Tag Archive - characters

The Nuances of Deep POV – Part 4

Deep POV is truly all about voice. I pointed out in a previous post that there is a difference between the author’s writing style and each character’s voice. Voice isn’t just how a character speaks out loud—nor is it about their “inner voice” as they think specific thoughts. It’s every line of the scene.

I really want to drive this home because too many beginning writers—well, seasoned ones too—write every scene with the same style and vocabulary. In real life, hardly anyone talks like anyone else, and, while I can’t read minds, I’m guessing that no one thinks in the same manner as you—the way you form sentences and paragraphs, move from one thought to another.

There are certainly novels—many in the literary genre—that are written in a stylized narrator voice. We know there is a storyteller, whether we are told who that person is or not. That storytelling voice pervades the entire work, as expected.

Diane Setterfield’s Once upon a River is a magical tale told by such a storyteller. The opening lines set this up:

There was once an inn that sat peacefully on the bank of the Thames at Radcot, a day’s walk from the source. There were a great many inns along the upper reaches of the Thames at the time of this story and you could get drunk in all of them, but beyond the usual ale and cider each one had some particular pleasure to offer.

But with most commercial fiction, each scene’s “voice” is dictated by the POV character, and so the entire scene, experienced by the character, is conveyed by and through that character. Continue Reading…

Your Premise Determines Your Characters

When I think about the many novels I’ve written, I realize I don’t always start with a plot idea. Sometimes a topic or theme intrigues me, or I’ll have an image of a character in the throes of a moral dilemma. I remember reading about how C. S. Lewis came up with his Narnia series. He had a picture in his mind of a faun carrying a parcel and an umbrella through a snowy wood. From there, the The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe sprang into existence.

The novel I’m currently writing, a supernatural thriller called Lightning Man, also was sparked by a picture in my head. I saw a man at the top of a mountain, his arms outstretched in a messianic surrender to the heavens, willing lightning to strike him for the tenth time, intending to stop a terrorist by sacrificing his life as he grips the bad guy. From there I had to ask a lot of questions to find my story, and I encourage you to do the same with the ideas that excite you.

I wove a complex plot around that character and climactic moment I saw in my head (it’s taken me a couple of years, but it’s all in place now). But it all started with a picture of a nebulous character.

For my novel Someone to Blame, I started with  the word blame. You could call it a theme or topic. I wanted to explore the ways people blame themselves and others and the damage and hurt blame causes. From that germ of an idea, a plot developed—a story about a family who’ve suffered the loss of two sons and moved to a new town hoping to start over, only to get drawn into a heavy drama that mires the town in blame and subsequent danger. Continue Reading…

The Essential 3 M’s of Character Setup

This post originally ran on Jane Friedman’s blog. Understanding these “3 M’s” is crucial if you want to craft believable characters!

Fiction writers are told to get their readers to bond quickly with their characters—in particular the protagonist. In few pages, they must make the hero of their story empathetic, relatable, and understandable.

Wow, that’s a herculean task. How long does it take us to truly “get” a person we meet? Five minutes? An hour?

While some of us are intuitive and savvy and feel we can “size up” a stranger in record time, truth is people are complex, they show a persona that may mask who they are underneath, and they may not reveal all that much at first (or ever).

Yet … I recall a restauranteur friend of mine who declared confidently that, after serving dinners to thousands of patrons over the years, she could tell everything about a couple in the first five minutes of their ordering a meal. What kind of tension was simmering between them, how they felt about each other, status dynamics—those kinds of things.

After running a bed and breakfast for thirteen years and hosting more than twenty thousand guests (essentially living with us in our home), I can attest that my husband and I are pretty good at figuring people out within minutes. Continue Reading…

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