USING MULTIPLE VIEWPOINTS – TUESDAY WRITING TIPS

People often ask me , “How do you decide which point of view” to write in and to be honest, I think the decision is pretty much out of my hands. It’s the characters who decide.

As they emerge onto the page, they find their own way of speaking and getting their point of view across.

I’m currently working on my YA thriller, The Secret Life of Mindy Palmer about 17 year old Lia whose sister Mindy is murdered and Lia sets out to find the killer.

Initially I started telling the story entirely from Lia’s point of view:

 Lia

When Mindy died, pain gripped my heart like a hangman’s noose.

After three months, people said it was time to let her go, but I couldn’t. I missed my sister like crazy, and that last night of her life, Mindy had been trying to tell me something. I knew it. I should have asked more questions. I should have got answers. No matter what the cops said, Mindy’s death wasn’t a random act of teen daring. It was murder.

But then, the more I wrote, the more Mindy’s character appeared in my head too… and insisted on telling her side of things – she wanted the reader to know who she was and what really happened to her. She wanted to live her life again through my story.

Mindy

They say your whole life flashes in front of you just before you drown…and it’s true. That’s what alerts me to the fact that I’m about to die – that this time, the river is not going to let me go.

I had kind of been ignoring Mindy for a while and trying to focus on Lia, but Mindy kept insisting and in the end I gave in and decided to let her have her say. And to be honest, I think it’s added a lot more depth to my story. It allows me to build suspense because I can show the reader things through Mindy’s eyes…and give the reader information that the main character, Lia doesn’t know. So the reader soon discovers that Lia is in more danger than she realises.

There are a number of advantages to having more than one point of view. It means the reader can see things from different perspectives and that certain discoveries can be delayed. It has helped eliminate the flat points in my story.

But it hasn’t stopped there. As I kept writing,  a new voice emerged, wanting to have their say. It belonged to Lia’s best friend Steve who has been acquainted with the family all their lives and knows things about Mindy that Lia doesn’t even know.

Steve adds a male point of view to the mix and also allows me to present the entire Palmer family from a more objective point of view.

Some people aren’t born to deal with the crap that life dishes out. When reality slams them to the dirt, they can’t just pick themselves up and brush off the damage. They’re crushed in a way they can’t recover from without help. That’s why I’m sticking with Lia every step of the way, until we find the prick who killed her sister.I guess what I’m learning from this is that point of view is not static. There are no hard and fast rules and point of view is something that can change during the course of writing your story. It’s a case of listening to your characters and deciding what works best for you and the characters.

If something you’ve written in third person makes you feel as if your character is too distant, try rewriting it in first person. Experiment – see what works best. And don’t be afraid of multiple points of view, just make sure all the characters have strong, unique voices, that they come into the story at the right times and that each character has their own story arc.

If you have any tips or experiences about using multiple points of view, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

P.S. Friday Feedback is on at DeeScribe Writing this Friday. Check back for a sample piece of writing and feedback.

REVISION TIPS, PART ONE – USING YOUR PLOT DIAGRAMS AS WORKING DRAWINGS

Recently, Rachna Chhabria, a writer friend from India suggested I blog about revising.

Seeing as I’ve spent the last few months revising a YA mystery thriller and an MG survival story, this seemed like a really good idea.

There are two ways I create novels. One is to plan every major plot point and graph them on a plot diagram. The other is to identify the important bits like inciting incidents (the piece of action that starts the character on a new path), turning points, midpoint reversal (where the story changes direction) and the resolution. This is how I wrote my MG survival story, allowing the plot to evolve as I wrote it.

What I’ve realised recently is that I revise differently depending on the method I’ve used to create the story in the first place. When it comes down to it, there are no ‘rules’ in writing or revising – this is simply what works for me.

This week I’m going to talk about revising my YA mystery thriller, THE SECRET LIFE OF MINDY PALMER, a novel with a straight narrative arc. In this story, 17 year-old Lia Palmer sets out to discover how her sister Mindy really died. This novel was carefully planned and structured so the plot diagram was like a working drawing that I could go back and examine to see what needed fixing.

Right from the start, I knew how I wanted the book to end so the structure involved creating a series of events leading up to the climax of the novel – events that would build tension and bring the reader closer to the main character.

As I revised, I looked back at my plot arc and at each individual event and asked myself these questions.

  1. Did it carry enough weight in the story?
  2. Did it occur in the right sequence?
  3. Was it essential to the plot?
  4. Did it reveal information about the main character that the reader needed to know?
  5. Did it reflect the main characters needs and desires?
  6. Were the obstacles realistic?

With this particular story I found that mapping it on a plot diagram was the right way to go. It allowed me to follow the progress of the story. Being a mystery/suspense meant that every event was crucial to the story. Every thing that happened had to have a reason for being there.

For a story like this, I’ve found that a plot diagram works really well because even if I think of a new conflict for my character, it can easily be added to the diagram by way of a ‘post it’ note as you’ll see from the pics in this post. The plot diagram gives me a snapshot of exactly what’s happening in my story – it gives me an overview.

So when I’m revising this kind of book, that’s how I look at structure to see if it’s working.

Author, Bren MacDibble says The problem I find with structure is that you can get it so wrong but you’ve covered it with such beautiful skin you’re reluctant to hack into it.

This is so true. When you’re revising, it’s hard to stand back and be objective about your own work – to tell yourself, this story is beautifully written but it’s not interesting or important enough to hook the reader. That’s where writers groups and crit buddies come in. It can take you a while to find the right one but it’s worth it.

Another writer friend, Shevi Arnold suggested a great technique for more detailed revision. She rewrites the same scene three times and picks the best one. This is a great way of working out if your dialogue, setting and characters are really working for you as they should be.

In the early drafts of THE SECRET LIFE OF MINDY PALMER I found I had flat scenes in my novel where nothing was really happening but they needed to be there to get my characters from one place to another – I guess these were the transition scenes. Shevi’s method really works for invigorating these flat scenes. Thanks, Shevi.

I’m focussing on structure in these revision posts because to me, that’s one of the most important things in your novel. From my experience, if you have a great story idea, editors and publishers will work with you to fine tune the detail. If you write beautifully, but your story idea is not engaging, it’s going to be a lot harder to make your novel work.

REVISION TIPS – PART TWO: Next week at Tuesday Writing Tips I’m going to look at revising a story that is less structured and has evolved through a more organic process.

I’d love to hear your revision tips. Feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee