On October 16, 2021 I wrote an article that talked about the various points of view in which a story teller can use to tell a story. I talked about the following points of view.
First Person POV
Third Person POV
Third Person Omniscient
Third Person Limited
Third Person Objective
(Please refer to that article for details regarding each one) The purpose of this short article is to talk about which one should you choose. Very simply put, it’s up to you the writer. Which one will tell your story better? Well, to know this, you have to write your story in each of the points of view. That is, if you’re undecided upon which one to pick. After you’ve written your story in each point of view, read each one aloud. Doing this will give you a feel for which one suits your story more.
In the real world we talk everyday, and what we say and talk about at the time could be part of a directed conversation about a topic or you may move from topic to topic. But, generally, what your are saying has nothing to do with moving a story forward, as in a book. Therefore, the dialogue/conversations in a the story you are writing should move the story forward. However, it needs to be done in such a way that it sounds real and everyday. So, how do you do this? Yes, this is a lot to think about, but remember you can go back later and fix it. I’ve said this before, get the words on the page first. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing dialogue.
Remember your dialogue tags. You don’t need a dialogue tag after every line of dialogue. Every now and then put one in to remind the reader of who is speaking.
Small talk is a killer. In real life we make small talk all the time for different reasons. Maybe we’re nervous and don’t know what to talk about, so we end up saying little tidbits of information to try and break the ice. In real life though, we aren’t trying to advance a story/plot. So, leave the small talk out of your dialogue, unless of course it advances your story/plot.
Keep it natural. Make sure your dialogue sounds natural. One good way to tell if it sounds natural or not is to read it out loud.
No same sounding characters. This closely relates to voice. I touched on this in a previous blog post (Voice from September 21, 2021) Make sure your characters sound different when they are speaking. Word choice, dialect, and how they say something all plays a part in this. Maybe one of your characters has a signature word they like to say. Use that.
Using names in dialogue. Normally, one wouldn’t use someone else’s name when speaking to someone else unless one is trying to get the attention of the other or make a point. However, if it DOES work, then use it. But be careful.
Using exposition can bore. When a character explains the story in dialogue it ends up being a form of telling. What happens when you ‘tell’ a story vs. ‘show’? You risk losing the reader. Obviously, you don’t want this. So, stay away from this.
Don’t use ‘said’ all the time. Please refer to my blog post Words to Write By on October 18, 2021.
Be accurate and consistent with punctuation. Some writers like to use double quotation marks (“), and some writers like to use single quotation marks (‘). Pick one and stick with it. Just don’t forget to use them. I knew a writer who, when I asked her what she felt her weakness was as it relates to story writing, said it was remembering to put the quotation marks in.
Conversation that is unimportant doesn’t belong. If a conversation between your characters doesn’t cause some kind of friction, tension, or if it doesn’t advance the story/plot at all, leave it out.
Silence is a good thing. Too much conversation can be detrimental to the story so be careful. Silence can add a lot to a conversation sometimes.
I know this is much to think about, but don’t sweat it too much. If you need someone to check your dialogue, have a writing buddy read it and give you feedback. Also there are some good books out there about dialogue. Here are some suggestions below (You can find any of them on Amazon):
First Person POV: The story is told from the story teller’s point of view and uses the pronoun ‘I’, ‘us’, ‘our’, or ‘ourselves’. It can also be narrated by the protagonist/main character, witness, or side character.
Third Person POV: The story is told from outside the story and the narrator refers to the characters by name or as ‘he/she/they’ and also ‘him/her/them’. Types of third person include:
Third Person Omniscient: the narration of the story is told with a voice as if from the author. They take on an all knowing perspective on the story being told.
Example: As Rob and Janet slunk in their seats to watch the movie at the drive-in theater, he hoped he’d get lucky in the backseat of his car, and Janet secretly wished it was Dave snuggling next to her instead.
Third Person Limited: only the narrator knows only the thoughts and feelings of a single character. Other characters are presented externally.
Example: He reached over to hold Jill’s hand but stopped halfway. Did she want him to, or would she slap him?
Third Person Objective: think of this POV as a peeping tom. The narrator is neutral and not privy to the thoughts or feelings of the characters’.
Example: She twisted her hands, as she paced the floor of her bedroom.
For a stronger point of view that pulls the reader into the story, use verbs that create action directly (note the bold faced words in the examples above). When you do this, emotions are created at the same time, which is felt by the reader and pulls them in even further. Now your reader is hooked. They want to know how the story is going to play out and change for the better/or worse. Have you ever read a book you can’t put down? Strong point of view is all part of that.
When I am reading a work of fiction, I hear the voices of the character in my mind. No, I don’t hear voices literally. I imagine I hear them. That’s quite different. But, when I hear each of them as I’m reading, they all sound different. I hear them that way because the author did such a good job with creating a voice for each individual character that they all sound different.
So how do we make our fictional characters sound different? It comes down to choice of words and how those words are said. I think body language/facial expression also plays a part in that it helps with how the words are intended when spoken on the page in your dialogue. Think of their character too. Is how they speak out of character for them. If so, why?
Look at the different ways to say something.
Example: “You heard that? Really? I didn’t think I was that loud,” said Bill.
“Hey ya. Serious now, ya’ll hear that? How? Not like I was ‘at loud or nothin,” said Bill.
Play around with your words. See your character in your mind. Imagine them talking. How are they saying what their saying?
I like to think of writing a novel much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. There are so many pieces and there is so much to think about. Placement of each piece/part is key if it’s going to fit with the rest of the ‘picture’. One wrong placement can make the rest of the story appear out of place. So, where do you start? Better yet, what do you start with? That really is up to you. As long as all the pieces fit together and the ‘picture’ at the end fits together, how you get there doesn’t matter. After all, we’re all different.
Still, there is so much to think about. Please see the list below.
Point of View
Generally speaking, these are the biggest elements that go into the creation of a novel. It’s quite a bit to keep track of while you’re writing. For the first time author writing their first book it can be daunting. One might ask, “How do you work with all of them as you’re writing?” It’s simple. You don’t. Yup, I said it. You don’t. What you do instead is this:
Write the first draft to get your story down. Start from the beginning and work toward the end. Start from the middle and work your way to the end then write the beginning. Write the end then the beginning and then the end. Whichever way you go about getting that first draft done is up to you. Just get that done first without worrying about the particulars listed above. Put if away for a few weeks when you finish the first draft. This will keep your mind fresh when you go back to write draft two.
In draft two look at the story structure. Make sure make sure each Act has the appropriate information in it (Please see my post from July 17, 2020 entitled Story Structure in Three Acts). Story Engineering by Larry Brooks is a wealth of information. I highly recommend it.
Go through each scene. Is the structure of each what it should be? There are two types: 1. Action 2. Reaction (Please stay tuned for a later post on this topic).
Here is where I would go through and look at the character development of your Main Character. There must be character growth from the beginning to the end. Here is where their character flaw comes into play. Remember, by the end of the book they will overcome their flaw. How they do that is part of their growth.
Setting is huge. Readers need to get a good idea/picture of where your story takes place, what it looks like, and how it’s connected.
Point of View is a huge one. You don’t want to confuse your readers by accidentally moving from first to third person or vice versa. So, choose a point of view and stick with it. Go back and make sure it’s consistent throughout.
Voice encompasses more than one thing. It incudes diction, detail, imagery (through description or use of simile or metaphor), dialogue, tone, and syntax (the way words are arranged). As you read through your manuscript looking for these elements as it relates to voice, you might find you need to add something here or there or change the way a character said something.
Theme goes along with the main message you are trying to convey to your reader. What is it you want them to learn by the end of the book? Do you accomplish this?
PLOT HOLES. This is huge. After all is said and done, please read through your whole manuscript and look for those pesky inconsistencies. Readers will find them and you don’t want them to. Keep a style sheet where you keep track of details you need to remember throughout your story. Your 31 year old MC can NOT be 42 in the last half of the book (unless they’ve been lied to and that’s part of the story). Her/his birthday you had mentioned on page 20 as being January 8, 1972 can’t be mentioned later on page 245 as being March 23, 1974. I just won’t work.
The editing is the very last thing that’s done. Grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. This comes last before publishing.
As you can tell, these tasks are not done in one swoop. They are done one at a time (generally). Hey, if you are able to focus on one or more at once that’s fine too. The point is take your time. Focus, do not rush. The story won’t grow legs and walk away. It’s yours, so take your time and make it the best YOU you can make it. By doing this, all of the pieces will fit together, so that when someone else looks at it (reads it), they will be looking at something that will stay with them and make them come back for more.
We all have something to say, and how we say it is unique to us. No one else can say what we want to say in quite the same way. Let’s say for example there are two different people writing on the same exact topic, and they don’t put their names on their paper. They give them to you (you’re blind folded when they give them to you so you don’t know who gave you what), and you read them. Will you be able to tell which paper came from which individual? One’s personality comes through in their writing. If you don’t know the writer personality, would you still be able to tell? Whether or not we know someone doesn’t take away from the fact that their writing is still unique to them.
This uniqueness is your voice, your light. Who you are comes through on the pages. Whether you’re writing in one character or in more than one, your words are the words that are bringing the story to life. Don’t hold back for fear someone might not like it, because, truth be told, there’s always someone out there who won’t. That’s part of life. Put your all into your work. Put your light into it and let it shine.
As a side note here, if you are editing someone else’s work, be careful to not change too much because you run the risk of inserting your unique style into their work, then it won’t be theirs. You don’t want to take away from their voice/style. A better idea would be to suggest the type of change that’s needed, and let them to the changing.