First person, second person, third limited, third omniscient. All perspectives have their advantages and disadvantages, though you will eventually find your preference. Today, we’ll discuss each point of view and when they’re best used.
First Person: First person is what I’ll find in most YA novels. First person allows for the reader to create a greater connection with the protagonist, since they get to see everything through the protagonist’s eyes. It works best when the thoughts and perceptions of a character are more integral to a story than the objective observations and actions. However, first person can be a challenge if I don’t fully understand my character. It needs to be personal and have a voice specific to that character, otherwise the narration and the actions/dialogue of that character don’t match up. This will completely take the reader out of my novel.
Second Person: It’s not often you find a story written in second person, much less an entire novel. The main reason? It’s hard to pull off. By making the narration from the perspective of “you,” the reader suddenly expects to see everything as they normally would, perceive things through their own eyes as opposed to someone else's. So you suddenly have the choice of either creating a more objective story, or adding the possibility of the perception of the narrator not matching up with the reader. Second person is best used for short fiction, and in works of horror, since most people will react similarly when placed in an eerie environment.
Third Person Objective: This is another hard one to pull off for a novel, since it removes that personal take readers often search for in a novel. It reads more like a documentary than anything else. However, this can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the content of your novel. Crime novels or mystery novels benefit from a more objective perspective. The reader acts as an onlooker, watching the events of the mystery unfold without needing the perspective of a specific character.
Third Person Limited: If a novel isn’t written in first person, then chances are it’s written in third person limited. They serve a similar purpose, seeing the thoughts of a singular protagonist. However, while first person is more personal, third person limited allows for the reader to form their own opinion. A first person narration likely wants the reader to empathize with the protagonist, regardless of their actions. Third person limited lets the reader view the actions and motives of the protagonist and decide for themselves whether or not they’re an empathetic character.
Third Person Omniscient: This is Lynn’s personal favorite point of view to write from. The narrator gets to play a sort of god, viewing into the motivations and perspectives of multiple, if not all characters. If the author has multiple protagonists, this is the perspective they should probably write from. However, this can get confusing at times for the reader if you don’t denote where the perspective changes.
Don’t be afraid to blend points of view either. Some novels have a god-like narrator who mixes in their opinion while documenting events. Your point of view will shape your story. One bad scene won’t ruin the whole piece, but the point of view stays with the entire plot. If the point of view works against the story, then it may ruin the story for your reader. But, with the right perspective, your piece can and will flourish. Choose wisely.
Do you have specific questions about point of view that weren't answered in this section? Leave a comment down below and the author of this post will answer it when our next entry is posted. Note: Questions posted after 1/29 may not be answered.
Questions from "How To Write An Action Scene":
How do you avoid over-describing an action scene?
Great question. The best way to avoid over describing your action scene is to look at it like poetry. Weird, I know, but stick with me. You want to use as little language as possible while portraying as much imagery as possible. You want a rhythm that imitates a heartbeat, breathing, punches, whatever as long as its physical and shrieks of mortality. In essence you want your scene to read like prose poetry. If you keep that image in mind, your scene won’t be too heavy.
Welcome back, novel enthusiasts, to the Column. Today, we’re exploring the most surefire distinguisher of a great writer—action scenes. Beautifully written battles, street brawls, assassinations, heists, emotional breakdowns, and daring escapes add zest and passion to the otherwise calm experience of reading. Hearts hammer, fingers rattle like leaves, and minds kaleidoscope in colorful impressions of dirty alleys and red.
If you’re good.
If you have no clue what you’re doing, none of that happens. Suddenly the reader yawns through another paragraph, not actually seeing any of what you’re saying. Sadly, the latter is more commonly found in your average novel, but there are many ways to beat the odds.
First, you have to ask yourself, does this action scene actually matter? The point of scenes like these is to facilitate change or demonstrate a situation and character. If you write your scene and find that if you deleted it, your story would be the exact same, then keep it deleted. Nothing smarts more than an overindulgent author that can’t stop showing off how their character has all these super cool power moves. If it doesn’t add or change something, it doesn’t matter, so don’t make me read it!
Now that that’s out of the way, onto the fun stuff. If you really want to make your scene come alive, research. Research, research, research! Nothing delights the reader more than when an author introduces a weapon the readers had never heard of, or a martial arts move that comes off as totally rad. On the same token, though, if your character is an assassin that’s been assassinating for decades, and they keep throwing their knives wrong, readers will know and email you sources. Don’t test them.
Not only will researching keep angry know-it-alls off your back, but you’ll also be able to write your scene easier. Most of us have never seen a man getting shot, or had to calm down a friend in the midst of PTSD charged mania. So, instead of guessing what it’s like, research and fill your mind with delightfully random knowledge that will surprise and draw in your reader.
However, avoid making your action scenes heavy. As a rule of thumb, in a time of suspense, try to keep sentences short, as reading it aloud naturally quickens the breath and heart rate. However, if your character is cool and calculating, they’ll think more rationally in a fight than a more hotheaded character. As a result, they may have longer sentence strings amidst punchy movement descriptions.
Use imagery to spice things up as well. What do they hear, taste? The woosh of the crematorium furnace they’re hiding in turning on? Their wife’s lipstick mixing with the metallic tang of the lockpick tools hidden in their mouth? Tell me, please! And add dialogue. Witty quipping, mouth-drying threats, pitiful prayer, and shocking realizations in an action scene? To die for! It’ll not only help you build character, but also give breathers in between paragraphs and paragraphs of action. My final piece of advice, if you look at a real fight or chase scene, they don’t last super long. Honestly, most fights don’t pass the minute mark. So if your one-on-one brawl is eight pages long, reconsider.
So happy writing! And keep in mind, if you’re not crying, sweating, or left dazed by an action scene you wrote; Do. It. Again.
It’s worth it.
-Chaunti T. Hatchett
Do you have specific questions about antagonists and character flaws that weren't answered in this section? Leave a comment down below and the author of this post will answer it when our next entry is posted. Note: Questions posted after 1/22 may not be included.
Hello, dears, and welcome back to the Megalodon’s writing advice column. The topic this time around is a little bit of a throwback to Aaron’s “Opening a Novel,” but it’s often a problem writers run into somewhere near the middle of the writing process. Most fit into two different categories when they begin a novel:
The Systematic Story Teller, or the Passionate Plotter.
The notion that plot and story are synonymous is untrue once you get down to the nitty-gritty of the writing world, but luckily, it’s a notion that is easily rectified. You see, a story is a basic line of events. When readers hear a clear story, the questions they ask are “And then?”
For example, “A typhoon wiped out Atlantis.”
“And then?” asks your enraptured reader.
“And then the whole city sunk.”
That’s a story. Something that catalogs events and not much more. The plot, however, looks at the “Why?” of a narrative. Whether it’s why a character behaves the way they do, or why Atlantis’ support beams failed. A single-story can even breed many kinds of plots. For example “Why did Atlantis sink?”
“The man at the weather alert station meant to warn the city was at his son’s recital.” Or, “The beams built to support the city hundreds of years ago were eroded by a chemical spill.”
You get the idea.
There is no wrong way to begin a novel, and often writers will flip flop between the two, depending on how they feel. If you wake up with a character in your head that feels so real you want to create their own world, you’re going to be plot-focused. Do you daydream about a war-torn planet on the brink of peace that you know is going to end in exactly 48 hours? You’re going story all the way. The only danger comes from when you don’t balance the two equally. If you focus too heavily on one and not the other, you might be finding yourself with a perfectly coherent timeline, but dry characters that lack spontaneity, or vice versa.
If you’re here, however, don’t fret! Right now is the perfect time to add the things you see are lacking. Novices and even masters have a hard time being balanced from the get-go. For the future, remember to be observant to which side you lean to so you can prevent the midway struggle, but for now, rejoice! You have so many ideas and so much inspiration at your fingertips, jumping into a plot or story won’t be as monumental as you think it is. If your world and your character is near perfect, you should already feel the call of plot or story hiding behind the Tab key. In the end, my best advice is to trust your instincts. Every writer has them, and it guides us through the hiccups like the reins on a horse. More importantly, always remember that a first draft is not a perfect one.
If all you take from it is a single character, then they’re worth finding a story for.
--Chaunti T. Hatchett
Do you have specific questions about antagonists and character flaws that weren't answered in this section? Leave a comment down below and the author of this post will answer it when our next entry is posted. Note: Questions posted after 1/10 may not be included.
Questions from “Imagery Dos and Don’ts”:
When writing from a first or third person limited perspective, what aspects of imagery description should be influenced by the narrator's personality?
In a first or third person limited point of view, sight and touch should be integrated in imagery with influence from the narrator. A person’s memories and background will influence how they compare the textures of different objects, as well as how they view certain things. For example, someone from Hawaii and someone from Russia describe the sun very differently. Furthermore, someone who lives in New England and someone who has never seen snow will describe snow differently.
Before I get into the nitty gritty aspects of imagery, here are some common phrases that are often frowned upon in the literary world:
When writing, it is important to keep in mind all five senses, touch, smell, hearing, seeing, and tasting. Many writers only take into account the visual sense, but the other senses are just as important. As a guideline, having about three senses included in your piece is a good starting point to having well-developed imagery. When the reader is looking at a scene, in which multiple actions are occuring, they need to visualize it in order to understand what is happening. For example, if you are writing a scene in which a house is on fire, and all you describe are the yellow-orange flame engulfing the house, the reader cannot visualize themselves there, thus making them lose interest. But, if you describe the smell of burning wood, the echoing cries of the owners of the house, and feeling little ashes fall on your shoulders, then the reader can be engrossed into the piece.
Imagery, according to its definition, is meant to add depth and perspective to the author’s literary work. While it is encouraged to include as many of the five senses into your work as you can, do not add unnecessary details, or ‘fluff’. Every description you use should have a purpose in the story. You should also include details that are not already known by the audience. For instance, if you are describing the morning sun on a summer’s day, do not simply say it is yellow. The reader already knows this, so include something else. Maybe describe how the sun’s vibrant rays strike through your room window, or how you squint your eyes looking in its direction due to its prominence. To put it simply, do not restate the obvious. Having more ‘fluff’ will not make the piece more interesting, it will only take away from the piece’s main idea and could confuse the reader.
Do you have specific questions about imagery that weren't answered in this section? Leave a comment down below and the author of this post will respond to it when our next entry is posted. Note: Comments posted after 12/13 may not be included.
Questions from "Making a Setting a Home":
How do you properly take inspiration from other cultures for your own world-building purposes while also honoring the original real-world sources?
One word: research. Do your research, do extensive research, take notes, find the details. The best way to find the facts from the culture is from an actual person, whether an interview or a blog post. Take multiple opinions, find the parts of the culture you’d like to integrate into your own world. But, most importantly, never forget that you’re honoring a culture. Make sure that your adaptation isn’t offensive through stereotypes, and make sure it isn’t taking away from the culture by omitting a necessary element to a tradition.
World building may not seem that important on the surface, especially if your piece takes place in our reality. If it doesn’t contribute to the plot or the character arc, then it must not be essential, right?
Wrong. Your world is what grounds the plot. It adds life to the story. It creates that longing we all have to be in this world, fantastical or real. Whether you’re writing the next Harry Potter or becoming the next John Green, your world is what gives your novel that next-level appreciation.
The general world doesn’t have to be completely and utterly detailed. You don’t need to know the infrastructure, the population, and the hierarchy of every single town. If you want to make this world flawless and go in-depth into the coinage and political status, then go wild. But for those of you who don’t have the time to develop three different religions practiced in the world, then you don’t have to. You can make a believable world through smaller details.
The physical setting is always the easiest. The landscape can be developed through simple imagery. Be sure to develop the scene through all the senses, but the visual scape is most important. Describe the greenery, the architecture, the color-scheme. Give the major details, then enough smaller details to make it unique.
But the physical setting isn’t all you need to flesh out your world. A world with just the main characters feels so barren. Adding in those background characters allow for the scene to be more animated. Pick out specific people in the crowd for off-handed details that help develop the culture. What are they eating? Are they playing a game specific to the region? Is there a specific greeting done by the locals? Let the culture appear through the people and their interactions.
And, finally, the setting should have a history. The world went on before the plot. Give evidence of previous life. In that high-school drama, flesh out the graffiti in the bathroom stalls and on the desks. Construction around the family-run restaurant being re-purposed for a McDonald's. The scratched keyhole from years of missing the slot. This not only helps to give culture, but also gives the physical landscape life.
Your imagery of your setting will get you halfway there. But you need to give your world energy and vitality. Never forget that life goes on outside of the plot, and that the plot affects life outside of your main characters. Let this be seen to your readers through those minor details about the landscape, the off-handed mentions of the crowd. This will allow your audience to be drawn in over and over again to the world you craft.
Do you have specific questions about setting that weren't answered in this section? Leave a comment down below and the author of this post will will answer it when our next entry is posted. Note: Comments posted after 11/20 may not be included.
Questions from "Dialogue":
What do you recommend for writing dialogue for characters with a specific dialect? How do you portray that dialect without making the dialogue too confusing?
The first thing to consider is what kind of dialect the character has. Is it a well-known dialect in real life? A made-up one crafted for the story? Depending on your answer, you may need to define the rules in terms of inflection, pronunciation, etc. before you begin crafting your dialogue. Once you understand the rules, go through writing the dialogue as if there is no dialect. You want to make sure your dialogue is still forwarding the plot and not just an excuse to show off your fancy foreign accents. It should feel like an authentic tone suitable for the character. Apostrophes are your friend! A good example to look into is the dialogue by Hagrid from the Harry Potter novels.
If you’re worried about making the dialogue confusing and you have a made-up accent, consider whether there are rules for the dialect that could be removed to simplify things. Describing the accent before the character starts speaking in narration also does a lot in terms of getting the reader in the mindset of the dialect. When rewriting, ask others to read specific portions of the dialogue for comprehension, and take their feedback into account. If all else fails, consider whether the dialect is truly necessary to the story.