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No matter how experienced you are and how many stories you’ve written; please pay a special attention to the following article. Point of view is one of those things that impacts everything about your story. It influences the way you write and what you write, it suggests to the readers which characters should be liked and what will be important in the storyline.

Pick a point of view and stick to it

Please write it down. Tattoo this on your body. Glue it to your computer screen. I don’t care what you do; just make sure it’s burned into your brain.

You might think that my obsession with this point is ridiculous. But you would be surprised how many writers simply ignore the importance of POV. At the very beginning of your story, often during the planning stage, you should sacrifice few minutes to decide what POV will be the best for your story. Whether it should be “third person objective” or “first person narrative”.

Changing POV in the middle of the story just because suddenly you realize that the point of view you chose limits you and your ability to tell the story is not something you should practice a lot. While in novels you might actually be able to sell it, in short stories it’s unacceptable. It confuses the reader and you don’t want that to happen.

I REALLY have to change the Point of View. How to do it?

Like I said, in novels you can get away with it. Especially if you stick to the POV everywhere but every here and there you add a chapter from a different perspective. Nora Roberts does that in her books. She usually writes from the point of view of her female character but from time to time she includes a separate chapter from the point of view of the killer (or other villain).
This is okay, but you shouldn’t overuse this technique.

With short stories it’s a bit trickier. You can’t just jump into a different point of view on a random basis. So if you really have to do it I would rather suggest splitting the story into two part. Telling the same story from two different point of views. Each story would be different, each would emphasize different details. But together they would complete each other.

Point of view influences every detail

Again. Make sure this is burned into your brain. In theory it’s obvious. In practice, it impacts your story only if you’re writing from your character’s point of view. It means that you cannot include in your narration details that your character, and therefore your readers wouldn’t be able to know.

This problem is nicely illustrated by my friend’s recent issues with POV.

She is writing a story that is told from a point of view of the main male character. Because he cannot be with the woman he loves (and works with) he moves to a different city in a different state to try and forget about her. And maybe move on. She asked me to help her with some plot issues. We discussed what happened to both the lead male and to the lead female. Somewhere in the middle of outlining she realized that there is a lot of stuff that happened to the woman that would impact the story, but there was no way the guy could know about those events. Changing the point of view would defeat the purpose, which was to tell the story of the man’s inner struggle, and how the situation changed him. So we spent a lot of time figuring out how to let the main male learn about some of the events in the other city.

The point is. If there is something your character don’t know and there is absolutely no way for the character to learn about that fact… You need to decide how crucial that particular fact is for the story.

To make sure the reader doesn’t feel cheated when a plot twist comes and no one saw it coming, you can always use a second character to explain and add all the missing pieces. In that case you need to be careful with the exposition so it doesn’t turn out to be half as long as the story itself.

Everybody sees the world differently

Look at the sky. How would you describe it?

Stephen the PI would say it’s going to rain. Keesha the Teenager would notice the plane preparing for landing. Gregory the English Gentleman wouldn’t even pay attention to the sky unless he was planning a hunt.

Every character notices different details about the same object. It’s a proven fact and that is exactly what defines the Point of View.

If you’re writing from your main character’s POV you need to take into the account that your character will pay attention to different things than you. Maybe even he or she will misinterpret suggestions and other characters’ motives. It’s sometimes difficult to work with, but if you work hard it will pay off and you’ll be able to create an amazing experience for you readers. And in the end. That is what really matters, don’t you think?

Stumble It!

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You already know a thing or two about creating a character. I wrote about some basics in my “Search and Destroy: Mary Sue” article.
What I’m about to write here will be closely connected to that previous post.

There are many ways of creating a character. And however you do it, I want you to remember one thing:

You will always know more about your character than your reader will ever be able to learn.

So:

RULE ONE: Don’t force information about your characters onto your readers.

To address the newest buzz.
Let’s say you’re character is gay.
Not many authors have the opportunity to give the readers additional information in interviews, like JKRowling did. The vast majority approaches the subject more like Neil Gaiman.
So ask yourself this: How relevant is this to the plot?

Stephen is a PI. He recently accepted a job from Nicole, a woman one could describe as an old fashioned femme-fatale. He needs to find Nicole’s nephew before Evil Uncle John takes over the family empire.

See, I know Stephen is gay. But unless it becomes a part of the plot, I won’t be including it in the story. So I have to ask myself if this fits anywhere in the story.
Was Stephen fired from the PD because of his sexuality? Is Nicole trying to seduce him to manipulate him into helping her? Is Stephen’s boyfriend somehow connected to Evil Uncle John? Or is he Stephen’s ‘contact’ in the PD?

Questions like that will help you whether or not ANY aspect of your character is relevant and should be placed in the story.

RULE TWO: Show, not Tell.

This particular rule applies to most aspects of your story, not only your characters. But it’s especially important if your readers are to like characters you introduce.

Stephen is patient, methodic and a romantic at heart. He only drinks Earl Grey tea and is allergic to seafood. He’s also a very private person and is uncomfortable sharing personal details with strangers.

Those are some of the facts I know about Stephen. And because they define him, I want readers to know them too.
But I can’t simply list them somewhere in the story. Because me saying so won’t make Stephen patience appear from nowhere. BUT, if Stephen explains to Nicole for the sixth time that “no, she cannot go with him to see Evil Uncle John”, and remains calm despite her ‘whining’… Then yes. Situation like this really shows Stephen has patience. And should in fact be a saint.

See how that works?

Introduce your character by showing them in situations that will show their personality, their quirks and mannerisms.

RULE THREE: Allow for exceptions.

It’s not so much a rule but an exception from two previous rules. And you can use it if you’re planning to target your novel at certain people.
Let’s go back to Stephen’s gayness to illustrate that.

If I wanted to target The “Stephen the PI” novel at a gay community, than I would make a point of the fact that Stephen is in fact gay. I would throw in some domestic scenes between Stephen and his partner. Hell, I would even started the novel itself with some domestic bliss interrupted with a phonecall from Nicole.

If you’re targetting your own novel at some specific audience you need to make sure your main character (or at least any of your minor characters) is a part of that community.

You want all those insecure teenage girls to read your book? It needs to start a teenage insecure girl.
And so on and so forth.
True targeting your novel is more of a marketing area but it still needs to be introduced at an early stage so you can tweak the character and make it fit.

Questions? Comments? Thoughts?

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Look around. No seriously. Look around.

Is this the place you’re usually sit when writing? If no, go there now and look around.

All done? Good.

Now describe what you’re seeing.

I sit in front of my computer. In a living room where my family usually spend their evenings. The TV is on, everybody’s chatting. I have my headphones on to have an excuse to ignore everything around me.

I use my computer when I write. Yes, sometimes I write in a notebook with an oldfashioned pen. But typing it up later? Nah, I’m too lazy.

So yes. I use my computer.

And where do you write your stories? Wherever you can, or do you have a special place? Is writing conencted to a some kind of a ritual, with hot tea and music on the radio?

Go back to the last time you were writing a story. And to the time before that. Is there a pattern?

When it comes to writing it’s good to have a workspace set especially for writing. Somewhere when you can shut down everything but your story. Somewhere with minimum distractions.

I can actually concentrate in noise. All I need is minimum distractions. I need my family to know that they are to not interrupt me for the next two hours or so. I need something muting the TV; headphones without actual music do the trick. My biggest problem? The Internet. Everything’s happening at the same time over the Internet. And I always want to know and be in the middle of events. SO my perfect workspace? It’s very similar to my actual workspace. It doesn’t have the Internet though.

So again. For a moment, stop everything you’re doing. Look around. And concentrate. How does your workspace look like? Are there many distractions? How can you improve your workspace? Tea? Quiet music? Closed doors? Disconnected Internet?

There’s a reason why many published writers write their books while on vacation or simply living at their friends’ homes. There’s nothing distracting them and they can concentrate only on the book they have to write. I myself wrote my longest piece of fiction when I was on holidays in the mountains. I was spending the day walking in the forest and climbing the hills. And in the evenings I was sitting in my room, writing like there was no tomorrow.

If you’re having a problem with your writing. Try changing something in your workplace. Or plan a holiday, away from home.

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This is somewhat of a long term project that I’m working on. It’s a series of posts about writing and how to get things going.
Where to start and what to concentrate on when you’re writing a bigger piece.

Now. I might now be a huge name out there and maybe I don’t have that much titles published. But I write. I know people who write. And I know few editors.
And most importantly, I’m a reader. Oh yeah. I read a lot. Probably as much as all of you writers out there. But what this is really about is that apart from reading, I can also point out all the things that I don’t like about the novel and what shouldn’t be there. Where things should be changed or simply what wasn’t pretty. Honestly, I don’t really like to do that because most of the writers are very touchy about their work. Well, I know I am. But sometimes a bit of criticism goes a long way.

What will be featured in this series?

Tips, advices and answers to questions that might come up. I’ll be pointing out all the important things that any writer have to include in their novel. I’m also planning on posting a little guide to getting published. Differences between ePublishers and your regular Print Publishers. Tips on getting an agent and if it’s really that important.
Basically everything that a newbie writer should know before they start playing with the other kids in the sandbox.

And despite what I’ve wrote in my post about the twisted relationship between writer and their muse, I think that everyone can learn to be a writer. It’s all about having ideas. The skill of changing those ideas into a novel can actually be learned. And if your idea is really amazing. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a good writer or a great one. JK Rowling and Dan Brown are bestselling authors with millions of fans. But their books can’t really be called masterpieces. But they did have a great idea.

So get your notebook. Create a special folder on your laptop. And start writing 🙂

And by all means. Share what you write with someone. To be completely honest with you, I won’t mind if that someone is me. I love reading new material. I can be very enthusiastic and if you would like to, I can make few suggestions to improve the piece.

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