Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seeing Double, Triple: Getting Into Each Character's Head

There's nothing necessarily wrong with a scene where one character dominates, but there may not be enough right with it either. It's fine for one character in a scene to stand out, especially if he or she is the story's main squeeze. But if the character dominates every scene, or most throughout the story, try editing the scene once for each character.

Here's a case where the best way to learn is by doing. Select a scene from a story you're working on now or a scene you've been mulling over. Edit it first from the mind-set of the main character. Then edit from the mind-set of the next most prominent character on down the line until you've edited the scene once for each major character. The result will be a richer exchange with deeper characters who know and engage each other on a deeper level, and who may surprise the reader, possibly even the writer.

Here are a couple of caveats:
  • Don't view this as a major rewrite of the scene, but more of a way to refine it to reveal the essence of each major player, and some minor ones, too.
  • Don't let surprises throw you. Instead, step away from the work. When you return, if there still seems to be a major shift in character or plot, list the ways this will impact the story and where. Review the list to see if the changes are worth making.
Happy writing!

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