WHERE DO I START MY STORY? Whose Point Of View?

Whenever, I’m going to begin a new story, I always start with a head full of ideas…and a big piece of blank paper.

I ask myself a lot of questions – the two main ones being:

  1. What’s going to happen in my story?
  2. Who do I want to tell my story?

WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN IN MY STORY

This is the plotting part – this is where I sit down and try to free my mind and just write down random ideas that come into my head. I don’t rearrange them into the story order until later – and some of the original ideas won’t get used at all. This is the mind-mapping part I talked about on Tuesday.

Sometimes I even change what happens in my story as I go. Sometimes, the character decides they want to go in a completely different direction. In fact, the more I think about who the main character really is – and what motivates them – the more the plot for my story develops.

When I’m thinking about the plot for my story, I think about:

  1. What is going to happen?
  2. How is it going to happen?
  3. Why is it going to happen?
  4. When is it going to happen?
  5. Where is it going to happen?
  6. WHO is it going to happen to?

WHO IS GOING TO TELL MY STORY?

This isn’t as simple as it sounds. I am the writer, and yes…I am the one writing down the story…but whose eyes will I tell it through? Whose point of view shall I tell the story from?

If I tell it in first person point of view (using ‘I’); then I will probably have the main character tell my story. This way of telling a story lets me write what is going on in my main character’s head.

For example: I don’t do furry pets and family holidays – probably comes from growing up without a mum. (From ‘Letters to Leonardo’ published by Walker Books 2009).

I could tell it from third person point of view where someone narrates what is happening to my main character, and this lets me describe more how things look etc.

For example: Matt wasn’t into furry pets and family holidays. There had always just been him and Dad, and they never went anywhere.

If I want to tell it from more than one person’s point of view, I can do this is third person omniscient where I hop from one character’s head to another. This can be a great way of adding lots of different perspectives to the story, but it can get confusing if you hop around too much.

For example: Matt had never been on a family holiday. Dad worked every weekend so they never got to go anywhere. Troy’s family went away all the time. Troy wondered how Matt coped with the boredom.

Don’t be afraid to change to a different point of view if the first one you tried doesn’t seem to be working. And don’t worry about scribbling all over the blank paper in writing that your mother couldn’t read. It’s important to get your ideas down so they don’t become a mish mash in your head. Then you can decide the order later.

The most important thing with starting a story is to ‘Start It’. Don’t put it off any longer. If you want to be a writer…you have to write, write and write some more.

Happy writing:-)

Dee

Tuesday Writing Tip – MORE ABOUT POINT OF VIEW

Talented author and illustrator, Angela Sunde

Tomorrow we’re going ‘in depth’ on point of view. It’s the last day of the Tuesday Writing Tips blog tour, and it’s going to be “big”.

I’ll be visiting talented author and illustrator, Angela Sunde http://angelasunde.blogspot.com to discuss the complexities of Point of View, and answer some ‘reader’ questions.

What are the various types and how do you choose which one for your story? And then there’s the vexed question of ‘head hopping’.

To find out more, drop back here tomorrow.

See you then.

Happy writing,

Dee:-)

TUESDAY WRITING TIP – Pondering Point of View

Jessica had  a great question for us at the DeeScribewriting blog. She said:

I’d be interested in knowing a little more about choosing point of view in a young adult novel. Are there different considerations for YA as compared to adult novels? Are omniscient and third person possibilities or do the younger readers need the immediacy of first person?”

This is a really interesting question, Jessica and there is no right or wrong answer – it’s what works for you. Third person and first person are both fine for YA novels – it depends on you and your story. Young readers can cope with either.

My early drafts of Letters to Leonardo were in first person because I felt that it helped me to get closer to my main character, Matt – and seeing he was writing letters to Leonardo da Vinci, it seemed kind of essential.

I was awarded a mentorship to work on the manuscript with an experienced writer, and she recommended that I change the point of view to third person. She felt that this would allow for more description and scene setting. I tried, I really did – it just didn’t work for me. It made me feel too distant from my main character.

The publishers must have agreed because nobody was interested in publishing Space, the version that was written in third person. Then again, there were plenty of other things wrong with that manuscript too – but that’s a story for another day.

One of the strengths of writing YA in first person is that it allows you to establish a unique voice for your main character. This isn’t impossible in third person, it’s just that it’s harder to do – and I think, requires great skill as a writer.

I have read some stunning YA books written in third person. They work because they are so beautifully written that the author still manages to make you feel that you are right there with the main character, and the setting description draws you into their world.  I can’t list all of the great YA third person books here, but if you are looking for a place to start you could try:

  • Dodger by Libby Gleeson
  • Marty’s Shadow by John Heffernan
  • Ganglands by Maureen McCarthy
  • The Singer of all Songs by Kate Constable
  • Feral Kid by Libby Hathorn

Third person allows for more physical description of the main character – it lets you see them through someone else’s eyes. It also allows you to keep secrets from your main character which another character knows – and the reader knows that they know – and wonders what will happen when the main character finds out. This is a great suspense builder and such secrets can be an important part of the character’s journey.

When Choosing Point of View – Ask yourself this:

“Who do I want to tell my character’s story? –How much does that person know?” The answers to these questions will help you make your decision.

It’s also a question of your writing style. If you’re not happy with how something is turning out, try writing it from a different point of view – this could be changing from first to third person or vice versa – or it could even require you to get a different character to tell your story.

My novel, Shadows of Silence (yet to be published) started out as a kid’s book. It’s about a child with selective mutism who can’t talk outside his home. It’s based on a true story and has powerful themes, but I soon realized it was too heavy going for kids. I rewrote it as an adult novel from the mother’s point of view and it works so much better.

For me, first person seems to be my natural voice, but maybe that’s because it’s the one I grew up using. I think if you are using first person, you need to make sure that you maintain your action, description and dialogue and try where possible to minimize the use of ‘I’.

So I suppose my final piece of advice is to see what comes naturally to you – and don’t be afraid to try rewriting your story in a different point of view if it doesn’t seem to be working.

I hope this helps. Thanks for sharing your question with us Jessica.

Happy writing

Dee:-)

If you have a writing question you’d like answered, leave it as a comment on this post, and I’ll schedule it in as a Tuesday Writing Tip.

Next Tuesday we’ll be looking at networking opportunities for authors. Hope you can join us then.

*    *    *    Stay tuned for more about point of view. We’ll be discussing First person and Third person POV in more detail on 2nd March, and looking at how to hop from head to head.