POV Part IV - 10 reasons why to use 1st and 3rd person POV's

Why should I really bother to write from one POV? What's wrong with the omniscient viewpoint anyway?


1. It's popular. (OK, I confess I hate doing things because they are popular. But this time--for once--the popular thing to do actually makes for better character development and more interesting stories.)

2. Publishers like it.

3. It sucks readers in.

4. It anchors the reader into the story rather than floating the reader above the story.

5. It forces you to grow as a writer.

6. It helps you focus your story telling so that you show more than you tell.

7. It makes your descriptions and characters jump from the page.

8. It is more real to life as real people aren't omniscient.

9. It creates a character-driven plot.

10. It's the characters that make a story worth reading.

POV Part III - 3 Ways on Where to Focus Perspective

When editing for perspective, what are you watching for? Where do you make your changes? These three mistakes were areas where I found myself messing up. Frequently.

1. Don't describe the sparkle in your eye or your own wry grin.
You can't see your own face. Instead, focus on actions (i.e. grinning, frowning, chewing your lip, running your hands through your hair) and the internal feelings that caused those actions (i.e. joy, anger, amusement). Example, "I grin in amusement at his antics." or "She frowned at the criticism."

OK, I admit those are some pretty lame examples. If anyone has anything better, I'd love to hear it.

And you know what else, people don't really know what they look like or sound like either. For that matter, I forget what I look like as soon as I walk away from the mirror. And I am always surprised when I hear my voice on a recording. And nobody--well, very few--would confess that they were whiny. You can be sure that Luke Skywalker thought he was the Force's gift to the universe rather than the snot-nosed whiner we all saw him as.

An excerpt from my coming novel Never Forget gives an example of handling whining in POV's:
     "Barra," he interrupted, rolling his eyes, "shut your trap. Mama let you come on out here, so why don't you stop whining and just enjoy it?"
     I shut my mouth. I hated it when my brothers accused me of whining. They'd say that I'm girly and roll their eyes at me. Papa laughed when I balled my fists up and stamped my foot. I was just as good at trapping, hunting, and riding bareback as they were, and I would remind them who shot the straightest at last Winter's Festival games and won First Prize. Mama just shook her head at me and lectured me that ladies don't argue, brag, or whine, all of which she said I was doing. So I just learned to shut my mouth.

2. Don't describe what you can't see.
Unless you're Superman, you can't see through walls or hear sounds from miles away. But you can grouch to yourself, "They're probably talking about me right now. And if I had my way, I'd show them!" 

Furthermore, your character should  turn around before they recognize who came in the door behind them. Unless, of course, you add a statement like, "She knew it was John. Nobody else slammed the door like that and stomped through the kitchen like a herd of elephants."

Christopher Paolini made this mistake in his book Brisingr. Two characters were fighting a battle against a small battalion of soldiers. At this point, Eragon seemed to be the POV, but the reader knew what was happening with both characters. It doesn't say that Eragon was concerned about his companion and turned to check on her in the midst of battle. Just magically he knew what was going on. Or worse, he didn't and the author was jumping in to narrate for Eragon. Anytime your readers are reminded that there was an author behind the story, that's bad.

So now you are not in the battle. You're just floating above it somewhere watching, but not participating. Readers want to participate. They want to feel that winning the battle was their own victory.

3. Don't describe what you can't feel. 
You can only surmise what is going on in the heads of the people around you. But this is where writing can become fun. It stretches you as a writer. After learning about the POV rules, I went back to reread my draft--written in 1st person, it was even more important to follow the POV rules--and I was shocked on how often I told what non-POV's were feeling when my POV couldn't have possibly known.

Instead of telling emotions, describe the outward signs that the POV could see or use dialog to bring out the emotions. Fear--their faces pale. Weariness--they drag their feet. Pride--they smirk and say haughty things. Humility--they smile gently and encourage others. Anger--they turn red, sputter, and ball up their fists. Love--well, that depends on what kind of love you're talking about.


Writing Assignments
1. Edit a section of your own work to cut out emotions or visuals that your character could not know. Play around with descriptions that could portray the same information but from the POV's perspective rather than from yours as the author.

2. Practice writing emotions that you witness in others. What were the visual clues that made you surmise what the other person was feeling.

3. Please post examples from your work or any other mistakes that are common to authors.

4. Read previous posts on POV.

POV Part II - 5 Rules on When to Apply Perspective

1. One perspective per scene.

Anchor your reader into the body of one character at a time. Why? Because readers want to be in the story rather than floating outside it. Whether you use first person or third person, show the world from one character's eyes at a time.

2. When switching POV's, start a new scene. This can be accomplished with blank lines, asterisks, or a new chapter.

Dean Koontz had two POV's in his book Intensity--the witness and the murderer. The witness stalks the murderer to his home. She's scared. But she still follows him, hoping he won't spot her. The murderer watches her follow him. Curious as to her purpose. Impressed with her resolve. Koontz masterfully weaves a heart-thumping, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat tale, expertly switching between the two perspectives with a new chapter for each perspective. 

Francine Rivers tells a love story in Redeeming Love. Husband--he's a God-fearing man--and wife--she's a prostitute since childhood--don't understand each other. At all. She's broken. He wants to fix her. She wants to run away. He does everything to stop her. Sometimes Rivers switches between POV's with a new chapter. Sometimes she uses a few blank lines.

3. Every character needs a voice of their own.

When writing dialog, you can portray non-POV's personality. Their individual voices should be heard. Your POV might be very straight-laced, but the side character might be sassy. Or the other way around. When the two characters interact, those personality traits should come out in the way they talk. Mebbekew in Orson Scott Card's The Memory of Earth never narrates the story, but you know what he is like. You know how he will respond to a situation because of the way he speaks and acts.

4. But not every character needs to be a POV.

Too many POV's in one book pulls your reader in too many directions. One of my biggest pet peeves about Robert Jordan is just how many POV's he has. (Another is that all females have the exact same personality.) No matter how minor the character, Jordan wastes space on two-bit players. The further you get in the series, the worst it gets because the cast grows. And you rarely get to know what's going on with the characters you love the most!

George R. R. Martin also has a lot of POV characters. His A Song of Ice and Fire series has a great tale, and for the first few books, I was entranced. But by A Feast for Crows, I got frustrated. Every new chapter, I had to figure out who the character is again, where they left off, and why I should care. I had to reestablish a connection with the characters each new chapter, and for once, I didn't finish the book. Maybe I'll skim it when the last book comes out.

5. Characterize non-POV's through the POV's perspective.

The crazy part is that neither Jordan nor Martin needed to give everybody's perspectives. In Wheel of Time, many of the Aes Sedai traveled together. We don't need a chapter for each bitch in the pack. 

Furthermore, you can leave some secrets that are revealed later. Or you can use cues to give hints of what's going on in other characters heads.
More on this to come when I write about how to write from one perspective.

POV Part I - 3 types of narration

Posts in the Five W's of POV series:


_____________________________________________



What is POV?
POV stands for Point of View.

Think about how you look out at the world. What are you as an individual able to see? You can see other people's expression but not what they are thinking. You can see yourself in the mirror, but when there is no mirror, you can't see the twinkle in your own eyes or the smirk on your face. This is your personal point of view.


Just as people have a point of view, so does a story. In fact, stories have many points of view. Each character has their own personalities, their own goals, their own perspectives. If not, your characters are flat Yes Men, soulless creatures happy to go along with whatever their god (the author) has planned for them.


There are many viewpoints that you could write from:


  • The omniscient author narrator
  • The first-person narrator
  • The third-person narrator



1. Omniscient POV
The omniscient POV is when the author is the one telling the story. Here's an example of from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:




It was an unpleasant evening. Lucy was miserable and Edmund was beginning to feel that his plan wasn't working as well as he had expected. The two older ones were really beginning to think that Lucy was out of her mind. They stood in the passage talking about it in whispers long after she had gone to bed.



In this passage, C.S. Lewis basically does a roll call, listing each major player and what they are feeling, thinking, and/or doing. This was a popular way to write years ago, and you will find this kind of omniscient information in many of the classics.



This book was my first chapter book in 3rd grade, and ever since I was addicted to reading. Although the omniscient POV is frowned upon by publishers today, the Narnian Chronicles are still loved by young and old readers today. My oldest daughter and I have been reading them together, and she is as much in love with Aslan as I was.

However, this omniscient viewpoint is considered amateurish today. In future posts I will explain why that is and how to write more professional fiction by sticking with the POV rules.

2. First-Person POV
This is when a character in the story tells the story using the pronouns I, me, my, and mine. If I rewrote that passage from C.S. Lewis book with Lucy as the First-Person POV, this is what it would look like:

Peter's got that worried I'm-the-oldest-and-I-have-to-look-out-for-my-little-sister look in his eyes again, and Susan always thinks she knows best. They are probably whispering about me behind my back. But I know what I saw. I know I was there. I just wish they would believe me.

What's the difference? Well, we can only assume what Peter and Susan are thinking based on Lucy's perspective, and when Lucy isn't around, we can't know what Peter and Susan are really doing. But Lucy can surmise, based on the looks she is getting.

Here is an example from my upcoming novel Never Forget:

I took another step, careful to avoid the colorful leaves strewn across the forest floor. My brown cotton skirt was balled into my hand so that I didn't make any extra noise. I held my breath. My heart raced wildly in my chest. I figured that he'd had to hear that, but he didn't move. He just sat against the tree at the edge of the woods, humming a familiar tune. I grinned. Maybe this time I'll actually surprise him. When I was just about to jump out from my hiding spot to surprise him, he calmly said, "You might as well come out, Barra. I know you're there."

Barra and her brother are playing a game they've done for years--she's trying to sneak up on him without him knowing. Does he hear her? We can't know that because Barra doesn't know that. She can't feel or see or hear what he does.

This makes the writing seem closer to reality and anchors the reader into the story. The reader identifies with one character and sees the world that you have created for them as if they were that character. And the best part is that they forget that there is this magician that waved a wand and created this illusional world. They forget about the author behind the curtain.

3. Third Person POV
This is when a character in the story tells the story using the pronouns he/she, his/her, etc. You can switch perspectives when you switch scenes, but only one character per scene or your reader will feel pulled in too many directions.

George R. R. Martin did this in the Songs of Fire and Ice series. So did Robert Jordan. And Terry Goodkind. These authors built worlds with complex plots, politics, and people, and they would often switch POV's each chapter. But one thing is for certain, they always kept to one viewpoint per scene.

And J.K. Rowlands in the Harry Potter series. Everything is seen through Harry's eyes. When his friends Ron and Hermione argue, we only know how Harry feels about it and how Harry perceives how they feel about it. But never what they are really thinking.

And Orson Scott Card in The Memory of Earth. The main character Nafai is most often the POV, but every now and then it switches to one of the minor characters. When Nafai is the POV, you learn how much he adores his oldest brother. When his oldest brother is the POV, you see Nafai from a different perspective--a snotty-nosed brat. Nafai wouldn't have known what his brother thought of him, just as his brother doesn't know that Nafai admires him so much.

Here's an example from my own book Scrolls:


...Her voice was strained, he thought. He watched as the girl closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath before she spoke. Are those tears in her eyes?
She let out a ragged sigh. "Galatia, this is Jadon Forsythe on a practice run for my father," Jadon answered the call. Jaak sneered. There wasn't a drop of emotion in her voice. I guess I was wrong—Poshes don't have tears.


And another example from Infiltrate:


...Jadon turned to look in the mirror. She frowned at the dash of freckles across her nose. "Soldiers don't have freckles," she grumbled. She ran her hand across the stubble on her scalp. It wouldn't do. The commander on the base would suspect something if her appearance wasn't pristine. She reached for the razor.
With her scalp smooth once again, she grabbed the blue uniform from her locker. She sighed. Lelea looked up. "It's the last time."
"I hope so," Jadon said. "I really do."


You can see from these two excerpts, written from different POV's that each sees the world in a different perspective. Jaak sees Jadon as everything he hates about the ruling class. But Jadon obviously isn't quite what he thinks she is.


Homework Assignment:
Reread some of your favorite books or read some of the popular science fiction / fantasy books that you haven't read before. Watch for how the author handles the viewpoint and the narration. Ask yourself some questions:

  • Who is the POV?
  • How does the author illustrate emotions of non-POV characters without jumping into their heads?
  • How did the author's use of POV suck you into the story?
  • How can you apply this to your own work?

Please post names of books that seem to handle this very well or even excerpts from your own books. I'd love to read what you've got.

the five W's of showing

1. What?

Show, don't tell. Or so I've heard. But what does that really mean?

It means that you, as the author, need to step out of your own voice--your own head--and step into your characters. You have to weave a story where your reader forgets that you exist.

2. When?

Actually, sometimes you shouldn't show. If you showed every painstaking detail, your story would get bogged down in trivialities. If you showed every step it took to go down the hallway, then your readers would get so bored that they'd burn your book just for fun.

Honestly this will do: He walked down the hall and entered the room next door.

But if every step was painful because your character just got beaten up or was going through rehabilitation after being paralyzed, then playing up the pain that courses through his body every time he steps on his right foot might actually add to the story.

Or maybe it adds suspense. Maybe the character thinks something's gonna jump out at him. Every step is going to make your reader lean forward in his seat. Slowing down the pace creates drama.

So ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it add to the plot?
  • Does it build the mood?
  • Does it develop characters?
  • Does it set the scene?
  • Does it draw your readers in?
  • Does it create tension?

3. Where?

Hook. Intensity. Push. 

That's what builds a scene. Makes a story spellbinding.

The hook is the opening line that makes a reader feel like he just HAS to read on. In Never Forget, I started with the line "'He's dead, Master." The read is filled with questions that they want answered. Who's dead? Who's the Master? Why is he called Master? Who's talking? Why is it so important to report that this person is dead? Will the Master be happy or upset?

Intensity is the body of the scene. This is where you show AND tell--the two are balanced based on just how intense you want the scene to be. Some scenes are just a 7 (mostly show with some telling) on a scale of 1 to 10, and other scenes are riveting 10's (all show). Others are 4's (mostly telling with some show). You never want to get as low as a 1, or your readers will just fall asleep.

No book can have 10's for every scene, or your readers will just get tired of the roller coaster ride. Then when you want them to feel the intensity, they're burned out. Or they don't believe you anymore. 

Sometimes, you need a slow-paced reaction scene, thoughtful, introspective. If it were a love story, your characters need to talk or cuddle rather than just have sex. And if it were an action-packed suspense, maybe your characters need to reflect on why everything is going wrong in their lives and what they want to do if they make it out of this alive.

The trick is to tell well when you have to. Here's an example of how to express emotion:

Showing: A cold tingle ran down my back. My stomach cramped. My hands shook. Cold sweat beaded on my forehead.

Telling well: I was scared shitless. If I had anything left, I would have crapped my pants right then.

In the first example, the reader experiences the sensations. In the second, the narrator just gets to the point and tells the reader how he's feeling. But he doesn't just say, in a monotone, "I was scared."

The push is leaving the scene at a point that the reader wants to turn the page. I found that many of my scenes/chapters ended on a low point: my character went to sleep. If I were to cut off the last paragraph or two, the scene ended in the midst of action--a high point--and the reader would want to move on. 

Ask yourself these questions:
  • How intense does this scene need to be?
  • How intense were the previous scenes? 
  • Would showing or telling better illustrate what I want?
  • Did I start with a hook?
  • Did I end with a push?

For more information, read James Scott Bell's books about Self-Editing or about Plot. You can read more about self editing in my review of Bell's book in my previous post.

4. Why?

Harry Potter was popular because--for 500+ pages--you stopped living in the boring world. You lived the character. You felt what Harry felt. You lived Harry's life. His frustrations were yours. And his triumphs. It's as though J.K. Rowlings went on vacation to some exotic destination and paid for your ticket to come along. So much better than getting the slide show presentation when she comes home, glowing with excitement. And you missed it all.

We read to get away from our boring lives. We want to be someone else for just a little while. We want to stop doing the same things that we do today--go to work, feed the kids, exercise because we are supposed to, watch TV. No, we want to be someone exciting who does something wonderful.

5. hoW?

Many times your first draft is a brain dump. It's more like a flushed out outline than anything worth reading. You are doing more telling than showing because you really just gotta put it on paper.

It's during the edit process that you go section by section, turning that tell into show. You determine your hook and your push and then work through the intensity throughout the middle.

Draft:

We woke before dawn and saddled our horses. Jhon carried the map in his hand and gave the instructions on what to pack. He double checked the supplies and kept us moving at a quick pace. This had always been Papa’s job, and so it surprised me to see Papa defer to him. In the past, Papa always determined our route and planned the resources, but this morning, Papa asked Jhon what road we would take and what we would need to bring. Jhon moved with an assurance that I had never before seen in him, and at his hip, he carried a sword. The sword had no adornment upon the hilt or the scabbard. I had no way of judging the quality of the sword, but to me, it seemed as though that sword should have been there all along, as if he was born for this moment.

Revision:

     "So did you decide which way we're going, boy?" Papa asked Jhon. I looked up at Papa in astonishment. That had always been Papa's job. Why was he asking Jhon? But Papa seemed oblivious to my surprise, as though it was natural for Jhon to be in charge.

     "Yes," Jhon said. "Rather than taking the main roads, we'll go on some of the country passes. It's a straighter shot, and we'll probably shave off a day or two of travel." Papa nodded approvingly.

     "And we have everything we need?"

     "Yes, but I will double check all the supplies just before we mount up."

     Papa smiled, "Good job, son." Jhon lifted his head a little straighter, and his face broke into a wide grin.

What's different?

  • More character development
  • You're in the story rather than in Barra's head
  • You get a stronger sense of Barra's surprise when Jhon takes the leadership
  • You see Jhon's pride at his father's words
  • You wonder about the relationship between Jhon and Papa

Editor: Joe Gergis

Joe's my worst critic. Even worse than my own self. I think he enjoys beating me up and ripping me apart.

I met Joe at work. It was one October day. The year 2007.

"So what do you think of the coming layoffs?" he asked.

I shrugged. "One door closes. Another always opens." Yeah, we've been through hard times before. We survived. This wasn't any different.

"Oh, the faith route," he said. "Cool."

I was a little taken aback. I hadn't considered my words to be faith. But he was right--I trusted that God had his hand. Even in this. 

"So what would you do?" I asked. "If you could do anything? If you left this behind?"

Joe said he'd pursue his music, and David, our other lunch companion, said he'd stay right where he was. Well, except that he'd rather have one of the architect's job. And me--I just wanted to be the stay at home mom. Be with my kids. Build their little world and focus on home schooling.

I walked away from that conversation. Wondering. Dreaming. Old dreams. Long forgotten. What if I had to work? What would I want to do? Certainly not what I was currently doing at the time. I had burned out on software testing years before. I wanted something new. I wanted something more. Something that interacted with people. Something more productive. More creative. More personal.

The next month, I started writing. And the following February, Joe produced his first album and is now working on another. And David--poor guy--is stuck at the same job. He didn't get laid off when the rest of us did. Looking back, it seems as though we all got exactly what we wanted. 

Although we are all still working at making our dreams successful.

Joe has read just about everything I wrote since I started. As an editor, Joe takes great satisfaction in criticizing. When he's done chewing me up and tearing me apart, I pick myself up, dust myself up, and try to put the pieces back together. Then I try to fix where I went wrong. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have strived for excellence. I would have been happy with a mediocre job. Because I would have thought my mediocre work was good enough.

Thing is--he's always right. He sees my flat characters, my boring prose, my empty plot, and tells me exactly what was wrong. But never how to fix it. That's my job. The hardest part is figuring out how to fix what I thought was perfect. And sometimes I have thought that I wasn't adequate for the job.

But I learned from it and applied it and grew.

Thanks, Joe.

style and voice

In writing, much is said about voice and style. For that's what publishers are looking for, but they can't really define it for you. They know it when they see it, but they can't tell you what it is or how to get there.


Style...

...is unique to an author--personality coming through. When I was in high school, I listened to Handel's Messiah so many times that I could easily pick out other music written by Handel. Because of style. I could differentiate between Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, and several other composers. 

A better example for today is comparing Metallica and Disturbed. Disturbed was greatly influenced by the classic metal bands, in particular Metallica. But they have a style all their own. Unique. A sound that you can't mistake.

The same goes for Evanescence. They're in the same genre--gothic--as Within Temptations, but one does not sound like the other. Each has its own style. Its own personality. Its own sound. And that is how it should be.

In the same way, when you pick up books by famous authors you can sense a difference. Some of it is turn of phrase, similar wording, the use of punctuation, or a particular cadence to the words. For example, Stephen King always impressed me with his direct manner of speaking. He didn't flower his words. He said what he meant, nothing more, nothing less.

We all have a style that is unique to who we are. We are not cookie-cutter people. And we are not cookie-cutter writers either. The world already has a Stephen King. And he has already given us so many of his books that we don't need you to try to emulate him. No, we need you to be you. Produce what comes from the deepest recesses of your spirit.

Life would be boring indeed if every flower was a purple rose, if every tree a maple, if every animal a monkey, and every person had red hair and green eyes.

Style can mature. Just as we grow, deepen, become stronger and wiser, so does our writing. It develops over time. You have to keep reading, writing, studying your art, living to the fullest, self-editing. 


Voice...

...is unique to a character and is very closely linked to proper POV usage. Whether you are in first person or third person, you need to write from a single POV rather than the omniscient author POV.

Why? Because you are not in your story. You are not a character, and your expert knowledge on the plot and situation reminds the reader that this is just a story, crafted by an author sitting in front of their laptop. 

You don't want your readers to remember that. You want them to feel like your story is real. Part of doing this is by allowing the voice of your character to color everything that is revealed, from setting and descriptions to the development of non-POV characters and plot. This means that even when you are not writing dialog, your text will have the sound of someone speaking. Your readers can hear that voice in their heads.

Here is an example of voice taken from my book Scrolls:

     He hated blue coats. They were nothing but bones on the inside. Emotionless, sniveling poshes. Empty heads that follow the general's orders. Like robots.

     He'd dreamed about the day he would come face to face with one and beat the thing until blood poured from its dry veins. And now he had his wish. But he couldn't even pull the trigger.

Notice the use of fragments--sounds more natural as people don't always speak in full sentences--and how the character (in third person) describes the people labeled as blue coats. Even though it isn't even in first person, you can still see how the physical description is colored by his opinion. That's voice.


Contribute...

...some description from your writing that includes voice. I'd love to hear from you.





7 Ways to Nurture the Muse Within

"I can't believe it's August already."
"Rita, it's October."

True story.

Where did the time go? 

Let's see, in one month, I went to work, applied to close to 50 jobs, stressed out about losing my job soon, went on job interviews, wrote on my home school blog, wrote ezine articles, home schooled the kids, did the chores, wrote on my book, studied books on writing, and missed a lot of sleep.

That's enough to destroy any creative spark. This is what you gotta do to keep it.

1. Read.

Nothing's more inspiring than a good book. It was reading J.K. Rowlings and Robin Hobbs that spurred me to put pen to paper--or fingers to keyboard. It was reading Orson Scott Card that helped me overcome my writer's block. It was reading everything I could get my hands on since kindergarten that first sparked my dream to write. So pick up a great book and curl up on the couch for an afternoon.

2. Exercise.

You gotta take care of your body. Sitting in front of a laptop all day might get the book done, but you still have to live with yourself when the deadline is met. Besides, you need exercise to have truly healthy writing.

Rita's Scientific Law:
Healthy Body --> Healthy Brain & Heart
Healthy Brain --> Intelligent Writing
Healthy Heart --> Inspired Writing

3. Live.

A writer's temptation is to spend every waking moment in front of that screen, typing your life away. But you can't write about love if you've never put your heart on the line. And you can't write about the wind in your hair if you never stepped away from that computer and went outside. You can't describe a savory meal if you don't even taste your food. 

You gotta live as though you love everything and experience as though every moment is your last. And that's what you pour into your story.

4. Listen to music.

You can't give when you're empty. So fill up on music. Or art. Or nature. Or a good movie. Go to a play.

5. Pet a cat.

Every evil overlord who's worth mentioning always has a pet cat. There's just something about petting a cat that sparks a wicked imagination.  

6. Do nothing at all.

Every spring, I sit on the back step. Doing nothing. Just watching the kids play. They spend hours, moving dirt from one bucket to another, digging up worms, and picking weeds--I mean, flowers. There is something so healing about that moment--doing nothing, being a kid, shirking responsibility, refusing to run the rat race.

7. Have sex.

Yes, that's right. All those feel-good hormones make you just a little more alive. Because zombies don't write good books.

But don't get up and start writing. Be sure to get that all important after-sex snuggle and fall into a deep, deep sleep. Wake up refreshed. Get your coffee and a good breakfast. Then finally sit down and write.

8. Contribute.

What do you do to nurture the muse? To overcome writer's block? To rest and replenish and restore? Leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

April Fool's Day

My 6 year old is just beginning to understand the concept of this day. Last year, we swapped silly jokes on each other, but yesterday, she said to me, "I'm not really a joker. I don't want to play jokes on people."

"That's okay," I said. "You don't have to."

She looked confused. "But isn't it April Fool's Day tomorrow?"

"Yes," I said. "That's the day when fools play jokes. You don't have to be a fool if you don't want to."

And so this year, the day went by without so much as one little joke.

Watching my daughter learn what it is all about reminds me of my first April Fool's experience. Everybody played jokes on me. "Rita, your shoe is untied." "Rita, there is something on your head." And I didn't have a clue how to play the game.

My mom let me call a friend and tell her that her shoe was untied. I think I must've been about 4, maybe 5. But not likely any older because we were still living in Wisconsin. It seemed kinda silly to tell someone over the phone that their shoe was untied when I couldn't even see her shoes. But all the same, it was fun to chime in--as everyone else had been doing to me all day--"April Fool's!"

Years later, my mom and her coworkers played a great joke on their boss. Everyone called in sick on the same day, and then they all walked into the office at the same time, chiming in together, "April Fool's!"

But I've never really played a good April Fool's trick. Maybe it's my Sagittarian honesty. Maybe it's that I'm just not witty enough for something like that. Maybe it's the fact that as an adult the day doesn't really impress me anymore. But really, the only trick I ever remember is that one when I was four years old.

So what are your favorite tricks? Leave a comment and share your story.