Point of View: Back to Basics (#1)

If you’ve landed on this page, odds are you already know what POV is and are trying to decide which to use. If you don’t, or if you’re confused, that’s okay too. There are a ton of articles out there on viewpoint, a few of which I’ve found helpful and will link at the end of this post.

There are various options for storytelling. Sometimes it will come naturally; other times, you’ll dilly dally back and forth before deciding what works best. Ultimately there’s no right or wrong answer!

So, what is the POV of your story? In the most basic of terms, it’s who’s telling the story to your readers. Is it your main character? Is it an all-knowing person outside of your story who can read the minds of all your characters? Or is it a narrator who can read the mind of only one character?

Let’s cover the absolute basics first. We’ll cover more the more nitty-gritty pros and cons of each in upcoming posts. Here are your POV options at the most basic level:

  • 1st Person
    “I” narration. I sat down. I said something. I did this. I’m the main character in your story.

    The story is told from a character’s viewpoint, and is typically filtered through that character’s speech, thoughts, and overall personality. This type of narration creates intimacy between the reader and the narrator, and can help create sympathy.

  • 2nd Person
    “You” narration. You sat down. You said something. You did this. You are the main character.

    This type of POV is rare in fiction novels. It’s mostly used in pick-your-own-adventure type books or some short stories. The one example I know of for contemporary fiction is Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerny.

  • 3rd Person
    “He/she” narration. He sat down. She said something. They did this. She is the main character in your story.

    There are two basic types of 3rd person:

    • Limited
      • The narrator knows the thoughts and emotions of only one character. Creates intimacy similar to 1st person.

    • Omniscient (God-like or all-knowing)
      • The narrator knows the thoughts and emotions of all the characters and can describe them at will. Creates much more distance than 1st or 3rd limited.

There’s no right or wrong choice for your story, only what works best. Each type of POV has its pros and cons, and we’ll be looking at all of them in this series.

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Naming Your Characters ~ A Few Things to Consider

characternames

Naming your characters doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly complicated. (Cue the stereotypical Shakespeare quote here.) Some writers spend days upon days researching the etymology of different names and words for their characters. It’s totally OK if you don’t find names the same way.

However, you should put at least a little work into naming your characters. The kind of names will, for obvious reasons, have vast differences from genre to genre — such as high fantasy versus contemporary romance.

Here are some things to consider when it comes to naming your babies. …I mean characters.

  • Heritage/Time period/Geographical/Background
    I’d like to believe that taking your character’s background into consideration for a name would be a self-explanatory step, but… no, it’s not. No matter the genre, some names are completely out of place. A reader will be completely thrown off by stumbling across a character named “Billy-Bob” in a medieval fantasy, or “Caligula” and “Eudoxia” in a contemporary romance that takes place in Podunk Town, Missouri, unless, of course, there’s a damn good reason for it.Your character’s name should make sense with the story and with their own background. Research common names for that time period (or, if it’s a more contemporary story, you can research the most common names for the specific year your character was born in).
  • Readability and Pronunciation, Same First Letter
    Avoid names that have difficult spellings or pronunciations. Also, avoid having two character names that start with the same letter. It’s harder for our eyes to differentiate two names in the same scene that start with the same letter.
  • Spelling
    Stay away from odd/weird/”hip” spellings of common names. It only makes it harder on your reader.
  • Contrived names, obvious names
    Some writers like names that sound clever or cute or witty, like naming a wise, old man Sage, or a peace-keeping girl Serenity. Depending on the story, they may sound contrived and come off as corny. Keep your genre and target audience in mind — what sounds goofy for an adult romance may work well for a YA novel.
    This isn’t to say that names derived from everyday words can’t work. A clever name, however,  won’t make your character memorable. A well developed, fleshed-out, sympathetic character is memorable.

It’s good to have a rough idea of who your character is before picking out a name. If you decide to start writing first, use a placeholder, such as [NAME], instead of a temporary name. It’s harder to go back and change from a temporary name, as you may get used to it.

Baby name resources, from websites to books (besides writers, does anyone even buy baby name books anymore…?), are your best friends when it comes to names. Here are some links to helpful resources!

Behind the Name — Offers the etymology and meaning behind thousands of names. You can even search by language, country, or even Biblical and Medieval names.

2000-Names.com — Another great resource with thousands of names, searchable by region/language/time period/etc.

BabyCenter — Good if you’re looking for a name that’s more contemporary or modern. They have some cutesy categories, such as Old fashioned and Nature.

Social Security Administration (SSA) — This is your best resource to search the most common or popular names by year or decade (for the US, at least).

Two additions for Fantasy and Sci-Fi writers, thanks to Matt (be sure to check out his blog and writing!) :

donjon — Gives a few options to create different combinations for name generation.

Fantasynamegenerators.com

 

 

Paperback Giveaway!

***Update*** The giveaway has ended. Thank you to everyone who entered!

 

 

Just a quick  bit of shameless self-promo here. My Goodreads giveaway starts Feb. 25th —  enter for a chance to win 1 of 2 signed copies of my novel, Waiting for You! (Open to US and Canada)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Waiting for You by Allison Williford

Waiting for You

by Allison Williford

Giveaway ends March 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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If you don’t win, never fear! Get a free ebook of Waiting for You when you sign up for The Sentranced Writer’s monthly newsletter. Our March edition is all about dialogue!