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My Freedom Flame

Motivating Writers Worldwide

Tag: main character

Fiction Writing Tips: How to Master Point-of-View

Put Yourself in Your Main Character’s Shoes

Alright, today’s tip is going to encompass an entire article rather than breaking something into three or four parts. We’re covering fiction writing tips today that will help you master one of the more difficult skills a fiction author will face: Point-of-view.

When I found out point-of-view existed back in November 2017 (thank you, Jerry Jenkins!) I found my writing during the first drafts of Northern Knights was omniscient.
At times, omniscient point-of-view works and the classic novels are good at displaying such work.

However, times have changed and today point-of-view must be limited, as if the reader (and the author) is the main character, seeing the work from their eyes.

Why has this become?

We live in an age where authors are facing more than just competition from other authors. We’re facing competition from iPads, iPhones, TV, movies, the latest video game, Netflix binge-watching, and whatever else these mad tech scientists are concocting.

It isn’t a day where books rule the world which was prevalent in the early to mid-twentieth century.

But, there’s hope and if you’re having a tough time mastering point-of-view, you found such hope.

 

Through the Eyes of the Main

There are exceptions to this rule but most works will be seen through the eyes of a main character, typically the main character.

You know those five senses they taught you about?

Yep, the main character and only the main character can see, feel, hear, taste, and smell things. No one else can.

You can imply they can, such as something insane happens and Lira’s eyes widened. But we’re still in Cain’s point-of-view. For this, you can’t say Lira was shocked (show, don’t tell), but you should say this:

Lira’s eyes widened and she stumbled backward as Ferguson tore between her and Cain.

“What just happened?” Lira said, gazing where Ferguson bolted off.

Kid’s on freaking crack. Cain crossed his arms. “I don’t know, but he’s flying high on something.”

Note a few things here. You’re seeing Lira’s expression and Ferguson bolting away with his arms flailing through Cain’s eyes.

But, note something else. I didn’t have to say Cain saw or even state Cain thought. We know Cain’s thinking when I state ‘Kid’s on freaking crack’ after Ferguson bolted off. We can say Lira looked, or in this case gazed because Cain, and therefore the reader can see Lira turning her head and looking in a certain direction.

 

Don’t Say They Saw, Thought, or Felt

Like I mentioned above, it’s not necessary to state Cain saw, thought, felt, or anything related. Instead, let’s so it so the reader can experience it.

Cain whipped around. “What the hell was what, Lira?”

The reader realizes Cain’s perturbed.

Or, this example:

Cain snickered. “It sure as hell sounded like a dream starring Yours Truly.”

The reader knows Cain’s amused.

What about text outside a quote.

Oh, Gaia in hell, does she always freak out like this?

We’re seeing Cain’s thoughts, but again, being in his point-of-view, we don’t have to say Cain thought. We can just say what he thought.

Also, we can’t say what the other characters are thinking. For instance, we can’t state Lira was annoyed with Cain. We show this like this:

Fling!

“Oh, ow, son of a bitch, Lira, what the hell did you throw at me?”

Lira raised her eyebrows. “I told you not to get smart with me.”

I think the reader knows Cain annoyed Lira enough for her to throw a piece of metal into his face by showing her actions.

For instance, if a character raises their voice at the main and are shaking with a vein pulsing, it shows they’re angry.

If the author just says the other character is angry, the reader feels nothing. By showing it, the reader will feel everything the main character is feeling. Man, that piece of metal to the head hurt! I felt that one!

Not only did I provide examples that never stated Cain saw this or felt the piece of metal. Cain’s reaction to Lira flinging a piece of metal into his face shows the reader Cain’s reaction.

 

The Reader Knows what the Main Knows

Jerry Jenkins states that ideally, there should be one point-of-view per book, but always one per scene and preferably one per chapter.

Now, Jenkins certainly deviated from this at times and sometimes it’s necessary.

For instance, I’m drafting Book Four in the Lord of Columbia Series while editing Books Two and Three.

Book Four does require two points-of-view due to the plot’s complexity and distance. Jenkins practiced this in his Left Behind Series, which took place at the global level.

If there’s information the reader needs from two points-of-view, this can be done but remember to limit point-of-view to one per scene or ideally, one per chapter.

Also, when changing point-of-view let the reader know with a typographical dingbat. For instance, when in Cain’s point-of-view in Book Four, I would place a few asterisks above the scene to indicate change in point-of-view.

It’s also wise to use a character’s full name so I would state Cain Riscattare in the first line instead of Cain.

This will let the reader know of the point-of-view switch so they can experience the story from Cain’s eyes, in this example.

 

Avoid Head-hopping

And, my final tip is to avoid head-hopping. This might be rampant in your work if you struggle with point-of-view but it will get easier as time goes on.

Head-hopping is when an author goes from one point-of-view to another in the same scene.

For instance, if I were to take the scene with Ferguson again, as mentioned earlier and stated the following:

Cain gazed where Ferguson bolted off.

Now, we’re no longer in Cain’s limited point-of-view.

If I were to go on to state this:

Lira stumbled backward. Someone needs to help the poor kid. “What just happened?”

We just went from being in Cain’s point-of-view earlier in the scene (in the actual text) to Lira’s point-of-view without telling the reader otherwise.

This leads to a confused reader.

 

Take Action

So, save yourself some harsh critics and practice this exercise by stating what’s in front of you. For instance, here’s where I am at this moment in time:

Sitting in the library, Todd typed another blog onto his laptop. It was a busy day here on a late-Wednesday afternoon. Every table was packed with patrons and the librarians scurried all over the place helping those searching for books. Another patron entered and swept in front of Todd’s table, parking himself at the far end near the window.

Once again, we never stated I looked or anything. But, we saw the whole thing from my point-of-view.

Let’s add more pizzazz.

Todd squirted fruit-punch flavored drink mix into his water bottle and took a swig.

Again, readers know what fruit punch tastes like. The goal, by mentioning the fruit punch flavored mix is to get the reader to taste the punch.

Someone nearby was streaming a live music video while two others conversed about their day behind Todd.

You know I’m hearing something but I never had to state that I heard anything.

Hmm, was someone wearing cologne? It wasn’t Cosmo Kramer’s beach cologne, but it was something tropical. Perhaps it was time to book another trip to the beach or to see family in Fort Myers, Florida?

We’re getting the smells.

The table consisted of a rugged texture, a stark contrast from the smooth-ended keyboard.

Finally, the sense of touch, without saying anyone felt.

It might take a bit of sentence structuring and word playing, but once your product is finished you’ll see first-hand how much better your work reads when point-of-view is mastered.

Thanks a bunch for coming across My Freedom Flame, and please follow my blog for more information regarding fiction writing tips. Thanks again and please come back soon.

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Writer’s Tip: Make Your Protagonists the Cleveland Browns

Plunge Your Main Characters into Terrible Trouble

Plunge your main characters into terrible trouble and write to see what happens. It’s the single-most greatest advice I’ve ever received. For someone like myself who’s a wannabe outliner but definitely finds a way to deviate from my outline, terrible trouble is the best way to write my way out of a corner.

 
If you’re stuck or are experiencing writer’s block on a work, just use the element of surprise and create some good old, healthy conflict.

 
Sure, you don’t want to overdo it, but let me give you an extreme example.

 
We’re going to make our protagonist in the mold of the Cleveland Browns.

 
Now, if you don’t know anything about the NFL, don’t worry, because I’m going to give you some good insight on the NFL’s most snake-bitten franchise, the most recent of which came…yesterday.

 

Rebuilding Since 1964

The 1964 Cleveland Browns epitomized everything an NFL Franchise should become, and all NFL Franchises wanted to be them.

 
It was also the last time the Browns won an NFL Championship, three years before Super Bowl I.

 
Since 1964, the following occurred.

 
1. The Browns lost sixteen straight road games to the Pittsburgh Steelers until the mid-1980’s. The Steelers, likewise, morphed into what was then the NFL’s greatest dynasty.

 
2. The Browns saw a new hope in the 1980’s, only to lose three AFC Championship Games, two of which in heartbreaking fashion that became known in NFL lore as The Drive and The Fumble.

 
3. In 1995, after being projected by numerous outlets to make the Super Bowl that season, then-Browns Owner Art Modell announced he was going to move the team to Baltimore to play the 1996 season. It’s fair to mention the Browns Head Coach at the time was none other than Bill Belichick.

 
4. In 1999, the Browns returned, but have made the playoffs only once in 2002, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in heartbreaking fashion.

 
5. Josh Gordon, today arguably the most talented Cleveland Brown, who led the league in receiving in 2013, and is the only player in NFL history to post back-to-back two-hundred yard receiving games, was suspended for twelve games in 2014, all of 2015, all of 2016, and twelve games in 2017. He’s currently returned to drug rehab and has yet to appear in training camp for 2018. He’s been suspended for 56 of his last 64 possible games.

 
6. The Browns have finished last in the AFC North the last seven seasons, the longest streak in NFL history.

 
7. Since December 2015, they’re 1-34, the worst stretch of games in NFL history. In the last two seasons, they’re 1-31. Since September 27th, 2015, they’re 3-43.

 
8. In 2017, they became just the second team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16.

 
9. They’ve had the largest starting quarterback turnover of any team since 1999, where Tyrod Taylor becomes the 28th different starting quarterback to take the reins. Since returning to the league, only Tim Couch started every game in a single season (2001).

 
10. They’re 4-32 against their biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, since returning to the league in 1999.

 
Are we having fun yet?

 
11. And just yesterday, rookie receiver Antonio Callaway, who has every bit as much talent as Josh Gordon to the point the Browns traded former first round pick Corey Coleman to the Buffalo Bills Sunday night, was cited for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license. Callaway had previously been suspended by the NCAA for all of 2017 after being charged with credit card fraud, topping off a list of other run-ins he had with the law in his college days.

 

The Terrible Trouble Blueprint

Let me tell you something, this is the exact blueprint for a main protagonist. Put them into as much terrible trouble as possible and write to see what happens. Hopefully, when things reach their breaking point, something good will happen, like in the Browns’ case, a Lombardi Trophy would be nice. Or a winning season. Hell, winning a game would be a step in the right direction!

 
Either way, the goal is simple; put your Cleveland Browns into as much terrible trouble as you can and write to find out what happens to them. Something good might eventually happen when things look bleaker than bleak.

 
Perhaps give your readers hope; you want them to root for your main protagonist. Do so, and you’ll start building a readership. It’ll be slow at first; it always is, especially if you’re new to the game like me, but over time, you’ll see the fruits of your hard work pay off, to where you’ll be able to fire your boss!

 

Links to my ebook and print book, Northern Knights

Now Available in Print: https://amzn.to/2vA7GPj

and E-book: https://amzn.to/2KkkyOZ .

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