Making a choice – Part III examines using imagination and secondary characters to propel the story, relate backstory or enhance details. In Part I we explored making the choice between first person and third, and other alternates. Part II added using dreams and delays. Part III highlights imagination and revisits how all of the elements work together to create page turners.
Parts I and II received many comments by posts in groups and by e-mail. To share your thoughts and comments with all of my readers, I invite you to use the comment box at the end of this article.
Allow the protagonist’s imagination to tell part of the story or introduce something they can’t see. Particularly when writing in first person, the character’s imagination can actually act like another character. The imagination can easily be written in third person.
Open the segment with a narration. Example: Ominous black clouds ruptured like seams bursting from strain. Sheets of torrential rain slicked the road, as Martin Truesdale fought for control of the wheel. He moved in a vacuum, barely able to tell if anything was on either side of him. Desperately trying to quell his fear, Martin realized he couldn’t see anything beyond the hood of his vehicle.
Then, perhaps one or two sentences later, you write: I kept trying to picture what it must have been like for Martin in those last few moments of his life— fighting for control, even as he knew it was hopeless. Every time, I imagined it, the scene shifted, making it a little different. Only one thing remained constant. The terror.
Treating it this way clearly establishes that this is a first person narrative, but until it’s revealed the reader doesn’t know the first example was imagination, because it had the latitude of writing in third person.
Using secondary characters in third person
Try using another character to introduce information through dialogue or narration in third person. This allows distinction between the main character and what they see or feel as the secondary characters help the story unfold.
But be careful. Whether writing in first person or third, here is where the writer’s commandment, “Thou shalt not head jump” kicks in. It is one of those situations where it’s easy to commit the “no-no” of bouncing from head to head. At the very least it requires a scene break between characters. I prefer to give these secondary characters their own chapters. However, depending upon the manuscript, the scene break can also be quite effective.
Time to Experiment with the tips in Parts I, II and III
Whatever the point of view, open the door to your thinking by experimenting. Play with it, using the devices of imagination, information relayed through secondary characters, dreams, delays, and everything we’ve discussed in this three part series.
Which will it be? A full course meal or ala carte selections? The choice is yours.
If you choose to venture into writing a piece in first person, be prepared. I don’t know about you, but for me, when writing in first person, I experience a sensation that isn’t present when writing in third person—intense emotion.
It literally forces you to become the character in a much more intimate way. Unlike writing in third person, instead of observing, you’re in the character’s head, feeling and experiencing everything they do. If you’re still thinking as the writer, you haven’t made the full transition. Make yourself feel what your character feels. If they hurt, you hurt. If they’re elated, so are you. Become that person in your mind. Dream their dreams, use your wit to figure out delays. And above all, dip into your imagination.
Have you ever found yourself sitting at the computer with tears running down your cheeks, or your heart pounding as though it will jump out of your chest? Writing in first person isn’t for everyone, but if that happens, you’re in the zone. So, what is the choice? First person, third or omniscient?
First and omniscient are definitely not as widely used as third person. First does provide a highly-charged manuscript not possible with the distance created by third person, and omniscient is the know-all, see-all, but lacks the emotion. Third person is the popular middle ground. Which to use?
Map out all of your choices. Think about everything you want your story to do, the tension, tenderness or emotions you wish to create, which information must be imparted to give the story teeth and how can you accomplish that? Choose the features and tricks in this series that are right for your project and take it for a test run.
Every Tuesday: Spotlight – In depth interviews with authors, publishers, organizations and highlights of upcoming events. This week’s Spotlight – First Chapter Plus and Two New Books. If you are in Las Vegas, best selling author Dorothy Howell, Spotlighted last week, will appear at Barnes & Noble on August 7 and is the featured speaker at Sisters in Crime Southern Nevada on August 8. Public welcome.
Every Thursday: Writers: Tricks of the trade features tips, techniques and tricks.
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Recent Tricks of the Trade: Making Choices-Part I; Making Choices-Part II; How to keep readers riveted to your book or story Click here for complete listing of all archived columns
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