Two Types Of Character Goals

A character goal is what a character wants. She should want it so badly that your readers feel her need in their guts.

The Point of View (POV) goal is what the POV character of a scene wants.

Whether you write from a single POV for the entire novel or from multiple points of view, it’s important to know what the POV character is trying to achieve in each scene.


Internal and External Goals

An external goal is the goal a character shows the world.

In a fantasy novel, that might be to find a magic object. The reader and other characters in the novel are aware of the goal. The antagonist(s) will try to make the character fail.

An internal goal is a character goal that the other characters in the scene are not aware of.

For example, a character may have a goal of stealing a jewel from a desk drawer. The other characters in the scene may think the character’s goal is to sit at the desk and calculate the latest revenue figures for their business.

The reader may or may not know about the internal goal, but as a writer, you must keep track of this.

To give a scene depth, have an internal and external goal for the POV character for each scene.

Failing To Reach A Goal

Once you know the POV goal for a scene, you can start thinking about all the ways the character will fail at achieving the goal, what obstacles you put in the way, and how the character will feel about failing or achieving the goal.

This will add tension and conflict to your scenes.

Scene Goal Versus Novel Goal

Your protagonist must have an overall goal for the novel, but she will also have a goal for each scene where she is the POV character.

You may find the POV goal for a scene is the same as the character’s goal for the novel, or you may find the character has a different goal for a scene. In the second case, make sure the scene goal is related to the plot.

For example, in a murder mystery, the protagonist’s goal for the novel is to solve the murder. In a specific scene, her goal may be to uncover a clue, hide something from the antagonist, or something a simple as trying to get a few hours of desperately needed sleep.

Driving the story forward

By giving your POV character a goal in every scene, you’re also giving your readers something to cheer for or cheer against. This will keep your readers engaged in your story and turning the pages.


Fictionary

Fictionary helps you keep track of internal and external goals. You can list the goals right beside a scene, or you can see the goals listed together in the Story map report.

Here is an example of my work in progress, Evolution, from within Fictionary. The protagonist, Jaz Cooper has two goals in the first scene.

She’s struggling with how to spend her time. This external goal is shown to the reader early in the scene (highlighted in blue).

Her internal goal, which the reader doesn’t know about, is her struggle against suicide. As the writer, I know this is her goal, and it influences what I write.

Why not try the free 10-day trial of Fictionary and see if can help you turn your first draft into a story readers love?

Two Questions For Choosing A Point Of View Character and Style

When writing a series, choosing both the point of view characters and point of view style are HUGE decisions an author must make.

AVALANCHE is the third book in the Stone Mountain Mystery Series and was released in June 2016. When I first started writing the series, I thought I was writing a standalone novel. Of course my characters took over, and now I have a series.

Early on, I decided to write in close third person from multiple points of view. Little did I know, that once I made that decision, I would have to stick to that for the rest of the series.

The second question in Top 3 Story Editing Questions For Fiction Writers was “Who has the point of view?”

Here are two questions to ask yourself when you begin your novel. And when you ask these questions of yourself, don’t assume you’ll be writing a standalone novel. You just never know.

1. Do you plan to switch POV characters?

If you’re going to have multiple POVs in your novel, it’s important to let your reader know this early on in the story.

It could be jarring for a reader to get half way through a novel, and the POV is ripped from underneath their feet and a new character steps in.

Changing POVs in the first few chapters will warn the reader this is your style, and hopefully, they’ll enjoy your book more. They’ll expect different characters to have their say, to drive the novel, and to provide surprises. They won’t get so attached to one POV character that they can’t bear the change and toss the novel aside.

2. What POV type will you choose?

When you choose the type of point of view to write from, consider what it will take to be consistent for an entire novel or several novels.

  • If you chose first person, do you stay in first person? Do you reference anything the first person character can’t possibly know?
  • For third person, are you writing third person, third person limited, or omniscient? Once you make the choice, it’s important to be consistent and only change the style if you make a conscious decision to do so.

For the second book in your series, follow the same POV pattern you used in the first. Your readers will expect a similar style and voice in the second and following books.


Books I’ve Read and Recommend 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


How Fictionary Can Help You With POV Characters

If you’ve written your draft from multiple points of view, Fictionary will help you make sure you’re making the best use of the POV characters.

When thinking about which character should have the POV in each scene, ask yourself:

  1. Who is in the scene and who is just mentioned?
  2. Who is the best choice for the POV character for the scene?
  3. What is the POV character’s goal for the scene?

Who Is In The Scene?

In Fictionary, you can visualize who is in each scene and who is mentioned. Seeing your character names will help you decide if you’ve chosen the best POV character for the scene.

Who did you choose for a POV character and what is the goal?

Here is an example of how to answer these 3 questions using my novel DESCENT. The characters in the scene are shown above. The point of view character is Kalin Thompson (she’s also the protagonist), and her goal is to search the ski-tuning room.

Evaluate each scene to ensure the reader will understand the answers to the 3 questions. You can show, tell, or imply the answers. It’s up to you to find the right balance. The more important the event, the more you should show the reader what’s happening. The less important events can be told quickly, so the reader can move on to the good stuff.

Balance The Point Of View Characters

To help you visualize the balance of your POV characters, Fictionary shows you how many POV scenes each character has, the order they have the POV, and the percentage of POV scenes compared to other characters.

Below you can see Kalin Thompson has the most POV scenes (good because she’s the protagonist), Ben has the next (also good because he’s her love interest) and so on. The initials on the bottom show you the order. The green means a character has had 3 scenes in a row where he/she is the POV character.


Fictionary is a proud sponsor of the National Novel Writing Month Now What Months.

To encourage you to finish your novel and get published, we’ve partnered with FriesenPress and are hosting a contest together.

Grand Prize

One lifetime Fictionary subscription and a $1999 FriesenPress Publishing Package.

Additional Prizes

$200 annual Fictionary subscription for 3 lucky writers!

Check out the details and enter the contest.

Winners are chosen at random. No purchase necessary.

Entrants accepted until February 18th, 2018.

Ensure The Purpose of A Scene Is Engaging Your Readers

A great scene makes your reader feel an emotion.

What Is A Scene?

A scene is a section of your novel where a character or characters engage in action or dialogue. You can think of a scene as a story with a beginning, middle, and an end.

Usually, you’ll start a new scene when you change the point of view character, the setting, or the time. You may start a new scene if the scene your working on is too long to fit the structure of your manuscript.

Fictionary will take you through the process of evaluating each scene in your novel.

The Purpose of a Scene

The first question in my post Top 3 Story Editing Questions For Fiction Writers was “What is the purpose of a scene?”

I’d like to share my thoughts in more detail.

The purpose of the scene must relate to the overall story. If it’s not driving the story forward, then ask yourself what is the point of including the scene in your novel.

Here are some examples of the way the purpose of a scene can drive the story forward. You can choose one of these to define your purpose or come up with your own definitions.

  • Build suspense
  • Character development
  • Character Introduction
  • Climax
  • Establish mood
  • Establish setting
  • Inciting Incident
  • Intensify Conflict
  • Move the story forward
  • Plot point 1
  • Plot point 2
  • Resolution (after climax)

How Purpose Of A Scene Helps With Other Elements Of Fiction

I articulate the purpose of the scene early in my story editing, so I can address other elements of the scene and test if they are in line with the purpose.

Let’s say you fill out the list of objects in a scene. You can weigh the objects against the purpose of the scene and see if there is a way to use them to further the purpose. This goes for revelations, tension, conflict, weather, etc. Basically, every scene element can be tested against the scene purpose.

After you whittle down the purpose of a scene to a few words, one of three things will happen.

  1. You’ve got the purpose nailed, and you understand why this scene is included in your novel.
  2. You have a weak purpose, but there is still some value in the scene.
  3. You have no idea what the purpose is.

So you’ve got the purpose nailed. Yay! Move on to the next scene.

If the point of the scene is weak, see if you can take what is important in a scene and move it to another scene, then delete the weak scene. You can also enhance the scene to give it a stronger purpose.

If you can’t articulate the purpose of a scene, think about removing the scene.

 

The Fictionary Finish Your Novel Contest.

Fictionary FYNC

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

To encourage you to finish your novel and get published, we’ve partnered with FriesenPress and are hosting a contest together.

Grand Prize

One lifetime Fictionary subscription and a $1999 FriesenPress Publishing Package.

Additional Prizes

$200 annual Fictionary subscription for 3 lucky writers!

Check out the details and enter the contest.

Winners are chosen at random. No purchase necessary. Entrants accepted until February 18th, 2018.

Fictionary is a proud sponsor of the National Novel Writing Month Now What Months.

Ensure The Purpose of A Scene Is Engaging Your Readers

How To Avoid Plot Holes (Part II — Character Arcs)

A character’s arc includes when she enters and exits the story. Every character arc is a journey, and at the end of the journey, the character either succeeds at achieving his goal or he fails.

The moment a character enters a story, her character arc begins.

The first time a character appears, she must be introduced to the reader. This is where you decide how much time you spend on describing her and who she is in the story.

For a major character, put more emphasis on introducing the character and showing her goal(s). You either share the goal with the reader or make it an internal goal that will be revealed later. Either way, you as the author must know the goal.

For a minor character, write as little as possible and still keep the reader engaged and not confused.

You control how the information of a new character is presented. Consider her appearance, how she speaks, what her mannerisms are, her actions, and how she interacts with other characters.

When describing a character for the first time, describe the character so the reader:

  1. Can conjure up a physical image of the character.
  2. Understands the POV character’s interpretation of the new character.

Consider whose eyes the new character is being seen from and make the description something that character would think or feel.

For example, a rough and tumble character might look at a banker from a city and sneer at the manicured fingernails, whereas a pedicurist might look at the same character and be impressed with the care the person takes in her appearance.

Only include details that move the story forward. If a character’s length of time in his job is important then include that detail.

A character who has been a private detective for one day will act differently than a character who has been a private detective for ten years. If the job is not relevant to the story, then consider not including the detail when introducing the character.

After the character’s final scene, she may still have an impact on other characters in the novel, but she won’t grow or change again. Hence, it’s the end of her character arc.

At the end of the character arc, a reader should feel satisfied. Did the character achieve his goal? Did he fail? That’s up to you as an author to decide, but you must let the reader know.


Causes of Plot Holes

  1. Scenes are not connected to one another or to the story (covered here)
  2. A character arc is not closed off
  3. Scene locations are inconsistent
  4. The timing from one scene to the next doesn’t work.

Plot Hole Problem 2: Character Arc Not Closed

This problem occurs when a character exits your story, but her story was not closed off for the reader. This is extremely important for major characters and less important for minor characters.

Most likely, you’ll close the character arc for your protagonist and antagonist. It’s the other characters in your cast who might cause problems for you. Pay attention to characters who follow a subplot or hold the point of view for a scene. It’s easy to forget a goal or two.

Fictionary Example

The illustration below shows you how Fictionary leads a writer through the process of evaluating plot and looking for plot holes related to character arc.

Let’s take a look at my novel Avalanche.

The Story Arc report can show you the first and last scene each character is in.

To consider if you’ve closed the character arcs, remind yourself of the character’s goals, review the last scene for each character, and make sure you’ve closed off any loose ends.

To do that you need to know what the character’s goals were.

I suggest starting with any characters who have the point of view for a scene. You can quickly scan the POV characters and their goals by choosing the Point of View (POV) and POV Goal in the drop-down menu of the Key Elements per Scene report. This way you can find the important goals you must close off (succeed or fail).

Once you’ve selected the elements, you’ll know the goals for each POV character.

To start checking your character arcs, choose a character and find the first scene she had the point of view for. I’ve chosen, Jessica Scott. She’s a supporting character who has an important role.

Her first point of view scene in Avalanche is scene 13. I found this quickly by looking at the POV report. The bottom row shows each POV character by initials in the order they appear in Avalanche.

Next, find the last scene your POV character is in. You can use the Story Arc report to do this.

Below, you can see Jessica’s last scene is scene 105.

If I need to read the scene, I can click on the black box shown above and the text of that scene will be displayed. I can then determine if I’ve closed off Jessica’s character arc properly.

​So now I know Jessica’s first POV scene, her goal, and her last scene. I can evaluate if I’ve closed off her goal by having her either succeed or fail.

I’ll repeat this for all POV characters and then move on to minor characters who don’t have POV for a scene but do have an important goal.

This takes a bit of time, but it’s worth it to create a better story for your readers.


Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript in MS Word .docx format. Fictionaryautomatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

Six Tips to Combat Writer’s Anxiety by Editor Erin Liles

Before you can use Fictionary.co to edit your first draft, you have to write your first draft. That can be a daunting task and may even cause writer’s anxiety.

Editor, writer, and creative motivator is here with some great advice on how to get that first draft finished. And when you’re done, after you’ve celebrated, we’d love it if you tried Fictionary and let it help you turn your first draft into a story readers love.

Over to Erin…

Six Tips to Combat Writer’s Anxiety

By Erin Liles

Photo by Erin Liles

You know the feeling. You sit down at your computer, ready to write, and that blank white page glares at you, the cursor blinking accusingly, your heartbeat throbbing, underarms pricked with sweat. You start to hyperventilate. Anxiety.

Anxiety is not nice to writers. It’s a bully. It breaks you down. It whispers mean things in your ears like you can’t writeyou don’t have anything to sayyou’ll never write a book.

I’ve gone toe to toe with that bully, and she is formidable, let me tell you. And if you don’t do something about it, it can lead to the dreaded writer’s block.

So, now that we’ve established that anxiety does not make a good writing partner, let me ask you, why do you write? Hold on, I bet I know the answer. It’s probably something like, “it’s a passion.” Or it’s something in you, and you can’t not write. You love it. Right? Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t do it, especially since, let’s face it, writing is hard! Particularly if you are writing a novel.

And if you’re like me, you buy books, you scour the Internet, you take classes, and gobble up as much information as possible. With all the information out there, some resources advising this, others advising that, some calling an idea one thing and someone else another, sometimes it’s even downright overwhelming.

Take heart! The best thing about learning to write better comes from all the things you’re probably already doing, but what’s more is that the best way to improve your writing is by doing it. There is no wasted writing. Every single time you write, you are learning how to write better.

But before you sit down to that terrifying blank white page, let’s do a few things to ease your fears, to get you excited to sit down at your computer and write. Because you can do this. Trust me, you can. It’s all about mindset. The anxious mind has its own agenda. Your job then is to direct the anxious mind into a more productive direction: the writing mind.

  • First, consider making your writing area a space you are comfortable in. If you have a desk in a designated place in your home, you might hang a bulletin board on which you pin inspirational quotes, images that represent something positive for you, pictures of your family, whatever makes you feel good. Or you could create a vision board, a visual representation of what you want to create. Place candles or other scented items in your space — whatever makes you feel good and excited to sit down and write. Make it a sacred space.
  • Meditation has been proven to lower stress, improve concentration, and increase happiness, along with myriad other benefits.
  1. Sit down at your desk. (You can sit anywhere really, but I find if I do this exercise at my desk, I come to associate it with peace and calm instead of anxiety about writing.) You can play some soothing music if you want to — YouTube as some great meditation channels.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Breathe in to the count of five.
  4. Hold your breath for three.
  5. Breathe out for seven.
  6. Take two normal breaths.
  7. Repeat for 10 minutes.

Focus on your breathing. If you have a thought, observe it and let it go. Don’t struggle. Let your muscles go slack.

You can also try this guided meditation for creativity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCEwZ0pIhRw

  • Mind Map. Get some colored pencils or markers and a piece of poster board. Put your main idea (or your character) smack dab in the center of the page. From here, add ideas, subplots, characters, theme, setting, anything at all in varying colors. Just let the ideas flow and connect them however you see fit. Here is a good example of how to mind map your book: http://www.magnoliamedianetwork.com/mindmap-to-start-your-book/
  • Flow. Open a blank Word document or a notebook and set a timer for fifteen minutes. Begin writing about your story idea. Write whatever comes to mind — do not censor yourself in any way. Forget the typos. Forget the bad grammar or misspellings. Your only job is to keep your hand moving. No stopping. Let the ideas flow, and don’t worry if they are good or bad. The idea here is to get those creative juices going.
  • Visualize. Visualize success! Do this when you are relaxed, perhaps after meditating. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself writing, the words just flowing from your fingertips onto the page. How does this feel? What does it look like? What do you hear? Engage all of your senses, and visualize this image as often as possible throughout your day.
  • Rephrase. Identify your negative thoughts and rephrase them positively. Instead of saying I can’t write, say I can and will write. What’s more, take the word should out of your vocabulary. Saying you should be writing only creates more pressure, resistance, and you guessed it, anxiety. Rephrase to say I want to write!

Don’t let that blank page intimidate you. See it as an invitation to create. What gets put on the page can always be changed, but you can’t change what you haven’t written!

And remember,

“Creating something out of nothing is exciting. Filling the empty page with words, sacred words, is inviting.” ~Rachel Ballon, Ph.D.

Now get out there and write!

Erin Liles is a freelance editor, writer, and creative motivator who works with large and small publishing houses and independent authors. She is represented by Mansion Street Literary Agency. For more information visit editperfectword.com.

How To Avoid Plot Holes (Part I)

A plot hole will make your readers unhappy. So how do you avoid falling into a hole? How do you even know there is a hole? Don’t be like my dog (Farley) and bound through the snow, not knowing what’s beneath.

​Scenes and the order that events take place in your story make up the plot. The scenes occur in a sequence, and that sequence forms the structure of your novel.

You’ll most likely have a main plot and one or two subplots. Your protagonist (main character) follows the main plot. Secondary characters follow the subplots.

Your job as a writer is to evaluate how you’ve written the plot (and subplots) and to edit and rewrite until you’ve created a compelling story for your readers.

If you make each scene great, have each scene flow from one to the next in a way that makes sense to the reader, and pay attention to the key elements of fiction for each scene, you’ll avoid plot holes.

Causes of Plot Holes:

  1. Scenes are not connected to one another or to the story
  2. A character arc is not closed off
  3. Scene locations are inconsistent
  4. The timing from one scene to the next doesn’t work.

​Today, I’ll focus on the first cause of plot holes.

Plot Hole Problem 1: Scenes Not Connected To One Another

When a scene causes a plot hole by not being connected to the story, this usually means the scene doesn’t have a purpose. If you don’t know the purpose of each scene in your novel neither will your reader.

Naming the scene will help you determine what the scene is about.

The purpose of the scene. must relate to the overall story. If it’s not driving the story forward, ask yourself why you included the scene in your novel.

​If you don’t know the answer or can’t come up with a purpose, consider deleting the scene. You can move any important tidbits to another scene if you need to.

Once you know the purpose of each scene, test how the flow of your novel is working. If your scenes don’t flow from one to another, then the plot doesn’t make sense to a reader. This is considered a plot hole, as the reader might fall into a hole and not read any further.

Keep track of how you enter and exit each scene.

For entering each scene, do you:

  • Vary the way you enter each scene in your draft?
  • Have a hook that draws the reader into the scene?
  • Anchor the reader in terms of point of view, setting, and timing?

For exiting each scene, do you:

  • Vary the way you end each scene?
  • Have a hook that makes the reader want to start the next scene?
  • Use a technique that connects the current scene to the following scene?

We’ll cover entry and exit hooks in the next lesson.

Fictionary Example

The illustration below shows you how Fictionary leads a writer through the process of evaluating plot and looking for plot holes.

Let’s take a look at my work in progress, Evolution. We’ll cover some of the plot elements in the basic mode of Fictionary and start with the scene opening.

Scene Name: I’ve named the scene Daisy Through Ice. This is enough for me to know what the scene is about. The word cloud helped me name the scene.

Story Arc: The story arc is set to yes because this scene is the inciting incident and will be plotted on the Story Arc under Visualize Your Manuscript in Fictionary.

Purpose of Scene: For each scene in your novel, Fictionary gives you two lists to choose a purpose from or you can add your own. This list shows you I’ve chosen the Inciting Incident.

If the Story Arc is set to “No” you’ll see a different list.

Opening Type: This scene opens with action. The first sentence is the character opening the refrigerator door. I’ll keep track of opening types throughout Evolution to ensure I’m not repetitive.

Below, you can read the closing of the scene.

Closing Type: You can see the last line of the scene is thought. “All I had to do was roll over and slide in.” Fictionary will show me a report for the closing type of every scene. I’ll know if I’m using enough variety for my scene endings.

​Let me know if you have other causes of plot holes and how you fix them.


Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript in MS Word .docx format. Fictionaryautomatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

Character Names – Don’t Confuse Your Readers

Confusing readers with character names that are too similar to each other might make a reader stop reading your book. Here’s why…

Photo from Pixabay

This morning over coffee I was reading a book. A mystery. The story line is strong. The characters are interesting.

As I was about a quarter of the way in and the unforgivable happened. I got confused and had to re-read a section. I got past that, so yes I forgave the author because a liked the story.

In the next scene, the same issue happened.

In one scene, a sheriff and his young deputy are questioning an older woman and her young nurse. The nurse’s name is Maggie. The deputy’s name is Molly. Two young women. Two names starting with M. Halfway through the scene one of them put their hand on the older woman’s shoulder. I thought, “Why would the deputy be so personal?” I had to go back and check which character had touched the woman.

In the next scene, the older sheriff and the deputy interview a older man. A man who was previously a sheriff. Two older men with the same career. Here we have Wilson and Wyatt. Again I had to check who was speaking.

This was frustrating. A little bit of editing would have fixed this problem.

Now I have to decide if I’ll invest more time in the book or give up. It’s shame, because it’s a good story.

If the author had used Fictionary, here’s what he/she would have seen. I used my WIP in Fictionary and added the character names for illustration. The screenshot below lists the characters in each scene.

You can see Maggie and Mollie one after another and in the next scene Wilson and Wyatt. Seeing your characters listed in connection to a scene will help you eliminate the confusion of having names within your story that are too similar to one another.

Hopefully this helps you edit your work in progress and make it a better experience for your readers. I’d love to hear how you deal with this issue.


Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript in MS Word .docx format. Fictionaryautomatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

Characters and Plot – Make Your Characters Work For You.

Why do people read novels?

I think people read to find out what happens next. But what happens next is only interesting if it the “what happens next” involves characters or something important to a character.

Characters ARE your story. They act and react. They create emotion. They show motivation. Without any of this, you don’t have a story. That’s a tall order for your characters. So how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of them?

You edit your story and rewrite until your characters are performing at their best.

Characters and Novel Structure

Once you’ve finished your first draft, you most likely know who your characters are, what they look like, where they work, and so on. But what about how they fit into your story structure? To understand this and make the most of it, you must evaluate your characters in the context of the structure of your novel.

By this point, you know if you’re writing from first-person point of view (POV) or third person. You’ve also decided if you’re writing from multiple points of view. In essence, you know who is telling your story.

When thinking about the POV character for each scene, ask yourself:

  • What is the POV external goal for the scene?
  • What is the POV internal goal for the scene?
  • How does the goal relate to the plot?
  • What happens if your POV fails to achieve the goal?
  • How does scene impact your POV character?
  • How does the scene impact your protagonist (if not the POV for the scene?)

Once you’ve answered the questions, check each scene to ensure the reader will understand the answers. You can show, tell, or imply the answers. It’s up to you to find the right balance. You’re the creative one!

The more important an event, the more you should show the reader what’s happening. “Tell” the less important events, so the reader can move on to the good stuff.

Taking on the task of editing and rewriting your first draft doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A bit of organization will help you complete your rewrite without it taking forever. We created Fictionary to help writers perform their own story edit in a knowledgable and efficient manner.

Below is a look at my work-in-progress, Evolution, within Fictionary. Fictionary helps me focus on my characters on a scene-by-scene basis. It keeps me from convincing myself a scene is okay.

When I review each scene with a focus on the POV character’s goal for example, I know what my character wants. If a character doesn’t want something, the scene will lack tension, and hence be boring. In the scene below, Jaz Cooper has the POV. Once I know the goal, I can decide if she will achieve her goal or not. Sometimes she will. Sometimes she won’t.

I can assess her external goal versus her internal goal. The reader may or may not know what the internal goal is, but if I do, I can be consistent with my character throughout the novel.

It takes work, but I’m serious about making my story a great story, so to me, it’s worth putting in the time and effort. I’ll evaluate each scene focussing on characters, then I’ll evaluate with a focus on plot and setting.


Characters Per Scene

Fictionary shows you how many characters are in each scene. This gives you a chance to determine if you have too many characters in a scene. Too many characters might confuse your reader.


Scenes Per Character

Fictionary will also show you how many scenes each character is in and the order they appear in the novel. You can see I have 33 characters in my novel.

Jaz Cooper is in 85 scenes (good news for me as she’s the protagonist). Eighty-five is the maximum number of scenes a character is in. The minimum number of scenes a character appears in is 1. Dr. Patron is an example of a character who appears once.

Jaz is the first character to appear in the novel. Also good news. The less important a character is, the later he/she can appear in the story.


Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript. Fictionary automatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

Top 3 Structural Editing Questions For Fiction Writers

After completing my first two novels, I knew to become a better writer, I needed to learn to edit my own story.

Write a Story Readers Love

What about you? Before sending your story to beta readers, writers’ critique groups, or to an editor, don’t you want your story to be the best you can make it?

I put all my energy in learning how to perform a structural edit. A structural edit, also known as a developmental edit or a story edit, will turn your draft into a story readers love. You’ll notice I like to use the term story edit. It sounds much more fun than the formal terms!

 

A Great Story Readers Love

Once you have a draft written, it’s time to focus on characters, plot, and setting.

Characters

During a story edit, you also take a hard look at your characters. How often do they appear? What are their goals? What gets in the way of their goals? Characters will drive the tension in your story, and tension is what keeps a reader engaged in your story.

Plot

Performing a story edit on your first draft means analyzing your story from a high-level perspective and fixing any weak areas. You want to make sure the story structure makes sense, the scenes are tense, there are no plot holes, and your key scenes appear in the best place along your story arc.

Setting

Finally, the story edit should examine your settings. Do you make the most of your settings? How often do you use the same setting, and is it too often? Do your settings help with the tone of your scenes? Settings are key to keeping your reader engaged, so don’t ignore them.


Where To Start Your Story Edit

Here are three questions to ask yourself when you review a scene and look for ways to improve it.

1. What is the purpose of this scene?

Defining the purpose of the scene first allows you to address other elements of the scene and test if they are in line with the purpose. A scene may have more than one purpose, but see if you can choose the most important one and then ask yourself does this help drive the story forward.

2. Who has the point of view?

Multiple points of view means the character who controls the POV for a scene changes from scene to scene. As a writer, you must be in control of this aspect. The generally accepted method is to have one POV character per scene. Switching mid-scene can be known as head-hopping and can jar the reader from the story.

3. Is the setting the best place for emotional impact?

When answering the question, think about who has the point of view for the scene and what makes them feel strong or vulnerable.

Do you have a character who is afraid of the dark? Imagine the character is about to have a confrontation with an employee. If the character feels confident being in his/her own office and you want the character to be in a position of strength, then use the office as a setting.

If you want the character to feel vulnerable during the confrontation, try locating him/her outside, at night, in an isolated parking lot. And make it very dark. The streetlight is broken. There is no moon. Maybe it’s windy, so a cry for help won’t be heard.

Tackle each question and edit each scene accordingly.

Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

What Writers Are Saying About Fictionary!

D.S. Kane, Amazon Bestselling Author

“I have used Fictionary to revise my current work in progress, entitled MindField, an espionage technothriller due out in early December 2017. My feeling is that Fictionary helped me to improve the manuscript significantly, and I will use it on all my subsequent novels. I am trained as both a novelist and screenwriter, but I focus exclusively on producing novels. And, that is where Fictionary is most useful. The toolbox within Fictionary helps a novelist see exactly where their work is weakest and strongest, and pushes me to work on fixing my problems.”

Helping Authors Create Stories That Work

You know I love to write, but I also love to edit. I’m thrilled to announce Fictionary’s Story Editing Course. Try it, and maybe you’ll love to edit too!

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At Fictionary, We believe to become a successful author, your novel needs to tell a great story.

Think about some of the best novels you’ve read. What do you remember?

Like me, you probably recall a compelling character like Jason Bourne, the intriguing plot told in Gone Girl, or the fantastic settings depicted in The Game of ThronesYou remember the story.

Combining Fictionary (a self-editing tool for fiction writers) with an online course seems like a great way to give authors the knowledge and process needed to complete their own story edit.

If you’ve finished that first draft and aren’t sure what to do next, we’ve got a solution.

Announcing the Fictionary Story Editing Course

This course will guide you through your manuscript with a scene-by-scene approach to editing. Fictionary focuses on the story, not the words.

To receive the first two lessons, all you have to do is sign up for a free trial of Fictionary. No credit card required. No obligations.

The full 14-lesson course is included with a Fictionary subscription.

Lesson Plan

  • Lesson 1: How To Use Fictionary To Make Your Story Work
  • Lesson 2: Characters And Novel Structure
  • Lesson 3: How To Improve Your Plot
  • Lesson 4: How To Improve Your Settings
  • Lesson 5: How To Use Word Count To Evaluate Your Scenes
  • Lesson 6: Connect Your Readers To Your Characters
  • Lesson 7: Make The Most Of Your POV Characters
  • Lesson 8: Story Arc And Engaging Your Readers
  • Lesson 9: Finding Plot Holes
  • Lesson 10: Draw Your Readers Into and Out of Each Scene
  • Lesson 11: Maximize Your Use of Tension And Conflict
  • Lesson 12: Check For An Empty Stage
  • Lesson 13: Keep Your Timeline Clear
  • Lesson 14: Bringing It All Together

Lesson 1: How To Use Fictionary To Make Your Story Work

Fictionary can identify and help you fix problems within your manuscript by focusing on the structure of your story, not on the words. In lesson one, we’ll tackle these critical structural areas:

  1. Pacing
  2. Character names and appearances
  3. Point of view characters and goals
  4. Story arc
  5. Plot holes (scenes without a clear purpose)
  6. Flow from scene to scene
  7. Absence of tension or conflict
  8. Empty stage syndrome
  9. Confusing timelines or missing objects

 
Where Can You Get More Information?

Check out Fictionary.co for a full description of what Fictionary is and how it can help you.

Download our free Story Editing eBook.

Learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story. We call these components the Key Elements Of Fiction.  Our eBook shows you how to use the key elements of fiction to evaluate your story and become your own big-picture editor.

 

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story