Uncategorized · Writing

Naked Characters – January Round Robin (2018)

Among the very first decisions I have to make when I come to the blank page is what point of view to use. Some people come up with a cool idea for the world their building or a new technological advancement they want to display, but for me it is always the character.

Normally I go with third person limited, because that is what I enjoy reading. I like knowing exactly whose head I’m in and learning more about that particular character in the scene. To me this just seems orderly and natural.

I have great respect for people who can write in the Third Person Omniscient (aka – they can be in any character’s head at any time, even in the same scene) but my brain simply can’t focus when there’s all that head jumping. Sadly, this includes reading.

With the exception of Dune, I haven’t been able to read anything Third Person Omniscient. It confuses me.

Third Person Limited gives me the freedom to explore multiple personalities in a given story and allows me to “zoom in” with the narrative, which I really enjoy.

This idea of “zoom in” with the narrative is relatively new to me, in my early works I was… Well, I was winging it, to be honest.

But to give a running definition of how “zoom” works in a narrative, anything that the character is doing (running, kicking a computer, glaring at their partner) would have the “zoom out” and anything that deals with the internal aspects (why they are kicking said computer, imagining themselves strangling said partner, and all the reasons why they have to run because they absolutely must not be late… Character B will be dead if they are late… Character B, who knows exactly how much honey to drizzle on their oatmeal and labels their socks for each day of the week and life would be sucked dry of all meaning and hope if they are dead…)

OK, I got carried away there, but I think you get it.

Zoom Out = Physical world

Zoom In = Internal world.

If you read any work of fiction you will see a dance between this “zoom in” and “zoom out.” For me, I’m still learning how to balance this out. It’s something I end up layering during the editing process, but I try to have fun with it.

How much of my characters do I expose?

I strip them bare. I want their naked thoughts on the page as much as possible. I want everything that makes them uncomfortable and why.

Because that’s when I know I’ve got a real character. That’s when I know I have touched on something true. If I’m not digging into their guts then they will always be a two-dimensional bit part in a shallow story.

Check out what my fellow authors have to say about how they reveal their characters on the page in this month’s Round Robin…

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ag
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/  (YOU ARE HERE)
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

8 thoughts on “Naked Characters – January Round Robin (2018)

  1. If I’m not digging into their guts then they will always be a two-dimensional bit part in a shallow story. Wow. Beautifully put and a great comment for any author to take note of.

  2. Like your idea of Zoom IN or Zoom OUT – very good yardstick. I also agree about third person omniscient. I dislike it not just because of the head-hopping effect, but even more because I find it difficult to really care about the characters since I am never in their heads, feeling and experiencing the events.

  3. Like you, I prefer limited 3rd person, but I tend to limit it even more to one character. In a sense, it’s nearly 1st person…but it’s not. LOL

    I like your zoom in and zoom out analogy, too. There definitely is a need to balance the internal with the external world. All of one or the other would make for a very boring book. In real life, our internal world is influenced by our external world. Depending on the person, the indoor/outdoor temperature can affect a person’s mood and health. It’s all very fascinating.


  4. Good explanation. I also hate head hopping, by whatever name it’s called. A story is really killed if the reader ever has to ask, “Now, who thought/said/did that?”

  5. Hello AJ – I just love your ‘Zoom In, Zoom Out’ analogy – what a great way of looking at it, and such a useful tool. Many thanks, Anne

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