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An interesting writing podcast

I'm not big into podcasts, but there is one I listen to regularly:

Writing Excuses

This is hosted by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novelist), Howard Tayler (Cartoonist) and Dan Wells (Horror Novelist).

They issue a podcast every Monday, each week on an interesting aspect of writing. Each podcast lasts about 15 minutes.

While discussing Viewpoint from their Writing Excuses Episode 25: Viewpoint and Tense Part 2 July 28th podcast, Brandon Sanderson said something which really made me think.

To paraphrase, he stated that a beautifully written 3rd person limited viewpoint that lets a prospective Editor or Agent understand your character within one page will go farther than worldbuilding and plot to want them to buy or represent your book. Not that worldbuilding and plot aren't also needed, but that, if one of the three has limitations, if the characterization is stellar your chances of landing an Agent or Editor is higher than if the characterization is the weak point.

However valid this may be, it has made me think about the introductions to each of my Viewpoint characters. Do I reveal their personality in the opening page of each introduction? I read through the 25,000 words of my WIP this weekend. I mostly enjoyed it. I like how the story is shaping up and I especially like the mystery that forced itself into the plot - even though this will add a lot more development and back-story work on my part.

The biggest thing I have realized is I have not found each viewpoint character's "narrative voice". Even for the two viewpoint characters I am familiar with, I still haven't captured their essence. Normally, this wouldn't worry me as my first drafts are almost always focused on the what happened and who was there, rather than the viewpoint character's experience of what happened.

I've been thinking lately, however, that I need to find each viewpoint narrative voice before proceeding. I don't want to end up re-writing the entire thing, which is what I have done in the past with other writing projects.

I want to capture each viewpoint character up front. I want, as Brandon Sanderson suggests, for the reader to get a strong grasp of the viewpoint character right off the bat.

One great example of this accomplishment is George R.R. Martin's Jamie from A Song of Ice and Fire series. What is interesting is Jamie is a character who is seen here and there for the first couple of books who becomes a viewpoint character in book 3. Jamie's narrative is riveting and unquestionably unique.

So, I'm giving myself another research assignment (one I have sort of started already). I've pulled a couple of books from my shelf to skim through to see how certain favorite viewpoint characters of mine were portrayed, in terms of their "narrative voice".

Some of the books I'll be looking at:

Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time - Books 1 thru 5
Melanie Rawn's Sunrunner books
Katherine Kurtz Deryni books
George Martin's ASOIAF books

And then I will revisit my own. I have some very old writings of my own I want to take a look at. Sometimes, in the midst of the quite laughable early writings as a kid I stumble across a gem or two.

My goal here is to limit the amount of re-write my novel will need. I think one of the things I'm having a hard time with is I've written quite a bit with these same characters as viewpoint characters but telling events that range from 10 to 30 years later than the events in this current WIP. I'm not sure how much of an impact trying to write these characters as younger versions of themselves is having on my struggle.

I have the feeling I am going to resort to something I did briefly back in high school. I got into what I called my short story phase, which was really, back-story scene stage since none of the short stories I wrote were actual stories, but rather events that happened to certain characters.

I think I will need to do that here so I can find the narrative voice of each. I know I'm close. I just want to get there. I think the novel will flow, in terms of plot and passion if I start writing in each character's narrative voice now rather than in draft two or three.

I've got good starting points. I just need to work out the mechanics. This should be an interesting exercise. I may even be able to work through this unexpected mystery that has interjected itself into the main story line.

Perhaps I'll create an imaginary diary for each character to get a better feel on how to present them.

Already the mind is churning.

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