Top Five Books of 2021

While I’m still not entirely convinced that it’s 2022, the date at the bottom right of my computer screen says otherwise, which means it’s time for another ranking of my top five favourite books read last year. And so I’ve sat down to write this.

And so I’ve been thinking about what books I’ve read.

And so, as I’ve discovered, a lot of those books that I’ve read were rereads. However, there were at least five new ones. Without further ado:

The Girl Who Fell Out of the Sky by Victoria Forester

The Girl Who Fell Out of the Sky: Forester, Victoria: 9781250089311: Books  - Amazon.ca
https://www.amazon.ca/Girl-Who-Fell-Sky/dp/125008931X

This is the third book in a trilogy, following The Girl Who Could Fly and The Boy Who Knew Everything, which were some much enjoyed novels from my early teens. It’s about kids with superpowers, shady organizations, a hidden magical land full of weird fauna and flora and more people with superpowers, and, uh, some farm chores. In The Girl Who Fell Out of the Sky, the villain from the previous novel seeks to cause chaos by releasing giant bugs (no, you didn’t read that wrong) from beneath the earth, and in an accident during this event, our protagonist Piper McCloud loses her ability to fly.

The section for this one is going to suffer from the fact that I read this early in the year and my memory of it is worse. It was sweet, but not my favourite from the series, so I’ll consider the number five spot to include all three.

Piper hasn’t seemed to learn after three books that she can’t teach other people to fly, but hey, I admire her optimism.

The Traitor’s Blade by Kevin Sands

The Traitor's Blade | Book by Kevin Sands | Official Publisher Page | Simon  & Schuster Canada
https://www.simonandschuster.ca/books/The-Traitors-Blade/Kevin-Sands/The-Blackthorn-Key/9781534484566

It is here! With a lot of fire on the cover. A little disconcerting, you would think.

This is the fifth book in The Blackthorn Key series, in which an apothecary’s apprentice in the 1660s, Christopher Rowe, solves mysteries and tries not to get himself and his friends killed, all the while blowing stuff up. A lot. It’s a key feature of the novels, and the other characters are thoroughly exasperated about it.

In this particular instalment, Christopher and co. finally return to London after spying for the king in France in the third book and getting shipwrecked in the fourth. Those were fun adventures, but I was also happy to see them return to their original setting and doing more puzzles. Puzzles to stop the plot against the king’s life, because what else?

Like The Girl Who Fell Out of the Sky, I can’t say that this is a favourite for me out of the whole series, but I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing them encounter the Raven (the official big bad) head on. Also, “Quarantine living, as you might imagine, has very few charms” (pg. 152)? Funny. Very funny.

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Children of Dune: Herbert, Frank: 9780593201749: Books - Amazon.ca
https://www.amazon.ca/Children-Dune-Frank-Herbert/dp/0593201744

Since reading Dune in 2020, I have finished Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. This is another one that I read earlier in the year, and thus another one that I remember less of (I really need to read something twice for it to have a lasting impact memory-wise, it would seem). Still, I remember enough for it to have had an impression.

Warning for major spoilers in the next two paragraphs, because the new movie may have lead to more new readers: the third novel in the series follows the twins of Paul Atreides while Arrakis is being ruled by their possessed aunt, Alia. This instalment marks the return of Jessica, Paul being a super secret priest after walking off into the dessert in the previous book, many intertwining plots and deaths, and sandtrout. Many sandtrout. Almost an uncomfortable amount, in fact.

The worldbuilding continues to be interesting, and I particularly enjoyed getting to see more of the inner culture of Arrakeen in the second and third novels. The fact that Alia was the end of Baron Harkonnen only for Baron Harkonnen to ultimately be the end of her… Not upsetting at all, right?

The Truth by Terry Pratchett

The Truth (novel) - Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truth_(novel)

I’m still slowly making my way through the Discworld novels, so yes, of course there’s a Terry Pratchett work on this list.

This is the second installment in the Industrial Revolution section within Discworld. In this case, it’s the newspaper that is being brought into existence, while a plot against Vetinari unfolds. There are dwarves and a vampire and the return of Gaspode the dog (who doesn’t talk, definitely, no, you’re imagining things), and at the centre of it, William de Worde.

It has the same amount of humour and strangeness as his other stories, and keeps with the trend of finding entertainment in what we would consider mundane that comes with the Industrial Revolution novels. The characters also go to increasingly extreme lengths to be able to get the scoop, because sure, William, going to stand at the edge of a tall building when a man is about to jump off of it is entirely reasonable.

The Truth also gets a point for having what I found to be the most disturbing scene so far in the series. I’ll never look at a potato the same way again.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency : Adams, Douglas: Amazon.ca: Books
https://www.amazon.ca/Dirk-Gentlys-Holistic-Detective-Agency/dp/1529034582

So, technically speaking I didn’t finish reading this novel until 2022, but technically speaking I did start it last year. By “I did start it last year” I mean that I started it about a week before New Year’s, HOWEVER, if I remember correctly I got most of it done in that week. I think.

Whatever. It’s going in the 2021 list.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, mainly because the holistic detective agency and Dirk himself doesn’t show up until you’re a fair portion into the book. Otherwise, it held the same wacky humour that I was used to from Hitchhiker’s Guide, although interspersed with some genuine existential dread. The experiences the reader gets to see from Gordon Way as a ghost are quite sad, all things considered, and the same goes for the situation with the aliens.

This is a fascinating ride, what with the plot taking you from one seemingly inconsequential detail to another, except that within the rules of this “holistic” universe, nothing is truly inconsequential.

And with that, 2021’s top five must come to an end. I definitely won’t continue the trend of uploading these later and later into the year, promise.

Why Are You Talking so Loud? : Dialogue

I love writing dialogue. I don’t think I keep it much of a secret that I love writing dialogue. It is, I find personally, one of the most fun parts of writing; getting your characters to interact and seeing how all their voices harmonize, or clash, together.

Dialogue isn’t necessary to writing, but it’s still present to some extent in most pieces of work. It can give some variety instead of having nothing but description. It also, literally, shows the readers your characters’ voices in a way the narrative may not, depending on the point of view used.

There are a few (more like several, I’m sure) factors that go into writing dialogue. The main ones that I can think of off the top of my head are:

Know Your Characters

This is both necessary in the sense of personality and dialect. You need to know what and what not a character would say, as well as any slang or such they might use. Dialogue can be a great way to demonstrate their characteristics or their relationship with other characters – the words they use and the way they speak can say something significant about them as well. This is why knowing your characters is so important: dialogue is one of many possible lenses through which a character can be shown.

Dialogue Tags and the Writing in Between

It can be difficult sometimes to balance dialogue with its tags (said, asked, replied, shouted, etc.) and descriptions versus the actual dialogue. That being said, it’s also important to the flow. On one hand, in a long span of dialogue, I don’t usually want to have just the dialogue itself for paragraphs on end – on the other, having unnecessary descriptions of what the characters are doing at the time is a no-no too. I think this is a common concern for most people while writing dialogue. Thankfully, if need be, there are plenty of things that can be interspersed with dialogue that’s also important to the story: the characters thoughts, reactions, whatever’s happening around the characters that are speaking.

Staying on Track

This is the same technically for any part of writing in that you do kind of need to stay on track. What that looks like will be different for every story/writer, and certain genres will allow for more rambling than others. For example, comedy can allow for lots of wandering dialogue so long as it succeeds the goal of being funny, but you wouldn’t necessarily see the same in an action-oriented book. Overall, though, dialogue will probably have a point of some kind and lots of conversations that characters would be having in the story don’t necessarily need to be written out.

Realistic Conversation

Realistic in this case doesn’t mean realistic in quite the literal sense: a conversation you might see in a comedy skit or a romantic drama or a soap opera on TV all won’t likely be anything real people would say in real life. I think this falls under the suspension of disbelief somewhat. Fiction isn’t usually going to emulate reality perfectly because that isn’t the point, but as with all things in writing, the suspension of disbelief for dialogue can be stretched too thin. It’s like the first point of knowing your characters: is this something they would realistically say? Does the dialogue feel too forced? (Both of these can be hard to gauge, of course, especially if overthinking your writing comes into play). Besides that, in terms of the dialogue being about a dragon or something, the dialogue can be as unrealistic as possible.

These are some fairly overgeneralized points, but ones I think do cover most of the basics that I understand when I think of dialogue. The same as any part of writing, dialogue is a tool for the story, and it can be a hefty one in the metaphorical toolbox depending on an author’s writing preferences.




Chorus: Short Story

This was not initially meant to be a short story, and it might not remain that way. Initially, I was planning on writing something based off of the myth of the Minotaur, where the narrator would act as the Greek “chorus” of the play – albeit, as you will see, disapproved of by the rest of the chorus/narrators. I’ve started working on other things, so this prologue may be as far as things go for a while, but it was still a fun piece to write.

This was somewhat inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ short story The House of Asterion, but of course that in itself was inspired by the myth of the Minotaur. I compiled a doc of research on it for this story and there are obviously several versions of the myth. This excerpt won’t quite get to the retelling of the myth, however, and will mostly be a conversation between the chorus I mentioned.

We would like you to imagine, if you will, a grand amphitheatre, stretching far and wide and rising in seats of stone. And we would like you to imagine that the sun is high in the sky and that birds are singing in the trees; or you may imagine the fall of rain and crash of thunder, whatever suits your fancy. Imagine that we stand on the stage with arms thrown wide, our voices carrying to your ears on the wind, and imagine that this is what we say:

“Well, the ampitheatre is rather silly, I think,” says one of several anonymously hooded figures.

What? we say.

“Nobody goes to theatres anymore. It’s unrealistic.”

You are being ridiculous, we say. Of course people still go to theatres. And you are not speaking correctly.   

“What?” The Figure coughs deeply. “What about now?”

No, no, no, you cannot speak with your mouth, you must speak from the untethered depths of your cosmic spirit.

The Figure pauses. “LIKE THIS?”

No! Now you are simply shouting!

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” says the Figure. “It’s the same effect either way, really.”

We sigh, and lower our arms. The Figure shuffles its feet as we all stare at it in admonishment, for it has done an unspeakable act. Of course, we would never say so to its face.

“Oh, ha, ha. You’re all very funny.”

You are new on the job, are you not? No, do not answer, it is obvious. Let us explain to you what it is that we do. We are the Narrator, the Storyteller, the Ones who push the Plot forward – we have a sacred duty to tell our tales and tell them well. We do not call the setting ‘silly’, and we most certainly do not use quotation marks when we speak. 

“The ampitheatre is silly, though,” says the Figure, drawing away slightly when we glare at it. “This isn’t a play.”

It is about the style of the thing.

“But the story takes place in ancient Greece!”

Hence the ampitheatre, hence the chorus.

“It’s pointless. No one wants to read about us going on like this for an entire page. Why not just move on with the hundredth retelling of a Greek myth?”

I think I will take a sick day, one of us says, a single voice, splitting off from the group and stepping down from the stage. This is giving me a headache.

“We don’t get headaches,” says the Figure. The one that has left the group breaks into a run and disappears from the ampitheatre in a wisp of smoke. “Look, let me tell the story. I can take it from here.”

You are new, you are new, we protest. You do not know a thing.

“Then this will be a good learning experience,” the Figure says with fake innocence.

We ponder this for a long, long moment. It would not be a wise decision, we are sure of that much. However, it would not be the most horrible thing, to have some time to ourselves.

“Great!” The Figure claps its hands, and in the manner of one that does not know the strength of their own voice, their own abilities, sends a booming sound throughout the ampitheatre. We flinch, already regretting our decision. “Good. All right. So…”

The rest of the chorus leaves the ampitheatre. It is only you and me. Our setting wavers, and shifts, until we are in the land of the Minotaur, the Athenian, and the Princess.

I tried to play around a bit with dialogue, here, because the narration is both directed at the reader and directed at the Figure in certain ways. The narrators are fairly passive aggressive, it would seem, but perhaps the Figure won’t be like that.

And even though it’s technically not part of a short story, I’ll call it that for the time being. Or maybe I should just try and write some actual short stories. We’ll see. At the moment this will suffice.

Top Five Books of 2020

If anything can be said of the COVID-19 lockdown from last year, it’s that it certainly gave a lot of time to read. Admittedly, I could have read much more than I did as it stands, but I still read well over enough to complete my top five list of the year.

I also haven’t posted anything since April 2020, but we don’t need to talk about that. Moving right along.

Smek for President! by Adam Rex

Smek for President! (Smek, #2)
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20706799-smek-for-president

Although the first book in this duology, The True Meaning of Smekday, is my favourite of the two, Smek for President was the only one I read this year because I had needed something quick to read. In the first book, Gratuity “Tip” Tucci and J. Lo (the alien one, not the one you might be thinking of) take a hectic road trip in a Boov invaded Earth and ultimately save it with the power of cat hair. In the second, they go to visit one of Jupiter’s moons which the Boov have since inhabited and things continue to be weird.

Smek for President, like its predecessor, is full of humour and added “comics”: such as the several versions of J. Lo interacting after a time travel incident (again, the alien, not the real person). I’d read this book before, but it had been a while and so some parts of it did feel new to me.

This is a very fun book, although without nearly as many cats as the first.

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

Image result for archnemesis marissa meyer
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35425827-archenemies

This one is technically the second book in a trilogy. I read it and the last book, Supernova, last year, but some of the events have since blurred together in my mind, making it difficult to remember which I had liked the most, so to speak. I have decided on Archenemies based on what I can gauge from my own original reactions.

The Renegades trilogy takes place in a world of superheroes and villains, where the Renegades are the main organization for the former. Nova, a member of the villain team the Anarchists, joins the Renegades as a double agent and plenty of problems ensue from there. Archenemies takes place some time down the line from when Nova first began her infiltration, and follows her as she tries to take down the Renegades from the inside with varying amounts of luck.

What can I say? There’s nothing like a cast of characters with cool superpowers.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Image result for dune novel
https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/ace-books-cover-dune-new-edition

I’ll start off by saying that this was a long book.

A very long book.

So long that it was hard to hold it open when I was too close to the beginning or the end.

That being said, I obviously enjoyed it if it made it on to the top of the list. Dune follows the Atreides family on the desert planet Arrakis as a plot to bring down their house is put into place. It has had influence on plenty of modern sci-fi media, such as Star Wars and Star Trek, and the world/universe building is very intricate.

I did find the characters to be flat, and the pacing could be weird at times. Still, it was interesting as a science fiction novel. Frank Herbert obviously put a lot of work into it: roughly five years of research and another five of actually writing. I can’t imagine doing that much prep.

I don’t currently have the energy to really delve into all the themes and ideas explored in Dune, because it can be dense in that respect. So instead I’ll say that the sandworms are awesome. The Fremen riding them around the desert? Awesome.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Image result for hogfather book cover
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogfather

Would it really be one of my top five of the year posts without a Terry Pratchett book? Last year I finally got around to reading the Death series of Discworld just in time to be reading Hogfather during the Christmas/”Hogswatch” season.

This particular Discworld novel takes place during, as you probably would have guessed, its version of Christmas. The Hogfather (kind of like Santa Claus but with boars instead of reindeer) has gone missing due to a mysterious group of hooded figures contacting Ankh-Morpork’s Assassin’s Guild to kill him. Death, who is clearly the logical choice for the job, steps in to do the Hogfather’s job on Hogswatch eve. Meanwhile, his granddaughter Susan tries to figure out why and how, exactly, her immortal-skeleton-grandfather is going around in a sleigh and beard saying “ho ho ho” an awful lot.

Pratchett’s work is, as always, comedic and strange in the best of ways. I enjoyed Hogfather very much and it was a great book for December.

Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Image result for return of the thief
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11503920-return-of-the-thief

Another author that has fairly consistently appeared in my top five posts is Megan Whalen Turner, and with the final book in the Queen’s Thief series being released last year, it’s probably a given that I would choose Return of the Thief for this spot. It still seems strange that the series is over, but I of course enjoyed the final installment. I had to limit myself to fifty pages a day once it arrived to avoid having it gone all in one go.

The sixth book is written from the point of view of Pheris Erondites, a member of the house Eugenides (the main character of the first book and somewhat the focus of the others) was in the process of bringing down in the previous installments. Pheris is sent to the court of Attolia to be the attendant of Eugenides, the king. Baron Erondites believes that Pheris’ cerebral palsy will mean that he will be sent back, but Eugenides does the exact opposite, and Return of the Thief follows Pheris’ new life at the palace as well as the approaching invasion of the Mede.

Turner’s writing is wonderful and the world feels fully fleshed-out. I do wish that we could have heard more from certain characters, but given the breadth of the cast and how the storyline goes it could have been difficult. Needless to say, as one of my favourite series, I enjoyed Return of the Thief thoroughly – and it also made me have to go back and read King of Attolia. Of course.

And that’s it for my fifth ever five books of the year post. There will never be another perfect number like that again, so appreciate it while it lasts.

End Times

So, it is officially the end of Lent. While I’m familiar with the blog, this has definitely been a new one for me, and it took more time than the usual things that I do around this time. Over the course of these last forty days I have posted thirteen posts, which is more than I’ve done in any single year since I got the blog.

My idea of getting posts out every day wasn’t actually realistic, it turns out, or else there would have been a lot more. It does take quite a bit of work to edit, write, and do the research that I did. I don’t know that I would have been able to do about forty posts, because the ideas might have dried out by that point. I have a draft labeled “brainstorming” that I made with a list of a bunch of posts I could make, and I’ve gradually been crossing them out. There is still quite a bit on there, though, so I will be continuing to use it.

I doubt I’m going to be working on the blog quite as much because of school work (it might all be classified as homework now, because self isolation means I’m always at home, right?), but I’m going to try and keep up the work on it. I mean, in 2019 I only had one post, and I can seek to do much better than that.

In short, this marks the end of my Lent posts. But even now I have a couple of things in the works, so it isn’t the end of everything.

Don’t Talk to Strangers (Even if They Buy You Gin)

Who’s ready for another short story with a dubious ending? That’s right, you are!

Seriously though, if you don’t want to read through something that technically ends with a cliff hanger, this isn’t the post for you. Neither, probably, is most of the My Writing tag. Still, the excerpt I’m going to include here was one I quite enjoyed making and thought would be a good one to include on the blog. I wrote it in November of 2019, and I was reading through it recently. It was strange to look back on it with a lowered sense of connection from when I had been actively working on it.

This short story took a lot of researching. A lot more, in fact, than some of the full stories I used to write, of course those ones were also never given editing. It’s probably one of my own writing weaknesses. Research can sometimes feel stretched out when you just want to get to writing, but in this case, it wasn’t so bad. I did learn a lot more about The Great Stink of London in 1858 than I needed to, though.

A great stink. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? There’s no need to worry about anything gross in this excerpt, however, because a lot of the particular details didn’t make it into the short story. I won’t elaborate on the title in this introduction, but now you know the time period, and have some knowledge of what to expect. Maybe.

As a small warning: Despite me calling it a short story, and putting “short story” in the tags, I think this post has gotten longer than some of my other excerpts. End of warning.

Abel never really saw the fist coming.

The man swung out of nowhere, his knuckles bashing against Abel’s jaw with enough force to knock him to the floor. A few other patrons glanced in their direction. None of them made any attempt to help. In fact, most of them appeared to be mildly annoyed. 

He groaned as his attacker lifted him by the collar of his shirt, and brought him nose to nose with the man. Abel avoided his eyes, watching the spittle dribble from the side of his mouth. It flew at him when the man began to speak.

“Was you s’riously tryna steal from me, boy?” He shook him and Abel felt his teeth chatter together. “Huh? Ya think you can best me? Oh, no.”

“I wasn’t, I swear it, sir,” Abel said. In truth, Abel’s promises were worth about a grain of sand, but telling the man that would only anger him further.

His reply only gained him a snarl. “Yeah, right. Hold still.”

“Not like I have a choice,” Abel managed to grunt out. Before his eyes, the arm drew back again, a beefy fist was directed at his nose, and he swore he could already feel blood flowing from his nostrils-

“Sammy.”

A voice like silk broke through the noise of chatter, and with that one word the man’s fist halted. “Sammy” looked like a child that had been denied a piece of candy. Roughly, Abel’s feet were set back on the ground, but Sammy still kept his hold on him. Abel didn’t quite mind. He was too focused on searching the tavern for his savior.

A woman Abel had never seen in the city before made her way toward them. Her yellow dress swirled around her legs, and dark hair tumbled over her shoulders in waves. Abel’s brain barely had the time to form the sentence of she’s beautiful before Sammy shoved him against the nearest table.

“Gentle, now. We don’t want to cause any trouble,” the mystery woman said. She looked Abel up and down shrewdly. “And buy this good man a drink.”

As if Sammy’s night wasn’t going awful enough. He gaped at her for a good five seconds, and then grumbled as he went up to the barman. The mystery woman waved her hand to the table (which Abel was pretty sure had left a horrible mark in his back) and Abel, not wanting to upset the person who had stopped a brute like Sammy, promptly took a seat. She sat across from him.

Abel stared at her, unable to mask his confusion. She stared back for a while until she let out a laugh.

“Oh yes, how rude of me, I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Clara Cojocaru.”

“Johnson. Abel Johnson,” was Abel’s weak response. Her name didn’t explain much. It didn’t tell him why the pub owner let him in or why she had so much power over Sammy. Was he her servant? It didn’t seem likely.

The only thing Abel could derive from Clara’s name was that she was a foreigner. He had guessed so from her accent, and the fact that he didn’t recognize her. He knew everyone, whether they liked their acquaintance with him or not.

“I mean no offense, but, your family name is…” Abel trailed off. What was he thinking? Clara was probably a noble, or at least higher up on the social hierarchy than Abel.

“Strange?” Clara finished, and Abel winced. To his surprise, Clara gave him a closed mouth smile and explained. “It’s Romanian.”

Sammy slammed a mug of gin dangerously close to Abel’s right hand. He then lumbered off, still grumbling about bloody thieves. It was only after he was a fair distance away that Abel dared to take a sip of the drink.

“Whatever are you doing in London?” he asked next. The city wasn’t the best to visit. Especially not that summer, with the Great Stink and people dropping all around like flies from diseases. Everyone knew of the miasma theory.

“I’m taking care of my grandfather. Time hasn’t treated him kindly, and he doesn’t really have anyone else to look after him in his old age.” Clara sighed, and tossed a glance over at Sammy. “Besides his lot, of course, but that man is the thickest I’ve ever seen. He wouldn’t be able to tell a hucul pony from a mule.”

“Ah,” said Abel, and he paused for a moment. “I didn’t mean to steal from him.”

Clara winked. “It’s quite all right, Mister Johnson. You don’t have to lie to me. In fact, I highly recommend that you don’t if you know what is in your best interests.”

Apparently, Clara knew just the right way to refocus Abel’s attention. “Seriously? A real, paying job?”

“A real, paying job,” Clara confirmed. “It will only last a few months or so. But I promise you, it will give you enough money to last you the rest of your life.”

Abel didn’t realize he was literally hanging off the edge of his seat until he nearly fell off. He pushed himself back, and took another sip from his mug as if that would clear his thoughts. Clara’s offer sounded amazing, but it was way too good to be true.

“Why would you hire someone you just met?”

“Because although we haven’t met, I have known you for a long time. I’ve been watching you, Abel Johnson.” Clara smiled then, fully that time, and Abel could clearly make out a set of fangs glinting in the candle light. “I am in need of your assistance.”

Every muscle in Abel’s body tensed and his mind shouted at him. Vampire. Abel shot up, and bolted out the tavern’s door into the streets. An awful stench reached in and scratched at the inside of his nose, but Abel barely stopped to gag. He simply pulled his shirt up over half of his face and kept running.

Clara wasn’t from London. She couldn’t know the city like Abel did. He darted through the alleys madly, and checked the skies multiple times to make sure that no bat was flying overhead. After a minute of this, Abel finally slowed down and took a rest against the nearest building.

Heavy footsteps sounded from around the corner of Abel’s alley. Logically, he knew that it probably wasn’t Sammy, yet he still backed away in fear. He caught a shadow in the shape of Sammy’s outline as he hid behind a house. If Abel remained quiet, he would move on and go away. Everything would be fine.

That line of thought lasted a good second before he turned around to find Clara standing directly behind him. Abel lost all composure that he had left, and screamed.

Sammy’s footsteps continued to sound, louder and faster that time, while Clara stood still and watched Abel. There wasn’t any maliciousness in her eyes, only polite curiosity. Abel never got far in escaping a second time, because soon enough Sammy’s hand was clamped down on his shoulder. He really should have brought some garlic out with him that night.

“It’s rude to run out on a lady like that, Mister Johnson,” Clara chided lightly. Abel tried to wrench out of Sammy’s grip to no avail.

“You’re no lady,” he spat out.

Clara feigned offense, placing a hand above her still heart. “Just because a woman is a monster, doesn’t mean she can’t be a lady.” She snapped her fingers, and Sammy slung Abel over one shoulder as if he was nothing more than a bag of feathers.

They wandered back to the tavern. Abel felt too terrified to speak, and if he tried the heat and the constant swinging of Sammy’s movement would make him retch. After a while, Sammy cleared his throat.

“Can’t I pummel ‘im now, ma’am?”

“No.”

“But I-”

“Not now, Samuel.”

And that was that. Sammy huffed, readjusted Abel into the most uncomfortable position, and followed the vampire all the way to the tavern door. Once they were right outside and could make out the vulgar drinking songs, Sammy put Abel back on the ground. Clara turned to face him.

“Here’s what is going to happen,” she said lowly. “The three of us are going to go back in there. You’re going to finish all of the gin. And we’re going to discuss the details of the job like civil people. Understand?”

Abel could do nothing more but nod. Clara opened the door, and led him back to their table, with Sammy hovering over his shoulder every step of the way. Abel sat down, staring forlornly at his mug. What would happen if he shouted to the rest of the occupants and warned them that there was a vampire in their midst? Would they flee? Would Clara deal with them?

He took a glance around the tavern, and found that none of them even found it odd that Abel had ran off and just returned. They probably wouldn’t notice if he warned them, anyway.

“Are you going to suck my blood?” Abel murmured.

“Of course not.” Clara almost looked scandalized by the idea. “You’re too important for that.” Abel’s head spun. Whatever she needed him for, it couldn’t possibly be good.

“Why is that?”

“You’re a talented thief. I want you to steal for me.”

“I-what?” Out of anything the vampire would have wanted from him, Abel hadn’t been expecting that. “You want me to steal something?”

Clara took the other chair and placed it next to Abel, then sat down by his side. Goosebumps travelled up his arms as she leaned in to whisper to him. “I’ve been scouring all of Europe for a competent thief that can aid me. You are quite promising in that regard, Mr. Johnson.”

“I’m not that competent,” Abel rushed to claim. Normally he would have taken pride in such a comment, but not when it came from some random vampire he met in a tavern who was trying to drag him into her plans. “I mean, even Sammy caught me trying to swipe his coin purse.”

“He went for me ento’ire coin purse,” Sammy complained. “Not just a penny, not a shillin’, no, no. The ento’ire thing.”

“I told you I’ve been watching you. We followed you in here and made sure that his money seemed appealing enough for you to try and take. He even acted like an oblivious brute; which, not difficult for him,” Clara said, and Abel cringed as he waited for Sammy’s reaction. Besides a slight stiffening behind them, he did nothing. “But Sammy knew to look for you. When faced with most situations, you are successful in taking home your prize, are you not?”

Abel didn’t respond.

“Are you not?” Clara repeated firmly. Abel hesitated, and after a tense moment of weighing his options, nodded. Satisfied, Clara nodded as well, then pointed to his abandoned mug. “Drink.”

“You’re just trying to make me drunk,” Abel protested.

“Drink.”

“For all I know it’s poisoned.” The thought made him sick to his stomach. He had already ingested a fair amount of the gin.   

Sammy’s hands gripped Abel’s shoulders once more. The threat was clear enough, and Abel obediently picked up the mug to raise it to his lips. Even so, he made sure to take only the smallest of sips. Sammy removed his hands after a few seconds, to Abel’s relief, and he felt safe enough to set the mug back on the table.

“All right, I’ll indulge for now,” Abel told Clara. “What is it that you want me to steal?”

A pleased smile crossed Clara’s face. She sat back in her seat, and smoothed her skirts. “Nothing too serious. Only an artifact from the Buckingham Palace.”

Abel began to hack on his own spit. Clara waved her hand dismissively when a few patrons glanced their way (Oh, now they care, Abel thought to himself), while Sammy thumped his hand on Abel’s back. It felt like the man was trying to shatter his spine. Buckingham Palace. She must have been crazy.

“No,” Abel said. “No. That’s insane. I can’t break into the palace!” He was far from the monarchy’s good graces in the first place.

“You’ll be in and out in no time. I’m sure no one will even notice what you stole went missing. Easy.”

“If it was truly easy, you wouldn’t put so much effort into seeking me out.” Abel rested a hand over his eyes, and released a sigh. “Why, pray tell, can’t you just do this yourself?”

“Me?” Clara pointed to herself, eyebrows raised. “My kind don’t get anywhere without an invitation. Besides, I’m not a thief, Mister Johnson. I don’t do stealth.”

He knew she had a point, but he peeked at her cautiously from behind his fingers. “Aren’t you a vampire? Creature of the night, mistress of secrecy?” Abel’s question made Clara wave to her brightly coloured dress.

“It’s adorable that you think so, but I, for one, tend to stick out in a crowd.”

It was true, Abel had to admit to himself grudgingly. Several men had been eyeing her since she showed up. Strangely for her kind, Clara was dazzling. The way she held herself made her seem like sunshine incarnated. Abel, on the other hand, was forgettable. Average. He was just another face in the crowd, and everyone’s gazes slid right over him. Perfect for thieving.

And, unfortunately, perfect for Clara’s job. Abel closed his fingers and began to slide down in his chair.

“It’s a family heirloom that was stolen from us. From my grandfather,” Clara said, and for the first time, there was a hint of anger in her face.

“Oh, so the ‘taking care of my grandfather’ isn’t part of the ploy, huh?” He’d been sure that it was. In fact, as Abel thought it through, there were a lot of things he was sure of.

Most of it was that if the heirloom was stolen, it must have been for a reason. What if it was dangerous? What if Abel dropped a weapon into the hands of some of the already most dangerous people in the world?

Yes, but what will happen to you if you say no? a voice deep inside of Abel’s mind whispered. He shuddered.

Clara was speaking, with every word passing over Abel’s head. She laid a hand on Abel’s forearm and shook him gently to bring him back to the present. He blinked, looked around, and met Clara’s eyes.

“Are you all right, Mister Johnson? You’re looking a little sickly,” she said.

“Because you poisoned me!” Abel snapped in response. He could already feel his mind fogging up, becoming as messy as the Thames.

“Don’t be ridiculous, there was nothing in your gin. Sammy didn’t bring any poisons with him tonight.” Clara took his chin, and inspected him closely. “You are, however, rather drunk.”

Abel stared at her, trying to maintain focus. He couldn’t deal with her while his mind was addled. “Your grandfather.”

“As I was saying, he is real and truly in need of taking care of. You don’t exist for thousands of years without shaking a few screws loose.” Clara laughed, and Abel laughed as well, although he wasn’t sure why. “I moved to London to help him this spring. But I also moved to take back what is rightfully ours.”

“What?”

“Oh, just a pysanka. A little decorative egg.”

Of course. Clara only wanted Abel to break into the Buckingham Palace itself to retrieve a harmless egg. It all made perfect sense. Abel reached out when he felt his mind slipping away from him, and braced both hands against the table. Concentrate.

“What does it do?” he demanded.

Clara furrowed her brow. “I beg your pardon?”

“What does it do?” Abel repeated slowly, half to make sure Clara heard him, and half to make sure he didn’t slur his words. “Why do you want it?”

“It’s important to my grandfather, and it’s important to me.”

Her expression closed up, and she slammed her mouth shut afterwards. Abel tried to point an accusing finger at her, but failed, and ended up slumping against her side. He suddenly had the overwhelming urge to cry into her shoulder. Clara and Sammy helped sit Abel back up right.

“You wouldn’t go through so much trouble,” Abel managed, “just for a family heirloom.”

“Fine, sure,” Clara said with a tight smile. “If you’re going to be so cynical about this, it does have quite… an enchanting effect on humans.”

“Makes fer easy prey,” Sammy added gruffly.

“Not doin’ it. Not helpin’ou.” Abel’s eyes stung, and Sammy had to grab his shoulder again just to keep him from face planting the mug.

“I already told you that I’d make it worth your while. Don’t you at least want to know how much money I’m offering?”

He did, honestly, but he wasn’t going to say so. What kind of bugger agreed to hand over a weapon to a vampire? It didn’t seem to matter what Abel had to say, however, as Clara promptly leaned in and whispered the amount in his ear. Within seconds, Abel’s eyes were nearly the size of saucers.

That many pounds really would set him up for life. The thought of never spending his nights on the streets, of no more pickpocketing, stealing, and risking his safety to stay alive made his heart skip a beat. Still… Abel closed his eyes.

“Suicide mission. Tha’s wha it is. Besides, tha egg sounds dang’rous.”

“Come on, Abel,” Clara prompted. “You know you want to do this. You’ll be rich! I promise I won’t use the egg to cause harm; I simply want it back for my grandfather. And I believe you are the only one that can do that for me.”

Abel rolled her words over in his head, and found himself nodding along. If he could figure out the routine of Buckingham’s guards, then maybe he would have a shot. It wasn’t as if a pysanka could really cause that much trouble, right?

He gave Clara a look. “Promise no harm?”

“I promise,” Clara said, her voice still as smooth as silk. “Now, do we have a deal, Mister Johnson?”

The vampire extended her hand to the thief. Abel knew in the depths of his consciousness that he wasn’t thinking clearly and should say no, but he still accepted Clara’s hand and shook it. Already it felt like a huge mistake. The tears that had been piling up trickled out of his eyes, and sobs escaped his mouth.

“That’s just the gin as well, Mister Johnson. We should get you some place where you can rest,” said Clara. She gave Abel’s hand one last squeeze, and stood up.

Abel was only vaguely aware that Sammy picked him up again as he cried. He really was only vaguely aware about anything the entire trip through London’s winding streets. At some point they entered a large house, which according to Abel’s memory was definitely not his. Clara stopped to talk to an elderly man, whom she called Bunic. Then she continued to lead Sammy and, by extension Abel, to some sort of guest room.

He was set in the bed and brought a glass of water by a young woman that closely resembled Sammy. She pulled the covers up over Abel, and Clara observed the scene from the doorway. The servant finished up, curtsied to Clara, and scurried away from the room as fast as she could. The two were completely alone.

“All those people,” Abel whispered. “Dying from cholera. It’s not just the sickness killing them off, is it?”

Clara’s expression wasn’t unsympathetic when she answered, “I have to get blood somehow, don’t I?”

He rolled over and buried his face into the pillow. He didn’t want to talk about it anymore. He just wanted to drift off to the dream world, and hopefully survive whatever hangover was waiting for him in the morning. Then hopefully survive whatever would come next.

“Sleep well, Abel Johnson,” Clara said to him as she left, turning down the gaslamp. “We have a lot to plan when you wake.”

A few fun facts from the referenced research I did on this: The miasma theory was a medical theory that proposed diseases came from miasma, or “bad air”. Hucul ponies were originally bred in the Carpathian Mountains. A pysanka is a Ukrainian Easter egg. It’s estimated that 6, 536 people died in London during The Great Stink, and 20, 000 people nationally. It was apparently caused by a large wave of heat in the summer making all the waste in the River Thames ferment. In addition, there were a lot of cool vampire myths.

I can’t recall why I wanted to write a short story with a vampire at the time. Maybe because Halloween was nearing when I started, or I was inspired by something else I saw. Either way, it was a lot of fun to write, and an interesting storyline that I could perhaps pick up again.

Some day I will post a short story that has a better ending. Today is not that day.

Personality Test

Personalities. Unless you happen to be a soulless husk of a human being, everyone has one. As you can probably expect, however, I will be focusing on the personalities of fictional characters instead of the personalities of real life people (even if these two will probably end up coinciding). How an author develops a character’s personality, and how it is kept consistent throughout a fictional work, can be a difficult process overall.

I think there are varying methods for coming up with a character’s personality. Some people go into great detail with it, in fact. They make up questionnaires and then fill out the answers they think their character would give, or write out a full description so they have it on hand, or any number of organized tactics. I have tried this a couple of times myself. There is a set of questions/prompts in a writing advice book I have (Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer) that I remember answering in a separate notebook for a couple of stories, but I don’t think they were ever finished. It is a good method to go by, but I don’t use it often when creating personalities.

Then there may be authors who do it on the fly and see how their characters’ personalities grow while the story continues. Many people will fall somewhere in between this and detailed character questionnaires. It is speculated that the personalities can be influenced to some degree by the author in question, people that they know, and even other creators’ characters. The environment of the story seems to have the possibility to shape them as well.

Usually, I have a fairly clear image of a character in my head, and if they aren’t fully fleshed out then I can have the basics down. What I mean by that, to go more in depth, is that a character is probably going to need more polishing beyond the initial idea, as it is with all things when coming up with a story: the plot, the world, everything. Likewise, a personality is something you could possibly not get the hang of until half way through your first draft, and then in latter edits you can apply your new knowledge of your character.

Still, the baseline is there for me, and I assume there are a lot of writers who function the same. This will depend, of course, on someone’s personal strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing, but from what I’ve seen you can usually access the ‘feel’ of a character quickly. If you spend enough time with them in your head, even if you aren’t writing anything down for a while, you have a good chance of getting to know their personality, behaviour, motivation, etc. Putting the characters into their environments, situations, and working out how they react solidifies all that.

Character development would appear to be a well discussed topic, of course it is very important in literature. Even in a plot driven story needs to flesh out its characters. This comes with making them well rounded, accenting their traits, and giving them flaws. Their backstory is also normally involved in development.

This stuff on its own can already be a daunting task, but after the characters are created you also need to work at keeping their personality consistent throughout your story – or, longer, your series. I’ve probably made many of my own slip ups in this area. Consistency, especially when you aren’t working on a story for long periods of time, can easily be broken in character, plot, setting, or other elements of writing. Sometimes the way a character acts in the beginning of a work doesn’t fit with the way they act later in a work, and the changes have no reasonable logic behind them in terms of character arc. It can be an awful feeling when you lose your grip on a character’s personality.

However, as it was with general character development, the first draft is there to smooth those difficulties out a bit. Anything that doesn’t make sense for a certain character can be changed; although, admittedly, this could lead to a lot of revising, to the point of major plot changes. Such is life.

A writer generally needs to know a character’s personality inside and out to help the story be successful. Both development and consistency are crucial to that. It can be a fun aspect of storytelling, though, to play around with the creation of characters and figure out how they think, how they act, and what makes them tick. I do make it sound slightly as if characters are some pre-existing entities that an author meets, and that it isn’t all coming from their heads, but it can genuinely feel like that sometimes. And when you spend so much time with the characters inside your own head, it is easy to get attached, which goes for the writers as well as the readers.

You Are the Star of the Show

My latest post was about the four types of points of view found in fiction, where in one paragraph I spoke of the difficulties that came with writing in second person. To review, it is the POV that features “you”, and that really is a strange position to have for a story. This can immerse the reader more deeply, but it comes with the question of who is the you? Is it the reader, in which case personalities will vary, or is it a character being addressed as you the whole time, and why would that be happening?

I decided to try my hand at writing a longer snippet of something in second person point of view. However, I didn’t have much of an idea for a small story as I went, so the quality is probably more that of a quick writing exercise. Still, it was meant to be an experiment of mine, so take a look if you will.

It had been a few weeks since you first rented the house out from the landlord. It was a modest abode, and the wallpaper was peeling in places, but you had grown to be fairly fond of it nonetheless. The only real problem was the sounds you heard in the middle of the night.

“There used to be a few raccoons in the attic,” the landlord had explained when the two of you were exploring the house. He took a broom and prodded the hatch a couple of times. “But pest control took care of them a while back.

Even so, you would lay awake in bed and listen to the skittering from above. You told yourself that it was normal for there to be noises. It could simply be something on the roof. However, the longer it stayed, and the louder it was, you gave in and called both the landlord and pest control.

A quick swoop of the attic and they could inform you that in their professional opinion there was nothing living up there. The noises endured. You deemed their professional opinion worthless to you in this situation and went to check the attic yourself.

Maybe it wasn’t your brightest idea. It certainly went up there with all of your most questionable childhood escapades, and you had the thought that it was being brought on more by a lack of sleep than your common sense, but you proceeded to the hatch, armed with your own broom, flashlight, and ladder.

You climbed the ladder. Tucked the broom under your arm. Pushed open the hatch, and managed to crawl through in nothing but your nightclothes. You were immediately hit by a wave of humid air, and as you surveyed the attic with your eyes, all you saw was a small space with a couple of boxes set off to the side.

Whereas the skittering had been going on as loud as ever before you had busted through the hatch, the attic was suddenly, and eerily, quiet. It was probably just the darkness making you paranoid, but you pulled out the flashlight and pressed forward.

You inspected the boxes out of plain curiosity. With the end of the broom, you nudged the first one open, and found an old wall clock with a rusted pendulum. There was also a quilt blanket, a bicycle in one of the larger boxes, a photo album with no photos, and food cans with large chunks taken out of them. It was hard to tell whether it all belonged to the landlord or the former owners of the house. Still, none of it explained the weird noises. You looked around, and shined your light over the very edge of the attic, where you hadn’t yet checked. The cobwebs and dust were much more congested there.

What if it’s a giant spider? a voice whispered at the back of your head as you moved closer. You dismissed it, although not entirely with ease.

When you were standing inches from the back wall, peering at the (tiny) spiders who called the attic their home, you heard the skittering again. It came from your right, among the boxes, and you swung the flashlight in their direction without a second thought. The sound stopped just as suddenly.

“Is anybody there?” you called out, even if you weren’t sure why. You were doubtful that there was a person living up there, but perhaps the sound of your voice, if it came out calm enough, would lessen the quaking that had begun in your legs. You really did need more sleep. Maybe a glass of warm milk and someone to knock you out.

No one answered your question. Had you expected anyone to? However, there was a creak in the floorboards, so you haltingly began to approach the boxes.

It was probably just raccoons again. Mice. A stray cat. Anything other than, say, a giant spider. You tried your best to assure yourself of that.

Using the broom once more, you pushed a couple of boxes to the side, and a loud hiss made you jump back instinctively. You saw the shape of the creature that time, the curve of its back as it ran behind another set of boxes. You inhaled, and exhaled again.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” you said slowly. “As long as you plan on not hurting me as well, everything will turn out…just fine.”

Then you were standing amongst a bunch of old boxes, your flashlight outlining the scene almost theatrically, and a strangely humanoid being was staring up at you with pitch black eyes. You took in all of it, your own eyes widening: the pale green skin, the elongated ears, and spindly fingers. The oddest part was the pair of iridescent wings sprouting from its back.

Whatever you thought you had been expecting, it hadn’t been that.

You began to classify the creature as a faerie, out of lack of a better name. Gremlin might have been a better choice, considering that after it had been discovered, it didn’t seem to see any point in secrecy and made itself regularly known in your home.

It liked to fill up your bathtub with water and splash around in it, greatly increasing your water bill. It also liked opening boxes of cereal, crackers, or anything it could get its hands on, and shaking the contents across the kitchen and living room. You imagined it was what it was like having the type of dog that loved to tear up every cushion available.

That thing, however, wasn’t a dog. You could tell it understood you, but it couldn’t speak back and would purposefully ignore you most of the time. It might have been best if you had left the scuttling noises to be a mystery.

What were you supposed to do? Call the landlord? Pest control? The police? You doubted you could successfully keep it locked up anywhere for a long period of time, and then whenever someone arrived the faerie would have disappeared, making you look insane. After a couple of failed attempts trying to lure it into the attic and stick a padlock on the hatch, you reluctantly turned to the Internet for help.

There were a few simple points that supposedly helped when faeries were involved. Telling them your name was a bad idea. Saying “thank you” was a bad idea. Most things, it would appear, were bad ideas.

You shot the faerie a dirty look where it was huddled in a corner chewing on the contents of your recycling bin. It noticed you staring, hissed, and pressed further against the wall as it continued its snack. You figured you might as well give another try at communication.

“Hey,” you said, shifting in your chair to face the creature. Its dark eyes fixed on you calculatingly. “So. You’re a fan of plastic.”

The faerie swallowed a pop can whole. You pressed on.

“Do you eat batteries? It would be great if you ate batteries.” You released a snort. “Or my junk mail.”

It still didn’t respond, but it seemed to be listening. You tapped your fingers on the table a couple of times.

“All right, we’ll use the classic. I’m going to ask you a series of questions, and if you want to be cooperative, you can stomp your foot once for yes and twice for no.” You paused for a moment. “Are you getting this?”

The faerie tilted its head. It continued to eat the recycling, and you were just beginning to think that you weren’t going to get anything out of it when it tapped its foot against the floor twice.

“Oh, ha ha,” you said, sounding somewhere between annoyed and relieved. “Okay, so you do understand English. Have you been in this house for a while?”

One tap.

Not a newcomer. You wondered how the landlord couldn’t have noticed. “And you’re the only one here?”

One tap.

“I imagine that must be lonely.” Silence. “Are you ever going to stop being a little pest around here?”

Two taps, and something that resembled a grin. You had to give her some points for honesty, you guessed.

You took a moment to gather your thoughts, and released a breath. “I’m not going to pretend like this situation isn’t extremely weird for me. I wasn’t expecting a roommate, let alone one with wings that keeps chewing on the plastic.”

She gave you another one of those grins.

“But if you can promise that you won’t cause massive trouble for me,” you continued slowly, “I won’t get anyone else involved. I’ll keep you a secret.” It still seemed unlikely that anybody would believe you if you revealed you had a faerie living in your new house, but she looked like a creature that wanted to stay in hiding as much as possible. “Deal?’

The faerie considered you for a long while. Then, she brought her foot down, making one resounding thump travel through the kitchen.

For all the talk of complications with faeries, they were known for keeping to their promises.

Somewhere along the line while making this post my laptop started acting up again, but I wouldn’t peg that as why it was later to come out. It’s more due to the fact that I was writing the extract from scratch. Besides that though, and my delving into an abundance of research on both landlords and attics, there wasn’t a lot of problems that came with writing a second person point of view.

Despite my own thoughts on this POV, it wasn’t super different from writing first or third person. In the context of this story it was easy to avoid using a name, and I didn’t look to deeply into the person’s history so that it was relatively left open what their, or your, life was like.

I guess when it comes down to it my biggest qualms is with personality. It may not be the case that the “you” in a second person narrative is meant to be the reader, but if it is, the immersion can be thrown off if the character voice is different from the individual. Some people would have gone up to check the weird noises in the attic, some wouldn’t, some would have immediately moved out of the house. If the goal were ever to tailor the story to a wide range of personalities, then one is likely to come up short.

That being said, there are definitely instances where second person POV can work. Aside from this quick excerpt, there are whole novels that have been made using it, like I mentioned in my last post: Stolen by Lucy Christopher, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, and The Night Circus by Ryan North, among many more. I have yet to look at any of them myself, but it would be an interesting read.

Note: If you do, by any chance, find a faerie-like creature in the attic of your new home, this is not a professional guide of what to do. Please keep them away from recycling.

It’s All About Your Point of View

I’m happy to say that my computer is back from repairs and working just fine! I think that now, I have a deeper appreciation of a large screen, faster processing speed, and the words showing up at the same time as I type them on the keyboard. The poor little laptop that I was using as a replacement (which is quite old at this point) didn’t seem prepared for me to copy an entire extract manually from my writing book onto the computer.

All of my docs are fine, so the next time I plan on putting something from there into one of my posts it should go a lot faster. That’s not what I am going to be doing for today, however. Instead, I’ll be writing about points of view in writing.

This won’t be new information, but as a preface, there are four different POVs: first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient.

First person: The main character is the narrator. The pronoun “I” is used.

Second person: The story addresses you, the reader. Likewise, the pronoun “you” is used.

Third person (limited): The narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of a character, or maybe that character and a couple more. It acts as an outsider view that retells their experiences. The pronouns “he” or “she” are usually used.

Third person (omniscient): The narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of every character in the story. Same pronouns are used, though.

First and third person POVs are the most common in fiction. Second person tends to be difficult to weave into a whole story. Still, each of them have their own advantages.

First person point of view has possibly the most potential to be connected to the character. It is great for inner monologues, because that will come naturally while writing, and it is also great for humour. That, or something with more emotional depth, allowing you to get close to the narrator. While all POVs (except omniscient, which would be difficult unless you restrict it correctly) can work as unreliable narrators, I feel like first person is the best for it, since it gives a lot of room for in-universe reasons that the character might be misleading. A few examples are: the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (along with the other series set in that universe), The Thief, Thick as Thieves, and a bit of A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner, the Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, etc. I’ve used it a couple of times myself, such as in Thief, and of course I’m writing in first person right at this moment.

Once again, the second person point of view can be tricky. I haven’t personally seen it in a lot of places, save for maybe some music or poetry. I think, though, that this POV has a great opportunity to be haunting, or reach the reader in an interesting way. It would probably work best in a short story or, as mentioned before, in music or poetry, instead of in a novel. One example I can think of that is easy to find on the Internet are the reader-insert fanfictions that float around, but as for published stuff: Stolen by Lucy Christopher, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, The Night Circus by Ryan North, etc. These are all novels I found from Google, however, this short post includes a snippet of something I wrote in second person as a bit of a joke.

When it comes to limited third person points of view, it is much less difficult to think of examples than for second person. It can also be said to be closer to a first person style than the omniscient POV. The narrator isn’t a part of the story (at least most of the time, although in some cases the narrator is made into their own character), but can still recount what is going on inside the selected character’s head and “see” what they are doing. I’m not sure how many characters the narrator can have insight for before it is considered to be omniscient, however, it’s safe to say that this POV is very anchored to its protagonist. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, as far as I remember, is limited third person, since it focuses on how Meg Murry is experiencing their adventures. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling includes some chapters featuring a variety of characters’ POVs, but for the most part it, too, sticks with Harry’s own inner monologue. This is the POV I tend to use lately, and the most recent example of that is the “Archers” story, here and here. The character Aylwin is the only one you ever hear from narration wise.

Third person omniscient is like the VIP of points of view, with full access to everything. It will tell you what the protagonist is thinking, what the antagonist is thinking, what the supporting character is thinking, even what that random person on the street is thinking. No one is safe. Depending on the author’s preference, which character is being fully narrated will be divided into chapters, or switch whenever it’s convenient during the story. It definitely allows for more flexibility when it comes to how the writer wants the reader to view events. The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels by Douglas Adams are great examples of this, although I’m sure they used omniscient in their other works as well. These two authors often switch who is in control, and the shift can be extremely quick. In some books it’s more present than in others. Leigh Bardugo, on the other hand, uses omniscient writing in the divided by chapters style, as seen in the Six of Crows duology. I don’t use it enough to have my own examples, though.

Four POVs, but dozens of ways they play out in stories. Each give their own subtle changes to the narrative, so often changing who the point of view is from – or even the style of it – can make it entirely different. In fact, that is said to be a great writing exercise when you’re stuck. I lean more towards third person limited, but anyone else might prefer omniscient, first person, even second person. Maybe a variety of all four.

In the end, the moral of the story is: points of view in literature are a diverse sort of thing, and writing this post with my own laptop back was like a breath of fresh air.

Shifting Into Literary Drive

There are a lot of elements that work in tandem to produce a good story. Central conflict, setting, characters, plot; I could go on. Writing style, the crafting of sentences and the like will give it its flavour. One of the well known distinctions of a novel, however, is whether it is character driven or plot driven, which is what I will be exploring in this post.

Trying to explore, anyway. It’s not like this is my very own literary course, but we’ll see how it goes.

The long and short of it is that a character driven story focuses on the development of the character(s) themself (or themselves), and how they come to make the choices they do. A plot driven story, on the other hand, focuses much more on action, so the choices themselves are generally more important in making the story happen than the characters are.

At the extreme, a plot driven story is the fast paced action novel, and a character driven story is the complicated character study. (However, there is bound to be an overlap of the two in literature.)

As writers, people will probably have some degree of preference for one over the other. From my and my mother’s observation, it would seem that I, for example, lean more towards the character driven style. I do enjoy exploring a character’s psyche, and my writing tends to not be a third person omniscient view, instead showing the story through the thoughts and feelings of one or a few characters. It may also explain why character dynamics are one of my favourite things to write.

Objectively, it doesn’t seem as though one is better than the other. While I enjoy the character driven style, the plot driven style is great at giving engaging situations in a story and keeping a reader on their toes. It doesn’t necessarily sacrifice good character development, but the plot itself is at the forefront of the story. When it is character driven, it is the inverse.

Regardless of whether your story is driven by plot or character, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put effort into whichever isn’t the most important in your story. A novel falls if the plot isn’t well developed. A novel falls if the characters aren’t well developed, too. While favouring either in itself isn’t bad, it is still important to craft each, along with the other elements of storytelling. No one probably needs to hear that from me, however: reading anything that obviously didn’t put attention into its plot or its characters stands out like a sore thumb.

Thumb sayings aside, it’s a cool axis to look at overall. It’s also interesting to exam different authors and see on which side they fall more. The overlap truly begins when it is acknowledged that both plot and characters are important for a good story, leading to an attempt to balance it out a bit more. Now that I have done a bit of research on each, it will be interesting to examine my own writing in that light, as well as the writing of others.