3 Little Rules of My Novels

In a question going around on Twitter I was asked by one of my followers to play the following game. "Which order do these belong to you? Genre, Character, Plot, Setting, POV?"

Here are my answers
1) Genre
2) Character
3) Plot
4) Setting

Now to take those apart a little bit. I write in only two genres, epic fantasy or mystery. I've dabbled in science fiction, science fantasy, romance, paranormal mystery a bit. But by and large, where I do most of my writing is epic fantasy and mystery. I have to decide those things first. But let me say, POV is last on the list for one reason and one reason only. I almost always write in third person limited. 

Rule 1:  Third Person Limited POV

I think when it comes to writing, that each writer has a space where the words just flow. For me, that space is third person limited. I didn't just fall into third person limited, though. I hate first person. I hate reading first person, I hate listening to audiobooks in first person and I hate writing in first person. First person to me, feels like the author is cheating. I'm supposed to identify with this character, right? I'm supposed to at least be in like, right? I just effing hate it. I feel like, hey, yo I don't know this character! What if I don't like him/her/it? What am I supposed to do? If I don't by the character's internal logic, then I end up feeling like I was watching my favorite talk show and a guest was oversharing before I could find the remote to turn them off. . 

That being said, Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is one of my favorite characters and all of those books are written in first person, which I find both intriguing and delightful. No, I don't feel like I agree with Kinsey all of the time. But, I also feel like the style is more that of a written report, or testimony in a court of law, than a trek through Kinsey's world.

Rule 2: Simple Past Tense

I usually write in simple past tense. Past perfect has too many helping verbs and it's easy to slip into passive voice, where a direct object of an active voice sentence is promoted to the subject of a sentence and the subject of that sentence is demoted to the direct object, usually with a helping verb along the way.  ( https://writehobby.blogspot.com/2018/11/technical-tuesday-direct-objects.html )
Again, this was a conscious choice on my part. I have seen many of my writing friends struggle with passive voice, which I think comes a bit more naturally. But once you know why something is  is passive voice, it is much easier to change to active voice. Moreover, simple past tense is easy to follow, and sounds, at least to my ear, a bit more professional, than simple present. I have not found any reason to write a novel in future tense of any kind.

Rule 3: Character Development is King

I took up writing because I have things to say about the world and stories where those ideas play out. I try to write books that I would like to read, with varying degrees of success. I don't like plot heavy tomes, where the main characters dragged through a series of impossible events. Mystery books work best when the plot is character driven, fantasy books work best when the plot is character revealing. But either way, a well developed set of characters with a set of character traits is important. The thing I like to think is most important about character is that traits tend to cut both ways. So sometimes it works for the character, sometimes it works against characters, and my challenge as a narrator is to put my characters in as many different situations as I can and see what falls out. And yes, sometimes characters, like humans, act out of character, but I like to limit those time to once per book, if it is a series, if that frequently. 

While epic fantasy allows me to set up a challenge and then let disparate characters loose, thrown together by pressure of the situation, with little else in common. Mystery presents an entirely different challenge. The MC of a mystery series must change incrementally, almost imperceptibly slowly and yet, the mystery itself must revolve around the secret actions and motivations of characters that are there for a book and then gone. The action comes first, and then slowly the clues must be pieced together.  A mystery reader needs a good puzzle, but they must also understand the characters that are here this book and gone the next. 

That's it, that's what I work on for my novels? What works for you? 


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