Point of View: Describing Characters

When you are writing in a character’s point of view, can you describe that character’s face or part of themselves that they can’t see?

For example, in a scene written in Ian’s point of view, can the following be written?

Ian blushed and his freckles turned orange.

My thoughts . . . Ian might know he’s blushing from the physical sensation, but how could he know his freckles turned orange?

So if you agree that this isn’t the right way to convey the image, then what?

Perhaps I could:

–       Have another a character make fun of the orange freckles.

–       Have another character say, “I know you’re lying. You’re freckles are turning orange.”

Do you have any ideas how to get around this?

Thanks for reading . . .

To Keep Reading or Not To Keep Reading?

Sometimes I feel bad about starting a book and then not finishing it. I don’t do this often, but here’s one reason why the book goes back on the bookshelf.

Last week, I blogged about Likeable Characters and why an unlikeable character might make me put the book aside.

Then I started reading a book, which I won’t name, and tossed it aside after three chapters. I picked it up again and examined it. The first three chapters were all telling and a bit of back story put in.

I couldn’t connect with the character. I felt no desire to find out what happened to them. It’s not that I didn’t like the character, it was the writing was too distant for my taste.

Too much telling and not enough showing puts distance between the reader and the character. Too much distances lessens the connection and give the reader on reason to keep reading. As usual, just my opinion.

What makes you put a book down?

Likeable Characters?

How do you know if your character is likeable? #writetip Or at least sympathetic, or interesting, or has some characteristic that will keep your readers reading?

When I started writing, I couldn’t figure this out. Then I discovered it’s easier to tell if a character is unlikable or uninteresting. I started to look, and I mean seriously look, at books where I couldn’t connect with a character.

Things that bother me:

  • A character who’s having a pity party for one for tooooooo long.
  • A character that does nothing but whine.
  • A character that is all evil – really there has to be something more than evil.

To me, a character who has a likeable trait, any trait, makes them sympathetic.

Maybe they have a kind streak. Say the character is about to commit a crime, or has just committed a crime, and they stop and help a dog that’s been hit by a car and it lying at the side of the road. That might make me cheer for their escape – depending on the crime of course.

Maybe they put something or someone ahead of their own desires.

Maybe they have a sense of humour.

But mostly, they need to care about something. If they don’t care about anything, how can I care about them? And if I don’t care, why would I keep reading?

Theme For Your Novel

Can having a theme for your novel help you write it well?

I think so. I’m halfway through my fourth novel and a theme helped my name it –

Look The Other Way

 The theme: Is it murder if you look the other way?

What I mean by this is: Say a character could stop a death by taking some action but doesn’t. By the character’s inaction, the person dies. Is this murder?

Does the character . . .

  • Believe he’s committed a murder?
  • Suffer for his own inaction?
  • Alter his future behaviour to make up for his inaction?
  • Think that his inaction was justified? The right thing to do?

By focussing on the theme, I have lots to think about when developing not only the character that let a death happen, but the other characters who are affected by the death.

The name reminds me to think of the theme when I write each scene. That’s gotta be a good thing. 🙂

Why is Character Development Important?

While I spend time in Canada during the summer, I get to watch the news on TV, something that never happens in the Bahamas.

I’ve been watching how friends and family react to news, and I started thinking about character development in a novel and why it’s so important.

Witnessing a car crash, or the aftermath of a car crash, on TV can be upsetting, or make a person sad, but once the clip is over, everyone focuses on the next news clip.

But, what if someone you know is in the car? Then, I think, most people react a little differently. All of sudden, there is a vested interest in the crash. Were the people hurt? Are they in the hospital? Will they recover?

Why? Because you are personally involved.

I find if I can’t put a novel down, it’s usually because I feel like I know the characters and I care about what happens to them. To me, this means the author has done a great job of developing the characters. As a writer, I think it’s important for me to spend time on developing characters. Then maybe I’ll get lucky, and my readers won’t want to put my book down.

Descriptions That Engage The Reader

#writetip When you create the world your novel exists in, there are an infinite number of “things” you can describe. A daunting task! How do you choose what to write about and what to leave out?

One technique is to describe what the character cares about. Chances are if the character is interested in the “thing” being described then the reader will be to.

The character might be interested in something if it is relevant to their goal, if it is a danger to them, or if it shows something about their personality.

To show the reader your character cares about this “thing” you can have the character give their opinion in either speech or thought. You can have the character go to extreme to save this “thing.”

If their house was burning down, what would they save? Maybe that’s the “thing” you should be describing.

For everything you describe, ask yourself how what it means to your character. That should get you on way to deciding what in your new world to write about.

As usual, this is what works for me. If you have other methods, I love to hear about them.

Switching POVs

#writetip. I find reading novels with multiple POVs entertaining and enjoyable. So what’s the trick to writing multiple POVs. As usual, this is only my opinion, so here’s what I think.

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.

I 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 that they can’t bear the change and toss the novel aside.

Character Names

#writetip Do you refer to your character the same way throughout your novel or short story? Does this change depending on who has the POV in a particular scene?

I’m wondering if this matters.

I have a character, let’s call him Mike Chambers.

When Mike has the POV or his girlfriend has the POV, I refer to him as Mike.

When a cop who is interviewing him has the POV, I refer to him as Chambers.

I think it’s more personal to use Mike in his POV scene or his girlfriends POV scene.

When it’s the cops POV, I think the cop should be more distant from Mike and I refer to him as Chambers.

The question is: is this okay or does it confuse the reader?

My solution to answering this question. I ask my readers what they think after they’ve read the scenes. If the reader is not confused as to who the character is, I think using first and last names allows me to indicate closeness of a relationship. If the reader is confused, maybe it’s better to use either the first or the last name, but not both.

Italics for Thoughts?

#writetip Garry Ryan, author of the Detective Lane Mysteries is kindly donating his time to be my mentor. This is part of the CWC mentorship program. We’re working through my third novel, Burnt, and in my humble opinion, the novel getting better.

One thing we’ve discussed is using italics for a characters thoughts. This is something I hadn’t done before. Garry’s advice is that it makes it easier for the reader to jump from narrative to thought.

I’ve been trying this technique, and I have to say it’s rather fun. It’s putting me more into the character’s head. I guess it reduces the distance between author and character, and then hopefully, between reader and character.

Now, we’ll see what kind of feedback I get on this new style (new for me, I mean).

Ordinary Life of a Writer

#writetip. Who wants to read about ordinary life? We all live one. It’s ours to live, but that doesn’t mean reading about it is anything but boring.

I’m trying to edit out the ordinary life stuff. You know, the lines where the character walks across the room, opens the door, and discovers who is there.

I think the readers get the “skip to the next scene scenario.” We see it all the time on television shows and in movies. Why not just have your character react to whomever is on the other side. We know if their reacting, they’ve walked across the room and opened the door.

Once I started looking for ordinary life, I was surprised to find how many times I used it. It’s an easy place to cut words if you need to.