Why omniscient POV is not recommended

One of the most common errors we see in amateur manuscripts is POV slips, which occur when a writer who means to be writing in character POV includes something the POV character can’t know.

For example, if you’re writing from the POV of a starship captain, you ought not put a line like this:

The captain had no way of knowing a massive asteroid was hurtling toward his ship.

If he has no way of knowing, you can’t tell me. Continue reading

The difference between third person POV and Deep POV

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Q: I keep hearing about Deep POV. What is it, and how is it different from what the writing books call third person POV?

A: Point of view is one of the most complicated elements of fiction, and POV slips are among the most common errors we see in amateur manuscripts. Continue reading

Sorting out characters and narrators

Last time, I said there are two kinds of POV: Narrator POV and Character POV, and I mentioned that each has some subsets. Here they are.

Narrator POV

The omniscient narrator knows everything and can share everyone’s thoughts, but doesn’t have to. He can, and often does, make value judgments about the characters and events of the story. Continue reading

Fiction Q&A: The importance of a likeable protagonist

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Q: How important is it that the main character be likable at the beginning of the book?

A: It is very difficult to engage readers if your protagonist is unlikable. Difficult, but not impossible, as Scarlett O’Hara demonstrates. Continue reading

The difference between your voice and the character’s voice

Voice, like art, is one of those things that, being hard to define, often falls into the category of “I’ll know it when I see it.” It’s a quality that writers strive for and editors look for, precisely because it’s so hard to accomplish.

There are two kinds of voice; authorial voice, which is what writers bring to their overall body of work, and character voice, which is how each individual character sounds to the reader.

One of the great advantages of Deep POV is that, if your characters are well developed, their voices will pervade the narrative. In Deep POV, the main voices one notices are those of the characters. Continue reading

Read your rough draft before you edit

Now that you’ve taken some time off from your manuscript, you can approach it as a reader would.

Read through your novel as quickly as possible to get a feel for the story. Do this in whatever way is comfortable for you. At your local office supply and copy center, you can have your manuscript printed double-sided and spiral bound, to recreate the feeling of reading a book. Some writers print their manuscripts on three-hole-punched paper and put them in three-ring binders. Others load the document on an e-reader or tablet to get away from the computer.

The goal is to put yourself in the reader’s place. How will this story look to someone who hasn’t been living with it for years? Continue reading

Before editing, develop a plan

Many writers get to the end of a rough draft and then start revising without a clear plan. We’re taught how to write, but often we’re not taught how to edit. Professional editors know that editing requires a clear plan. Working without one can lead to months, if not years, of frustration. Don’t ask how I know that. Suffice it to say that how to develop an editing plan or checklist is one of the first things one learns when training as an editor. It’s something I wish I’d been taught as a writer. Continue reading

Why Character is the most important fiction element

The editing checklist I presented last time is written in order of importance according to me. Other editors will disagree about what is the most important aspect of a novel. I put Character at the top of the list because the characters, especially the viewpoint characters, are how the reader experiences the story. Readers become attached to them and will root for them to achieve their goals.

But only if the characters are sympathetic.

Continue reading

Finer points of character development

Last time we looked at the importance of great characters in fiction. Now, let’s break down the points in the Character segment of the Elements of Fiction Editing Checklist.

Principal characters are well-rounded and realistic.

The goal here is to avoid one-note characters. Remember that people have multiple interests. Sherlock Holmes, for example, plays the violin. What do your characters do when they’re not saving the world? Continue reading