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Q: I saw what you wrote about not hiding the POV character’s identity. Isn’t there some way I can hide the villain’s identity, so the reader won’t figure out who it is until late in the story, when the hero does? Like, if he’s an evil mastermind, can I just call him “the mastermind” in the scenes where he’s the point of view character, instead of using his name?
No one thinks of himself in the third person that way. Unless he has some kind of dissociative disorder—yikes, that’s a whole other post. Continue reading
When you look at it all at once, the Elements of Fiction Editing Checklist can be daunting. And as writers, we tend to waver between thinking we’re literary geniuses and thinking we’re hack poseurs no one will ever take seriously.
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The danger in self-editing is that you fall too severely on one side or the other. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul warns against this. Continue reading
Last week we talked about the kind of infodump in which the character’s full history is dropped in one big block. Often this information—or pieces of it, anyway—does belong in the story. It just needs to be winnowed down to the minimum, and it needs to be woven organically into the story.
One of the best ways to incorporate this kind of history is through dialog. Notice how Joss Whedon slips the Hulk’s backstory into just a few lines in The Avengers: Continue reading
I want to take some extra time to go into one point on the Elements of Fiction Editing Checklist in detail:
☐ Personal histories are brought into the story organically
Backstory is usually a bad word among writers. But the truth is, it’s necessary—to you. Knowing your character’s history is good. What’s bad is dumping all that history in one big lump at the beginning of your novel.
This is a common new-writer error. Continue reading
We’ve been looking at the points in the Character element of the checklist. Here are a couple more:
☐ Continuity is maintained in characters’ appearance, habits, and vocabulary.
This is where your style sheet will come in handy. Some call it a character bible, but copyeditors usually call it a style sheet or style guide. For more on this, see How to prevent continuity errors in your book.
In addition to keeping track of physical traits, note where your characters are from and incorporate regional or intellectual differences. Continue reading
Last time we looked at the importance of great characters in fiction. Now, let’s break down the points in the Character segment of the Elements of Fiction Editing Checklist.
☐ Principal characters are well-rounded and realistic.
The goal here is to avoid one-note characters. Remember that people have multiple interests. Sherlock Holmes, for example, plays the violin. What do your characters do when they’re not saving the world? Continue reading
The editing checklist I presented last time is written in order of importance according to me. Other editors will disagree about what is the most important aspect of a novel. I put Character at the top of the list because the characters, especially the viewpoint characters, are how the reader experiences the story. Readers become attached to them and will root for them to achieve their goals.
But only if the characters are sympathetic.