Tag Archives: Rob Quehl

Thoughts on Point of View

Our most recent around-the-table discussion…

photo by Marcie Schwindt

photo by Marcie Schwindt

Elizabeth McCallister
I think point of view is one of the most difficult things that new writers can face. It seems like a simple enough task – are you writing in the first, second or third person.

It gets more complicated when you actually get down to doing it well. In a sense, you must inhabit not only the personalities of your characters but also the world that you have created. A narrator who describes someone or something seems the easiest route until you realize that you have written something from one of the characters’ POV.

Trying to write from more than one character’s POV can be one of the most difficult tasks. How do you clearly separate the two characters’ POV so that each rings clearly?

Which is the final most difficult task – creating a character who seems fully human.

Jockie Loomer-Kruger
I like first person especially ideal for memoir which is my preferred genre. I [also] like it for the poetry I write.

Second person – sounds like a lecture. Thou shalt not…

Third person – can add a different type of detail from first. Good for fiction with various characters.

Omniscient – All knowing and able to get into everyone’s thoughts – best for descriptive scenes, for commentary on a character.

Barbara Lefcourt
From 1st person, there are unlimited POV – age, sex, ethnicity, personality, stage of life. What first person POV do you feel comfortable writing from.
What kind of minds are you able to get [into] and imagine being?

A major reason I love to read novels is to be able to get into the body and minds of persons totally different from myself.

My own writing of course grows from my personal points of view that have changed with age and with living in totally different environments.

Kathy Robertson
[POV] should convey the author’s opinion without being obvious.
Metaphors are effective tools in conveying imagery.
The true meaning should be elusive, not fully comprehended until the end.
One image building on the other until the complete meaning is fully realized.

Becky Alexander
I like to use the antiquated POV known as the “omniscient storyteller,” the guy who knows all, sees all and this includes knowing (and telling) what the characters even think, let alone what they do, see, etc. Think of the writers of the Bible.

I like this form as it is time tested, has survived for centuries and is the easiest form (for me) in which to write.

Case in point: I hate second person POV. [Sounds like a lecture].

Wendy Visser
Narrative style a) where narrator stands outside the story b) where narrator is part of the poem or story

Humour – writer writes from humourous perspective
• form of entertainment
o should not be forced but natural.

3rd person perspective – work written in 3rd person allows easy access to the reader. Can identify more with the situation – empathy.

First person -[works] depending on subject matter.

Marcie Schwindt
When I think about POV, first, second, third, whatever, just seems like an obvious choice based on the character’s voice and how intimate the reader needs to be with him/her to “get” who they are.

What’s more interesting, I think, is choosing which character’s viewpoint to write from. Personally, I choose the weakest character to showcase because they always seem to pull the most interesting text from me. Strong characters are boring. Weak people have to “fake it”, still have to learn how to cope. They have the greatest potential character arc because they have less to lose from taking risks.

Life is too short to waste writing on boring characters. The next time you need to decide whose story to tell, pick the less obvious choice: the character who might otherwise have been the sidekick. Give the non-speaking stock character a voice. Their story might surprise you.

Rob Quehl
1. In my opinion, if an author switches from one character’s point of view to another’s, then the style of writing should change to reflect this, so much so, that after a few chapters, the reader should be able to flip open the book at random and know whose point of view is being shown at that point.

2. I like the second-person point of view. If done well, it can pull the reader in and get them involved in the story, as it makes it sound like YOU, the reader, are the main character. A wonderful example of second-person for children is the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books. (See example below.) I have also read second-person for adults, and found it unique and engaging.

Your Very Own Robot (Choose Your Own Adventure #1) synopsis:

Your parents are scientists and inventors. One day, they throw some pieces of a robot into the trash. If you can figure out how to put the pieces together, you’ll have a robot of your very own! But do you know enough to control it? Are you ready for the adventures your very own robot will bring?

Lee Anne Johnston
I find first person narration comes naturally to me and seems to flow. I feel too artificial using third person, although this is just me. First person has obvious limitations, i.e. your narrator can not get into the minds and hearts of others, whereas an omniscient 3rd person narrator can easily float from and into many characters.

Making Dialogue Sound Real

by Rob Quehl

photo by Stuart Miles | freedigitalphotos.net

photo by Stuart Miles | freedigitalphotos.net

Writing dialogue is tough. Like many, when I began writing, I thought that dialogue was simply prose with quotation marks around it. At a workshop last year, I had the pleasure of meeting award-winning Canadian playwright Gary Kirkham. Talented, funny, and an expert in dialogue; here are four insights he spoke to us about:

  1. Dialogue is completely different from prose. Completely different. Traditional grammar and punctuation rules go out the window. The principles of writing great prose simply do not apply. Creating dialogue is like “converting” the sounds of the human voice into words on paper.
  2. Similarly, it needs to sound real. Only a “professor” type character speaking to his class would speak in a crisp and clean style, with perfect grammar and succinctness. Gary emphasized that real speech can be many things, including: odd, clipped, slangy, repetitive, interrupted, fragmented, stuttering, cryptic, bland, quirky, four-lettered, etc.
  3. Pay close attention to the emotions of the character. Like real people, their speech patterns, vocabulary, and word choices will change depending on whether they are happy, sad, angry, excited, gossipy, giddy, depressed, or drunk. Gary advised us to speak the dialogue out loud and to act it out like an actor would.
  4. Sound. We did a fun exercise to practice this: the raw sound patterns that can be discerned regardless of the words used. The exercise was to produce an emotional dialogue between two people using only nonsense words. Example:“Blah blah blah.”
    “Blah? Blah blah blat!”
    “Twee.”
    “Twee…twee? Skrak twee. Shish fu frak twee!”

    The point of the above example is that if someone is in a gentle, peaceful mood, you hear soft and gentle sounds, flowing, and pleasant to the ear. But when a character gets angry, their speech changes because angry words tend to have harsh sounds, hissing and spitting sounds like: s, sh, t, k, d, f, ck, etc.

    So give it a try on your dialogue. Say it out loud and act it out to see how it sounds.


Rob Quehl lives in Kitchener and is currently working on two novels

Is the Pen Mightier?

by Rob Quehl 

A few months ago, I met with some writers at a coffee shop. Most were participating in the National Novel Writing Month competition. Every one of them had their laptop in front of them. They type, type, typed away, before, during, and after the meeting, while my dinosaurian hand grasped a ballpoint.

Keeping notes in the 21st CenturyI own a laptop, and had tried to make the switch several times, hoping to save time by inputting directly into my computer. But for some reason, I always went back to my old way: writing the base story with pen on paper, then typing it in later. I didn’t know why it worked better; I just thought it was because I was a terrible typist. But recently, I found the difference aptly described in Susan Bell’s book: The Artful Edit.

Susan discusses Judith Freeman’s experiment in handwriting her novel Red Water. In the past, typing directly into her computer had made the writing process choppy.

Judith Freeman:

“When writing longhand, the brain and the hand are connected. Once you let an idea unfold, you keep unfolding it. Ink flows, ideas flow with it. When writing longhand, I am not tempted to constantly go back, scroll up, stop and reread. When you type, especially into a computer, you don’t give your imagination the chance to really follow things through.”

Susan Bell expands on the idea:

“Clean and professional looking, the typed page can induce the illusion that the sentences on it are finished and ready to be inspected. It is impossible to make that mistake with a hand scrawled note.”

In the same book, Tracy Kidder discusses this concept with respect to editing:

“One of my gripes about the computer is that it encourages a kind of editing that I don’t think is very useful. That is, you can move stuff around endlessly. I did a little editing for the late lamented New England Monthly. One writer was writing a piece that we really needed and all he kept doing was taking the same bankrupt paragraphs and moving them around.”

Amen! Exactly the same thing happens to me when I attempt to edit “tough spots” in my book. I stare at the screen, cut and paste, move it back again, switch words, but get nowhere until my eyes go buggy staring at letters on the screen. At this point, I’ve learned to turn off the computer, calm down, take a break, then go sit somewhere in a nice coffee shop, with nothing in front of me except a pen and a blank piece of paper. It’s only then that I can start from scratch and write something fresh that can solve the problem I’ve been stuck on. It takes time, but it always works.

So my intention is not to argue that you should come back and join me in the Stone Age, but only to consider handwriting as another option, especially if you reach a tough spot in your work that has you stumped.

Good luck.


Rob Quehl lives in Kitchener and is currently working on two novels

Books for Writers

by Rob Quehl

I would like to introduce a book that has helped me considerably. It is called the The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman, a literary agent and former editor. I believe the book will be helpful to advanced writers as well as beginners. It is focused on fiction novels, but it may be helpful to all writers, including poets.

After much searching at the library, I became frustrated with the many books promising “the perfect plot” or lists of “ideal characters”, and other dubious formulas for success. Mr. Lukeman’s book is different. Surprisingly, the author does not claim to offer anything that will produce great writing. Instead, the focus of his book is learning how to identify and avoid bad writing. Specifically, the type of writing mistakes that an agent or editor will use to eliminate your manuscript.

The book is broken down into three parts:

  • Part I introduces preliminary problems involving presentation, adjectives and adverbs, sound, comparisons, and style.
  • Part II encompasses problems related to dialogue – placement, commonplace, informative, melodramatic, and hard to follow.
  • Part III discusses the bigger picture – showing versus telling, viewpoint & narration, characterization, hooks, subtlety, tone, focus, setting, and pacing & progression.

The author provides examples and explanations for each problem, as well as potential solutions. He also sprinkles in many enjoyable quotes from great authors.

This book helped me identify several problem areas in my writing. I went back and made changes, and I was glad I did. It also gave me encouragement that I was doing other things well.

Of all the books I have looked at, this is the only one I would recommend, as well as his follow-up book: The Plot Thickens.

I hope you find it helpful.


Rob Quehl lives in Kitchener and is currently working on two novels.