Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm Not Published Yet

Who’s Telling The Story?
Tyora Moody

Whether in the form of a short story, novella or novel, there takes some skill to write a story. Choosing a viewpoint or point of view (POV) is a vital part of the process that starts with character development. Some stories are told through one person’s point of view, while others may involve multiple points of view. In this article, I will talk about how to build your cast of characters. I will discuss the types of narration in the next article, but keep in mind, fiction is mainly told in first or third person.

The Main Characters

In a recent article, Getting to Know Your Character, I discussed character sketches. Using a journal or notebook, I like to get to know my characters through their thoughts and conversations. Not to sound crazy, but it doesn’t take long, for one of the characters to start “talking” louder than the others. The character who wants to tell the story eventually stands out as the main character or a protagonist. Every story has a protagonist, a character who has something emotionally at stake in the story.

When it comes to the romance genre, the main character usually will be the woman depending on the storyline. If the male love interest is the one who has more to lose or whose experiences make the story more interesting, he may have the main viewpoint. Either way, romances usually have two viewpoints or two main characters. The couple’s thoughts and experiences may be shared via their own chapters or scenes.

Adding Characters to Create Conflict

As you develop each character sketch, you may start to visualize a potential or existing conflict that arises between characters. The protagonist may have an enemy or an archrival. A character bent on making life difficult for the main character is known as the antagonist. Depending on your genre, you may or may not give the antagonist a point of view.

Suspense writers often like to include a few chapters or scenes that give the reader a peek inside the mind of a deranged individual. These sneak peeks make a great addition to storylines with proper timing and pacing. The reader knows what the protagonist doesn’t know - that someone really crazy is on his or her trail.

In the first few drafts of my first manuscript, I thought it would be a good idea to try giving the antagonist a point of view. It’s not easy to do because it has been done so much in commercial fiction. You don’t want to appear to be adding it just because it seems to be the popular thing to do.

In my case, I became more concerned about the reader figuring out who it was too soon. In my final manuscript, based on a critique advice, I chose to keep the antagonist off-stage and show the events mainly from the protagonist’s reactions to events.

Who Do You Really Need To Tell This Story?
With my first manuscript, , I struggled with viewpoints. In the very early drafts, I had five viewpoints. Yes, five – explains why it took me so long to wrap my head around the story. My protagonist had her scenes. Since there was a mystery to solve, the detective had his scenes. As I mentioned above, I thought the antagonist needed to show up every now and then. The other two viewpoints had a relationship with the deceased that I felt was necessary to tell the story.

I soon found, writing a story with multiple points of view can really be tricky and probably not a good idea for a novice. I do plan to try to write a novel with multiple points of view, but only if it’s necessary to tell the story. Novels that generally have a group of friends with their own stories are great examples of when you may want to use multiple points of view.

My final manuscript, When Rain Falls, has two POV’s, the main character and the detective. With the help of my critique partners, I cut numerous scenes and removed a character. The cool part of telling the story through these two characters, I was able to focus more on the romance elements. Most women who read my manuscript wanted to see something happen between the protagonist and the detective. I was able to write more scenes placing them together to solve the crime and also gradually grow attracted to each other. It brought more texture to the story.

Finalizing the viewpoints also helped me define the manuscript’s genre as romantic suspense. Romance is the top selling genre which is something to keep in mind if you choose to write primarily for female readers.

I encourage you take the time to study your characters. Make sure the minor characters are included in the story only if they have something to add. It’s not necessary to give them a point of view if it only takes away from the main character.

For Further Reading
Here are a few books on my shelf that discuss viewpoint.
· Characters, Emotions, & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
· Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
· The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

Tyora Moody is the editor of WrittenVoicesBlog.com where she features “African American Literature that Edifies the Soul.” Known simply as “Ty” in many circles, she’s also a writer, blogger, and the owner of Tywebbin Creations, a marketing and design company. Follow her journey to publication on TyoraMoody.com.

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