost time for the next post. I so loved reading this snippet. I like multiple viewpoints. I like reading how more than one person looks at a situation and the different knowledge they bring to it. However, I am happy with whatever brings me a good story.

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