Thoughts from the Writing Trenches – Part III

Lake view from our deck

Current writing weather alert – excruciatingly raw with glimpses of brilliance. I’m writing a first draft and that explains the word raw. Brilliance may come off sounding egotistical, but we all have parts of our writing that we fall in love with. Why else would editing be so hard? It’s not as if we’re paid by the word like Alexander Dumas writing The Count of Monte Cristo. We don’t want to cut because we’re smitten by our own creation.

I hit 86,000 words today and got past my first climax point. Who would imagine a simple birthday party would be so hard to write? It’s always a challenge when I bring a bunch of the characters together in one scene for a party or a book club or a baseball game. I’m dealing with multiple interactions between and across characters. A scene like that is anything but simple.

I usually stay in one character’s point-of-view for an entire chapter section. But rules are made to be broken. When I’m writing a scene with multiple characters, it can be limiting to have access to only one character’s thoughts – especially if I want to wring everything I can out of the scene. I think the trick is to make the transitions as smooth as possible and have characters who are unique in the way they think so each voice is clear for the reader.

In my writing life, it’s taken me a while to turn a deaf ear to the following types of criticism – too many characters; too many points-of-view; too many storylines. The stories I want to write are told from multiple perspectives and I’m more and more comfortable with that.

This type of storytelling isn’t for every reader. Nothing any writer chooses would be. We can’t write to please everyone. So, I’m choosing to write for the reader who is willing to make an investment, to get in as deep with these stories and characters as I do. It’s a tall order but what the heck … go big or go home.

Do you read or write stories with multiple character perspectives? Do you love or hate this writing style?

Sunrise silouette from our deck

13 comments on “Thoughts from the Writing Trenches – Part III

  1. MariHoward says:

    Absolutely agree with your assessment – I have read your books and have never had a problem with number of characters/points of view! It’s weird the ideas out there among ‘experts’ – the reader is taken to be unable to cope with lots of characters, etc as if they are illiterate or … whatever … And a story mustn’t be too long etc … As long as it needs to be that long, and keeps a person page-turning, it can be longer than 90,000 words …I personally think it is more important to resist using cliche, either in characters, situations or most importantly simply is vocabulary/phraseology, and to try not to make descriptions too long and detailed, and to keep up the interest/excitement/tension etc … But it takes time not to listen to those doom laden bits of advice about ‘not too many characters’ etc, doesn’t it!

    • We are most certainly on the same page when it comes to embracing a readership that doesn’t mind putting in some effort. Good points on the phraseology, descriptions and detail. There’s always that balance between keeping things flowing and not losing the reader in the rush. First draft time is definitely a time to plug my ears and keep going. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. Debra says:

    I love a complex story well told! I enjoy multiple perspectives, a collaboration of characters and I’m not looking for simple. If I’m enjoying a book, I don’t mind it being “too long” by someone else’s standards. It’s in the writing! I am glad to hear that you are more and more comfortable with your own writing instincts. I hope your current project continues to inspire you as you write. That will later translate beautifully to us, your readers.

    • Thanks so much, Debra, for the support. I know readers who feel as you do are out there because I’ve read their reviews. As to the others – I’ve read their reviews, too – they won’t choose my books again – LOL. Hurrah for writing instincts.

  3. I do appreciate multiple viewpoints is they are “chaptered”, so to speak. But sometimes many story lines can be terribly hard to follow, so it is the writer who holds the power here, as ever. Best wishes!

    • And with the power comes responsibility! I’ve read books that use the chaptered method, often headed by the name of the character whose point-of-view is featured. Definitely a clear method of handling multiple voices. I don’t do it but I like it – LOL.

  4. Fantastic photo!! Is this where you live and write? Ahhh…

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    Totally agree with both you and the commenters Fran. As long as there’s consistency and the story moves briskly along then multi-characters and multi-strands make for a great read.

  6. I love all the characters and points of view in your book and you do it well. I am writing my book from the first person view of the main character, I can see how expanding into the internal world of the other characters would add to it but the idea of making all those changes when I’ve worked on this for so long makes me feel like my head is exploding.

    The way I do add to the internal world of the other characters is to have my main character read a journal of a character who has passed away or to have her immersing herself in another character’s painting or the way their voice sounds when they sing something happy vs. sad.

    This being said, I am going to try out multiple points of view someday – I know I’ll like it.

    I love what you said about brilliance in the beginning. Of course we are in love with our words – why else would we put in all this effort?

    I amended a prayer used on the Beautiful Writer’s podcast and I read it whenever I sit down in my office to write.

    Writer’s Prayer

    I am here now to experience the truth
    that absolutely everything is progress,
    that I have all that I need,
    and that brilliance is unfolding here and now
    and by brilliance I mean light.

    • I love the Writer’s Prayer – thanks so much for this, Angela. And your many thoughtful comments. I am intrigued by the idea of exploring other ways to move the story along – like the journal or immersion in a different art medium. I recently read a book by fellow blogger, Jane Tims, (Meniscus: Crossing the Churn) where she explores an entire new world in fleeting lines of poetry that conveys so much in such an interesting format. I agree with Stephen King on this point – you can’t be a writer if you don’t read all the time. How else do you learn?

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