January 27, 2010

Where’s the Action?

Posted in Age-Old Debates at 11:18 am by jajohnson7

One of the most difficult things about writing a story is figuring out where it starts. Saying “right before the action” isn’t exactly helpful. In my story, the action pretty much starts two months before my main character starts at her new (awesome) school.

I thought I couldn’t go wrong starting my story when my main character arrives at her this school. Turns out, I could.

I found myself getting sucked into touring a school I hadn’t completely thought up yet, introducing my main character seven times over to dozens of characters that needed to be made up on the spot, and – long story short, I wasn’t comfortable creating a world by going from zero to sixty in negative five seconds flat.

It was also soporific to write. Pop Quiz: how many ways can you have people say, “Oh, you’re the new student?”

So I need to find a new starting point a little “further” into the story, after all these introductions are over. I can always cover important introductions in flashbacks, I suppose.¬†When I don’t have a plan, I like to learn about my characters as my readers do. (That’s probably why I would be terrible at writing mysteries.) It might be weird, but that’s how I work.

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January 9, 2010

Interesting Perspective

Posted in Age-Old Debates at 11:22 am by jajohnson7

One choice every writer must make: should I write this novel from first or third person?

I used to write in first-person. My parents and teachers said I needed to branch out, try different perspectives. I tried third-person and never looked back.

I’m not saying that first-person is an inferior point of view. It has many advantages. The reader is firmly placed inside the main character’s head. It can work very well to mislead the reader, to keep them from solving the mystery of the plot too quickly. But sometimes, it simply can’t do what you need it to.

I’m a fan of third-person omniscient. You can bounce around (sparingly) to other characters, which is particularly useful when the good guys are separated and fulfilling their own crucial missions. You can see what the bad guy is up to without using ridiculously over-used dream sequences.

If you’re just not sure what to go with, try third-person limited. A good example of this is Harry Potter. The reader is privy to his thoughts, and no-one else’s, but we aren’t stuck inside his head either.

I’m not sure why people argue about this. You simply should choose the point of view that works best for the story you’re writing now. However, if you find yourself always sticking with one point of view, like I used to do, try to vary it up. Experiment with other viewpoints. You might find another point of view works better for your story than you had originally thought.