Dealing with Multiple Characters

FeaturedDealing with Multiple Characters

Monday through Friday I deal with different subjects in this blog. I also post my blog to my Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. Today I am writing about Dealing with Multiple Characters.
When writing my novels I frequently deal with multiple characters. This is common to most writers. But in my case, I like to let the reader into a character’s mind instead of just telling the reader what the character is thinking.
This immediately presents a situation where the character could take over more than his or her part of the story. I must always remember who the primary character is in the book. In my Bible based series The World That Was this is not a major problem because the Bible has already told me who the primary characters are and their role. But in the series Christland I have a great deal more freedom which also means I face different problems.
Multiple characters can be a distraction.
Especially if the character has a limited role. For example, in Death Ship to the Stars there was Ralph Abernathy. He had a brief but important role early in the story, albeit a limited role, while people he connected with had more enduring roles. Keeping him in his proper place yet allowing the reader to get to know him kept me busy. But I believe I accomplished the task.
On the other hand Agent X was constantly being revealed through his thinking.
How Did You Do It?
Basically, I only allowed the reader into Ralph’s mind when he was alone or for only a brief time. Agent X’s identity was secret. For awhile the reader may have included Ralph as the true identity of Agent X. In fact, several people in the novel were possibilities so I limited the amount of time they were given for us to see their thinking. I restricted these moments to only those that were important for the reader to see.
I also kept to the Primary Character rule.
What’s the Primary Character Rule?
That’s my name for keeping the primary character up front even if not in view at the time. In the case of Ralph most of his interactions were with Sarah, so she was always treated as the Primary Character when in his presence. Of course, she actually was one of two primary characters.
On the other hand there was Miss M. Since she was something of a mystery woman (not revealed until Book 3) I kept her thoughts restricted. She did think and the reader listened in, but I also kept her true identity secret while dropping a clue once in a while. But she was also a primary character that was viewed through the eyes of Colonel Michaels and General Smith. So there was a balancing act between revealing her and hiding her identity.
Should a Writer Always have Multiple Characters?
Actually that is up to the author. Multiple characters can get messy. You must try to keep them consistent and in their proper roles. In my Bible based novel Perished The World That Was I had multiple characters imposed by the Bible itself. Some of the characters had the same name. (I would not recommend having multiple characters with the same name, but dealing with the Bible required them.)
When the book was reviewed a man purporting to be a Christian reviewed it. But instead of reading it honestly he skipped through the book. You guessed it. By skipping he ran into characters with the same name but didn’t know they were actually different people. So it resulted in a poor review. (By the way I have kept the review because even a poor review can be a good review. Most people reading his review will spot the problem.) Don’t let that scare you most reviewers are honest in their approach.
Multiple characters can be problematic, but the larger your story the more likely you’ll have them. The key is to keep them consistent or develop them over a period of time. And keep their relationship with the primary character consistent.
What About Only the Primary’s Thoughts Being Revealed?
That is a legitimate solution. In fact, that is what most writers do and I believe I’ve read experts advise such. In my opinion, if you can handle multiple characters thinking go ahead and try it. I believe when you can let the reader truly get to know the characters it can be worthwhile but just remember it also requires hard work on yourself.
ARE YOU A BOOK REVIEWER? I am always looking for book reviews. Whether it is Perished The World That Was (Book One), World of Noah and the Ark (Book Two), World of Shem (Book Three), World of Abraham (Book Four) or Death Ship (Book One), Pauline A New Home (Book Two), or Task Force Hunter (Book Three), I value your reviews.
If you would like to review any of these books contact me at marketing@tr-indbkstore.com with the subject line indicating that desire. An example of an appropriate subject line would be: ‘Seek to review [book Title].’ In the email make sure to indicate your email address, your name, and the choice of copy (PDF or ePub).

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

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Rules or No Rules

FeaturedRules or No Rules

Monday through Friday I deal with different subjects in this blog. I also post my blog to my Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. Today I am writing about Rules or No Rules.
You’ve heard all: Rules are made to be broken; You must never do this or that; and Absolutely not! Rules tend to govern our lives, some being good, some not so good. But the rules of writing, must we follow them? Or can we just do whatever?
One thought before digging in here, the purpose of rules are to provide a guide for you, the writer, to follow. Rules are meant for your good.
What are the Rules of Writing?
Actually there are a ton of rules, but I’m only going to look at a few. It’s not so much the rule that is at stake here but a point that I’m trying to make. In doing research on this subject I came across a book in my library that had a section on Kurt Vonnegut, who was a giant in the industry. He had some opinions about rules worthy of taking a look at.
Here are a couple of quotes: “Can I get away with this? No. The trick is getting the reader to buy it.” Another quote is, “whatever works, works.”
Now let’s take a look at a few rules:

  1. Always identify who is talking – Unless, of course, the context makes it obvious.
  2. Use italics when a person is thinking – Unless, of course, you prefer using another method.
  3. Separate speech from the action – Unless, of course, you decide to combine them.
  4. Only have one primary character – Unless, of course, you can get away with having more.
  5. Give readers as much information as soon as you can.
  6. Weave historical data, if any, into fictional content.

Those last two weren’t really rules, but rather suggestions from Vonnegut. But you might consider them as rules you should follow.
Now look back at the rules, you’ll notice I followed the first four rules with an “Unless” which indicated you could break the rule. Now take a sheet of paper and make two columns. On the left side the column will list rules, and on the right side you’ll put the word “Unless” at the beginning of the column.
Now, using the left column, make a list of the writing rules you know about. Just the ones that might affect you. Now go back to the top and read the rule on the left and then consider whether there are times you break the rule and why. If it’s a valid why, place the why in the right column. Theoretically that will provide a scenario where you have possible points where you can violate the rule. I said theoretically because you might be wrong.
To find out whether you’re right or wrong you might try searching on Google or some other search engine. A lot of times you’ll find the answer. another resource is to look at what famous and successful authors have done.
Neither of those methods can be considered absolutely correct, but there’s a good chance they are. In the end, you must decided the right or wrong.
ARE YOU A BOOK REVIEWER? I am always looking for book reviews. Whether it is Perished The World That Was (Book One), World of Noah and the Ark (Book Two), World of Shem (Book Three), World of Abraham (Book Four) or Death Ship to the Stars I value your reviews.
If you would like to review any of these books contact me at marketing@tr-indbkstore.com with the subject line indicating that desire. An example of an appropriate subject line would be: ‘Seek to review [book Title].’ In the email make sure to indicate your email address, your name, and the choice of copy (PDF or ePub).

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

Why Me, Lord?

Why Me, Lord?

When you got saved your life changed. You started living different; you committed yourself to God; and you have tried to be faithful in all things. Yet devastating sickness comes or financial reversals occur or you lose a loved one.

And you cry out, “Why me, Lord?”

Over the years I have experienced setbacks such as the loss of both my parents, loss of an aunt and uncle, loss of a grandmother, a heart attack, financial setbacks, and now my wife undergoing cancer treatments. Like you I sometimes wonder why, and the answer can be varied. Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes I am guilty of sin, and sometimes I simply don’t know the reason.

So what do I or you do?

Well, again the answer to that question depends on the answer to the previous question. If the answer was a simple mistake, then you can go to God and seek His wisdom and guidance. Since He wants you to succeed He will answer you and provide guidance.

If the answer was sin in your life, then you need to go to God as often as you sin and claim 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confessing sin is much deeper than this blog will address, but basically we acknowledge that what He says about us is true and then seek His forgiveness and cleansing.

Depending on how deep the sin is in your life you may have to do this more often than you like. 1 John 1:9 is not a magic word or phrase. Simply saying it doesn’t automatically right the ship. Sometimes we have to cry out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Ro. 7:24-25).

Then there are times we simply don’t know the cause. In those times, it is always right to go to God in prayer seeking His wisdom. Job suffered greatly at the hands of Satan and didn’t know why until the end of the book. While there are different takes from that book of the Bible one thing cannot be denied, Job came out of it a better, stronger believer than he was at first. God had purged him and then lifted him up.

I think the key in all these scenarios is found in: Have faith.

Trust God. He knows what you’re going through and wants you to overcome whatever it is. He didn’t promise us that living for Him would be easy, but He did promise to always be with us.

ARE YOU A BOOK REVIEWER? I am always looking for reviews. Not only for World of Shem (Book Three), but Perished The World That Was (Book One), World of Noah and the Ark (Book Two), and World of Abraham (Book Four). If you would like to review any of these books contact me at marketing@tr-indbkstore.com with the subject line indicating that desire. An example of an appropriate subject line would be: ‘Seek to review World of Abraham.’ In the email make sure to indicate your email address, your name, and the choice of copy (PDF or ePub).

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

Multiple Third Person

Viewpoint or Point of View (POV) is critical to your story. The Point of View allows the reader to experience someone else’s (yours or the character’s) view of the world. Last Monday we looked at Third Person viewpoint. Today we take a look at Multiple Third Person.

 Imagine yourself as a reader who gets to read the minds of the characters. Not necessarily all the time, but at critical times. It gives you, the reader, the power and knowledge to understand what is going on to a greater degree.

 In Third Person Viewpoints you are reading or “listening” to the thoughts of the primary character. But in Multiple Third Person Viewpoints this is multiplied so that the reader has the opportunity to grasp more and understand more.

 That being said, I would not suggest too many characters at one time. Generally I try to limit to two or three characters. And only with the primary character do I have constant contact.

If you have more than one character with a POV you need to transition from one to another. Here’s the problem: Your reader is in the head of one of the characters and suddenly you switch to another character’s POV.

This can be very disruptive to the reader. You must transition from one character to another to keep the reader engaged.

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 Tip #1 – Generally, multiple characters with observable viewpoints should be introduced early. However, in books spanning many years it is possible to distant them (as in Perished: The World That Was).

 Tip #2 – Unless you are truly great with prose keep your primary character as your primary POV. In books like Perished you can change the primary character but make sure the transition is smooth.

 Tip #3 – You must transition between POV’s. You will lose the reader if you don’t.

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 Example

 In Perished: The World That Was you have a book covering 1656 years. It starts with Adam being the primary character but he eventually dies and another takes his place. This continues until Noah becomes the primary.

 In each case there was a transition (either death or simply a “changing of the guard” (so to speak)).

 I do not recommend doing this in a story that is more compressed in time. Most likely your primary character will be constant throughout.

 Another example from the same book is the inclusion of multiple primary characters. But it is rare for both to appear in the same scene at the same time. If such a situation presents itself, however, only one should be the primary at that time.

 Application

 Multiple Person Viewpoint is in my opinion the most flexible (and hardest) viewpoint for the author to use. That flexibility is a valuable asset for the author. So don’t shy away from it.

 Try it out. Buy books on viewpoint and learn what works for you.

 Your comments are welcome. Just go to my Facebook page and leave a comment about this article.

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 R. Frederick Riddle is the author of several books. For more information on him visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured.

Third Person POV

Viewpoint or Point of View (POV) is critical to your story. The Point of View allows the reader to experience someone else’s (yours or the character’s) view of the world. Last Monday we looked at First Person viewpoint. Today we take a look at Third Person.

This is a lesson we teach in Authors Academy and much of the material comes from there.

 Third Person, in my opinion, is the preferred method to use. It is the “he”, “she” or “it” viewpoint. This is the POV that I consistently use when writing my books. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of this viewpoint.

 The advantages of this POV are:

  •  an outside view of the person

You, the narrator, can talk about other facts, events and people.

  • you can have additional characters in third person

you can have other POV characters.

  • unlimited worldview
  • In the first person you were restricted by the author’s or character’s thoughts and opinions.
  • But in third person the narrator and reader have access to other information – thus expanding the scene.
  • greater objectivity – in first person you only have the character’s opinion of self, but in third Person you see much more and can make better judgments.
  • hidden information – In third person the author can keep some facts about the character secret until later in the story.

 The above advantages simply overwhelm the disadvantages below. While I have read and enjoyed First Person viewpoints, for the most part I have enjoyed Third Person much more.

 But there are disadvantages. These include:

  •  separated involvement

With first person you had instant involvement, but here there exists separation or distance between the character and the reader.

  • language

It is more difficult to identify the class and education of the character.

  • range

Awkward. The thinking, etc, is not as visible as it is with first person.

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 Tip #1 – Choose your POV carefully. First person identifies more closely with the character, while third person more distant. Also, third person is better, perhaps necessary, when dealing with multiple characters.

 Tip #2 – When conveying a character’s thoughts put it in italics. Not a hard rule, but I recommend it.

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 Example

 First Person: I thought to myself, What a wonderful day!

 Third Person: He looked about, smiling. What a wonderful day!

 Application

 Be careful with your POV. It is very easy to forget which POV you are using. The result can be disastrous.

 I do not recommend First Person, although many authors have done so successfully. It takes a lot of hard work and skill. And in my opinion is too limiting.

 Be aware also that there are many variations of both first person and third person viewpoints. I recommend that you buy a good reference book on the subject. There are many resources, including Writers Digest.

 That said, I indicated earlier that I write in Third Person. Actually I practice something a little different: Multiple Third Person. It is the most difficult of all to master. But if you do, it is worth it. We will discuss it next Monday.

Your comments are welcome. Just go to my Facebook page and leave a comment about this article.

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R. Frederick Riddle is the author of several books. For more information on him visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured.

First Person Point of View

Viewpoint or Point of View (POV) is critical to your story. The Point of View allows the reader to experience someone else’s (your’s or the character’s) view of the world.

 Before looking at the viewpoints let me give you another related principle: Make sure your reader knows when the character is thinking and when he is speaking. And try to avoid “he thought” or “she thought.”

 We are going to take a look at 1st Person.

 This is essentially “I”, “Me”, “Mine”. The POV is from the speaker. He/She tells the story from His/Her perspective. Personally, I don’t like this POV but I have read some excellent books using that technique.

 There are a few advantages to this viewpoint, such as:

  • Instant involvement

Because the reader is inside the character’s head all thoughts and actions are immediately known. There is no delay.

  • Language

Because the reader is inside the head and knows the thoughts of the character the reader is able to instantly know the education, and class of the character.

  • Range

How the character thinks. The reader learns a great deal about the character because every facet of his/her thinking is open to the reader.

 But there are also disadvantages; such as

  • it requires the presence of the character in virtually all scenes.

  • the character can’t keep secrets from the reader. If the character knows something, we do also.

  • you cannot include any information that the character doesn’t know. In other words, you know what the character knows. No more and no less.

  • The “I” becomes both you and the character. This can be troubling.

  • limited view. Since you only know what the character knows there is a whole world of unknowns.

First Person, in my opinion, is harder to write and to pull off. Some authors do and succeed quite well. I have read some excellent first person narratives. A recent example is The Knight by Steven James.

This is an excellent book that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. The author wrote the book in first person, so I knew everything the hero (Patrick Bowers) knew. But the author threw some third person events into the fray as well. Thus, in chapters involving the hero I knew what he knew, but in other scenes I saw more and knew more. Even so, the author kept me wondering who the villain was until almost the end of the book.

That’s quite an accomplishment for any writer. I’ve read quite a lot of books and consider myself pretty good at figuring out the villian. But by deftly mixing the first person accounts and third person accounts the author kept me from guessing the outcome.

So if you are good at the craft you can write an entertaining novel in the first person. But be forewarned: it can be unwieldy. Therefore, unless you have a great deal of experience in writing, I would recommend you stay away from it.

 

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R. Frederick Riddle is the author of several books. For more information on him visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured.