Write Better Fiction: #1 Question To Ask About Characters In A Scene.

Are you trying to figure out how to self-critique your writing?

Write Better Fiction is a series focussing on how to give yourself feedback.

Last week on Write Better Fiction we covered using a spreadsheet to critique your manuscript.

As you remember, we broke each scene in a novel into three categories.

  1. PLOT
  2. CHARACTER
  3. SETTING

There are other elements of a scene I believe you’re better off getting feedback from people, meaning editors or beta readers, as opposed to using a spreadsheet to organize your thoughts, so if you think something is missing from my list, that’s probably why. But if you’re not sure, just let me know in the comments below and we can discuss the idea.

As promised, I’m going to give you the #1 question to ask yourself for each scene element under the category of CHARACTER.

WHO HAS THE POINT OF VIEW?

According to my research, it’s generally agreed upon that each scene should be written from one character’s point of view (POV). Of course, it’s up to you if you want to follow that advice or not.

I believe you should make a conscious choice. If you want to keep your writing tight and the reader engaged, you should at least understand if you’re writing in one POV and if not, when you change POV do so consciously.

There are many books written about what POV, so I’m not going to cover the topic here. I’ll list some of the books I’ve read on point of view at the end of the blog.

THE SPREADSHEET

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 5.06.20 PM

 

Is the point of view in the best order for pacing?

If you write from only one POV, then you don’t need to include this column.

Let’s assume you have multiple POVs. You can quickly check the POV column and evaluate the order of the POV scenes.

If you plan to change POVs the generally accepted writing advice is to do so early in your novel. Making a POV change 50% into the novel might jar your reader out of the story.

Too many scenes in one POV before switching to another can cause the same issue.

The genre you write in may influence how you use this column. In a romance novel you might want to give the female and male protagonists (read love interests) alternating scenes. Check if you’ve done this and if they each got a fair number of scenes.

SORTING THE SPREADSHEET 

Once I’ve entered a POV for each scene, I sort the spreadsheet by that column. It now tells me how many POV scenes each character has and how many different points of view I’ve written in.

Who is your main protagonist? Does this character have the majority of scenes? If not,  evaluate whether this character should be your main protagonist. If the answer is yes, you can review scenes where the protagonist is not your POV and determine if you can rewrite the scene from his/her point of view.

How many point of view characters is too many? That’s up to you as a writer, but if you’re getting feedback from your readers that they have trouble keeping track of your characters or lose interest in the story because of a point of view change, then the spreadsheet can help you figure out how to improve.

Do you have any characters that only one scene where they are the point of view character? Here’s your chance to reduce the number of POVs. Review the scene and determine if you can write it from another character’s point of view, perhaps one that has quite a few scenes.

BOOKS I’ve read on POV:

The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

Next week I’ll share with you the #1 question to ask yourself about SETTING. Using a spreadsheet to force yourself to critique your own writing and give yourself feedback enabling you to write better fiction.

Please comment below and let me know what you think of the advice. Do you agree, disagree or do something different to evaluate point of view?

Thanks for reading…

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