Posts Tagged ‘point of view’


land-of-make-believe

Since an early age, I have had make-believe people in my head.  I know how that sounds and I am willing to admit its psychotic connotations. But quirky, questionable, batshit crazy, or otherwise, it’s the truth.  Psychologists might say I was unhappy and turned to creating an alternate reality to escape the misery of my own world.  But I don’t believe that.  I was a perfectly happy child.  Odd, but happy.  I just liked the idea of making up my own people whose lives I could script and design, and … who would live or die under my ruthless command (insert evil laugh here).

In the beginning of life, I suppose it seemed very normal.  Most kids have imaginary friends and the like… but mine weren’t really what I’d call imaginary friends.  I never interacted with my make-believe people, I just knew all about their lives: their names, jobs, locations, likes and dislikes, etc.  I used to sketch them out, and occasionally, I would put them in little stories, but many of them just sat until, by the time I was a teenager, I had notebooks populated with the profiles of these fictional characters and no idea why, or what to do with them.

By the time I was nearing twenty years old, I’d thrown away my stuffed animals and done away with ninety percent of my childhood fancies.  But one thing never changed: the people living in my head.  As I got older, they became more and more like real-life, three-dimensional human beings.  I suspect that as I matured, I began drawing on the traits of those around me, and those I saw on television.

You’d think that by now, when I sat down to write a story, I’d just pull out an old notebook and pick and choose characters. Instead, however, I’m still coming up with new people all the time. Different stories require different personalities, some of which haven’t yet come to my attention.

One of the most fascinating things about being a fiction writer, in my opinion, is getting into the minds of the characters. I use the word fascinating rather than fun because it isn’t always fun. For example, while writing Beautiful Monster, I was mortified at times to be in Sterling Bronson’s head. I remember frequently asking myself in various situations, What would Sterling do? and shuddering at the thought.

Currently, I am working on two projects. One is The White Room, which I still intend to have finished sometime near the end of summer. I’ve made this manuscript a lot more fun by discovering the joys of third person narrative. In this book, I get to explore multiple points of view, and now that I’ve begun doing it this way,I wonder how on earth I ever wrote from just one character’s perspective. The White Room is full of all kinds of fascinating points of view. There are good guys, villains, victims, sexually deviant women, men with addiction issues, living people, some undead folks, and even a guy with obsessive compulsive personality disorder. I’m seeing the world through several different pairs of eyes and I’ve never had as much fun writing as I am with this one.

The other project I’m working on is much different in a lot of ways. I can’t elaborate on this one too much because it’s still kind of top-secret… but it’s getting written, and it’s going well. For this one,  I am also exploring a few different points of view, but this is a whole new experience because I’m writing from a ten-year-old boy’s point of view…as well as a very old woman’s. This project is teaching me new things, expanding me in fascinating ways, and forcing me to stick to the point as it’s not intended to be a full length novel.

Having learned to see one story through the eyes of multiple characters has shown me new layers to the stories, as well as cleared up numerous issues I’ve had with past manuscripts which never reached completion. To be honest, I don’t know if I will ever return to first person…unless, of course, it seriously benefits a story I’m writing.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from readers and other writers on this topic. I’d like to know what readers love–and hate–about characters. I’d also love to hear from other writers about their process in character development.

Thanks for reading!

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After putting my first manuscript, The White Room, in a dark corner and leaving it there for the past half a year or so, I have reluctantly unearthed it with serious intentions to re-vamp. As I’m looking it over, I realize how much work it needs before I’m willing to let my publisher come within five feet of it.  For the most part these re-writes should be somewhat simple, easy fixes, but there are a few things that I am really having a hard time with. The thing troubling me most right now is the prologue. The reason it’s so problematic is that I’ve chosen to write it in third person. I’ve made this decision because I feel I need to introduce the concept of the story before beginning the adventures of my protagonist…and he can’t be present in the scene.

I don’t know when, or even if, I ever made the conscious decision to write in the first person, but that’s what I’ve always done. We live our lives first person, so I guess writing from that same perspective just made sense to me. Regarding the books I read, I have no especial preference as to which method is used. If it’s a good story, it’s a good story and I don’t really care who’s telling it, but I didn’t think that in my own writing, shifting my person was going to be this difficult. It has taken me seven days to write six very mediocre pages.

The first problem I’m having is an inability to find my voice. When I write from a protagonist’s point of view, I am becoming the character. I know how he sees the world and how he responds to it. I know the things that fascinate him, and the things that he wouldn’t give a second thought to; I simply get into his state of mind and let him tell his story…but in third person, who am I? This may sound ridiculous, but I’m serious. Who is narrating this story? It can’t really be me, can it?

Another issue is that I don’t know what details in the setting to focus on. This probably ties into not being able to find my voice. Since I don’t know who is telling the story, I’m not sure what to point out to the reader. The answer is obvious: point out what’s important…but my question to that is: important to who? Bob the gardener might care that the fern needs watering, but chances are slim that Rhoda the gold-hearted hooker is interested in ferns…which brings me to my next third person pitfall: point of view.

If I write third person limited, whose eyes do I decide to see the world through, and how can I show the readers anything that this character doesn’t see him or herself? If I write third person objective, I will convey my story with all the emotional zest of a tape recording, and finally, if I write third person omniscient, won’t I be head-hopping? Isn’t head-hopping a big no-no?

Writing this prologue has taught me that I need to expand my abilities. I don’t like being this confused and unsure of myself. I plan to get some books on point of view, as well as talk to some other writers I know who write in different styles than myself. I’m eager to get on with the rest of the story, which is written in the first person, but I don’t intend to simply avoid writing in third person just because I don’t have a firm grasp on it. I’ve been working at it, and am coming to more deeply appreciate all the different styles that are available to writers. As frustrating as it’s been, I guess sometimes you just need to learn to see things from a different point of view…