Monday, September 21, 2009

Storyteller Tips 2: Characters and POV

This is the second installment in my writers’ guidelines for Cliffhanger Books. If you’re a submitting author, reviewing my characterization and POV tips will help you write your paranormal romance short story for our upcoming Paramourtal anthology. Adhering to these storytelling principles will increase your chance of acceptance.

Lovers and Other Characters
The appeal of paranormal romance is the irresistible temptation of forbidden love, so invent distinctive characters who struggle to unite in unusual ways. You may feature any combination of these character types. At least one member of the main romantic couple may be paranormal, possess supernatural powers or appear to be otherworldly. A paranormal entity may use magical, metaphysical, immortal, etc. talents and ways to coax the couple to find love or make their union a challenge.

We want a variety of character categories including witches, warlocks, sorcerers, psychics, ghosts, spirits, vampires, werewolves, etc. But do your research so their appearances, powers and paraphernalia are credible and consistent. Or invent your own mysterious creature with bizarre abilities.

Focus on the main couple and perhaps a paranormal entity if one of the lovers isn’t. Drop them into any setting and time period. Limit the number of minor characters to a few if needed. Give all characters specific and consistent personality traits, strengths, flaws, motivations and speech patterns to make them come alive.

Point of View
Your entire story may be in one character’s point of view (third or first person). Or you may switch the POV from one character to another, but use only one per scene. Don’t include multiple characters’ thoughts in the same scene (head hopping). A POV character may guess what others are thinking or feeling from facial expressions, gestures, actions and reactions. Only describe a character’s physical appearance when in another’s POV. Make the point of view character an active participant — not a narrator who’s an observer (third-person omniscient). Avoid long flashbacks that stall the story from moving forward. Each POV character reveals feelings, emotions and introspective thoughts. Express all senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste and sometimes ESP.

Use dialogue to further your story and characterizations. Limit idle chitchat unless it reveals a character’s personality. Focus mainly on plot-related conversation. Except for some professions, social stations and formal situations, most people talk in contractions. Keep the dialogue realistic and appropriate for each character. A contemporary rural Texas farm hand who dropped out of school wouldn’t talk or think like a 1940-era New York college professor or a medieval English princess who’s a witch. Read your story aloud to be sure dialogue sounds natural and your writing flows well.

Naming People and Places
After you think up character names and the title of your story, Google them. Change anything that already belongs to famous people or fiction. If you use names of real locations, you must be accurate in your descriptions. Or create a fictional setting, and enjoy the freedom to be inventive. But search fictional cities and named places to make sure they don’t exist. If anything does, change it to something unique.

What’s Next?
Read part three of my Storyteller Tips blog: Story Structure and Plot.

Keep checking this blog and the Cliffhanger Books website for more details, selected stories, publication dates and future
anthologies in this and other genres.

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