What's the Story?
editing a science fiction novel right now, the first novel I've
attempted that has multiple points of view, and it's gotten me
reflecting on how vital it is to decide whose story it is, and what are
the point-of-view characters.
book involves two four-way relationships and an antagonist involved in a
political thread. This is the third major revision. The first time I
told the wrong story, that of the younger four, from a first person POV.
The second I wrote for an online class that required I write a certain
number of words on a new story. Though the draft was sketchy, I tried to
both the older four and younger four. One of the POV characters was the
main character from the first revision, and as a result the primary
story lost focus.
had put the second version aside and was, I thought, almost finished
with the first version when a reader convinced me that my heart wasn't
in it, that I was much more invested in the thread involving the older
four characters. Reluctantly, I decided she was right, and went back to
rethink the whole thing.
decided to concentrate on the older four. Any scene involving one of
the younger four's point of view went out the window. That left me with
the four older characters, some of whom had been short-changed in both
previous versions, and the antagonist. I knew from the first version
that not having him as a point of view character weakened the story.
decided to start with two chapters featuring my main character, and
then a chapter devoted to each of the other POVs. These chapters were
new and they forced me to consider what I needed to show about the
characters, why it was important to the story, and how to tell it. One
character especially, who had been the most neglected in the two
previous drafts, sprang into focus when I wrote her initlal chapter.
This influenced the interplay between them and how the story unfolded
from then on.
am not a detailed plotter, and certain things only become real to me as
I write them. In the previous version, the characters in the primary
relationship had been off stage often enough that I did not sufficiently
develop the nuances of their relationship. In this one, I was forced to
consider them each far more carefully in order to clarify their voices.
did have some scenes I quite liked from version two, and fortunately
they involved the older four, so I was able to use them. The first
version also had a couple of scenes I liked, but, alas, they did not --
could not -- make it into the book. Perhaps at some point I can write a
short story that could include some of it.
this, of course, still left me struggling with the sheer mechanics of
managing five character's voices, and of keeping track of whose voice I
was in at any one time. I started by naming the chapters for the
character and switching only at chapter breaks. About a third of the way
through the writing gods smiled on me, and Terry Odell sent a
shout-out on the Savvy Authors email loop about her upcoming point of
view workshop. I signed up immediately. It was a huge help.
I do better next time in deciding on my point of view characters? Maybe
-- maybe not. I will give it the thought it deserves, but I'm still
going to be ready to discover that I've made a mistake and need to go
back and regroup.
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