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#FirstDraft60 Day 7 — Who Are Your Characters and What Is Your POV?

Monday, September 7, 2015

#FirstDraft60 |
Now that all of your systems are (should be) set up, it’s time to start digging into the nitty-gritty of information you’ll need to know in order to be able to marathon-write a first draft. And this week, it’s all about the characters.

Schedule for Days 7–11:
Day 7 (today): Identifying your characters (main and secondary), and determining your POV and viewpoint characters.

Day 8: Getting Your Characters into S.H.A.P.E.

Day 9: Character Casting

Day 10: Determining Your Main Characters’ Goals, Motivations, and Conflicts

Day 11: Writing Out the Complete Backstories of Your Main Characters

Now, for those of you who’ve been around the blog for a while, you’ll recognize several of these topics. If you want to work ahead, or if you’ve already done your character casting or GMC or SHAPE, spend your FirstDraft60 time this week working on backstories or getting a head start on your synopsis/outline. But if you’re still in the process of figuring everything out, working thorough the activities/assignments this week should really help with figuring out not just your characters but generate new ideas for your story.

Identifying Your Main (Viewpoint) and Secondary Characters
The first question to ask yourself when it comes to determining your Viewpoint characters is: Whose story am I telling? In a romance novel, this is easy—it’s the story of the hero and the heroine as they fall in love with each other. In a detective/P.I. novel, it’s probably best to go with a single viewpoint—the viewpoint of the one solving the crime. However, even though these are usually the case, you can’t always force your stories to fit into that mold.

Next, which characters have important information to reveal to the reader that cannot be done without getting inside their heads? This is a tricky question—because when we’re first starting out writing, there may seem to be lots of characters who have important things to reveal to the reader, even if it’s just for one short paragraph. But as we read more, study more, and write more, we’ll get a better feel for what really is important and what isn’t. Typically, if it’s only one scene’s worth of information to be revealed, it’s probably not that important in the grand scheme of things—or it can most likely be revealed in another manner without dipping into that character’s POV for just one scene. If you’re not sure, make a list of the characters in your story and try dividing them up into three categories: walk-ons (may not even have a speaking role, may or may not need to be named, might have one or two lines of dialogue, but never appear again); secondary characters (are along for pretty much the whole journey, are somehow connected to the development of the story—but not important enough to have a viewpoint); and viewpoint, or main, characters (those whose story you’re telling). If you’re coming up with too many main characters ask the next question . . .

Which characters’ internal journeys affect the direction, conflict, climax, and resolution of the story? If you’re giving a character a viewpoint just to reveal information to the reader, they may not actually be a viewpoint character, they may be a secondary character. If you still end up with multiple viewpoint characters, ask . . .

Do all viewpoint characters’ story arcs tie in to the main plot of the novel? Does each viewpoint character’s storyline somehow intersect with and/or affect or influence the main plot of the story? Do the characters’ lives intersect with each other? Does each viewpoint character’s storyline wrap up at the end and tie in to the ending? If you have multiple viewpoint storylines going on, and they don’t tie in with each other by the end of the novel, what you have are two plots—two stories that should be separated from each other.

How often does a character’s viewpoint appear? If you have a viewpoint character who has only a few scenes scattered throughout a 350-page novel, it may be time to consider relegating that character to a secondary role and finding a way to incorporate what’s revealed in his/her scenes to one of the major characters—UNLESS there is a very compelling reason to only have a few, such as it’s the villain’s POV or something like that which serves to up the ante and increase the conflict and/or suspense.

Finally, which character has the most to gain/lose in each scene? Who will be the most embarrassed by what’s about to happen? Who has a secret agenda? Whose heart is going to be racing? Who’s going to be ducking around the corner out of sight and overhear something he/she shouldn’t? That will help you choose the correct viewpoint character for each scene. But it isn’t foolproof. If a scene feels flat to you, try it from another major character’s viewpoint and see if it changes things.

Assignment 1: Who are the characters that will have a viewpoint in your story (e.g., your “main” characters)? Who are some of your major secondary characters—those who are important but don’t get their own viewpoints?

Picking Your POV
“Point of View” or POV is quite often the term used to identify which characters’ heads the reader is allowed into in a story. However, we’re using it in the more technical, grammatical definition today.

In order to set your story up to get ready to write it, there are three parts of POV you must decide upon:

  1. Person: First (I, me, my), Second (you, your, yours), Third (he, she, his, hers, they, theirs).
  2. Omniscience: Omniscient (using a narrator, even if it’s an invisible/god-like narrator), Limited (camping out in just one viewpoint character’s head per scene, the narrative is in the character’s voice, not a “narrator’s”), Objective (more of a journalistic style—“just the facts, ma’am”—not seen in fiction often).
  3. Tense: Present (action is happening in the here-and-now), Past/Active (verbs are past tense, but because this is the most common form of storytelling, it still seems to be immediate action), Past/Passive (usually a form of the “be” verb plus a gerund—word ending in -ing—or a form of the “have” verb + past-tense verb).

You can read more about these, and the vast array of combinations thereof here.

Must you know what POV you’re going to use for your story before you start writing? It’s a good idea to have a grasp of what’s accepted/expected in your genre—and the example I always give here is that in romance, the accepted and expected (by readers) POV is 3rd Person, Limited, Past/Active with the heroine and the hero being viewpoint characters. But since this is a first draft and you’ll have ample time to revise after you complete this draft, if you want to play with POV to see what works best for your story, feel free to experiment.

Assignment 2: What POV will you be writing your story in? Is there anything you need to study/learn about this POV before you start writing?

  1. Carol Moncado permalink
    Monday, September 7, 2015 11:23 am

    1. Hero, heroine. Secondary heroine (her story spans the series). Heroes/heroines from the previous 2.5 books (novels 1, 2; novella 2.5) will likely be important as this book brings the other two families together. Not sure who else yet – likely at least one more majorish secondary which will lead into book 1 of the next series – I know who the heroes (and 2 of the heroines) are for that series but not what order they’ll be written in yet. One of them has a specific time frame it has to be in (heroine is pregnant in book 2 of THIS series and will still be pregnant in her book in the next series) so that may determine which order they come in. We’ll have to see how long THIS book takes on the calendar to see where we’re at in her pregnancy. All three of the upcoming heroes would have valid reasons to be present in this book though…

    2. Third person past/active. Hero, heroine, secondary heroine (POV throughout the series) and possibly a fourth, but not sure who yet (secondary hero is a possibility).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Monday, September 7, 2015 2:32 pm

    During September, I’m going to be outlining two stories, which will be drafted one after the other. Then in October, I’ll focus on finishing the draft of the LIS book. Both are standard romance/romantic suspense formats, so they will be third person, with alternating POVs for the hero/heroine. I did a third POV for an earlier LIS, but they’d prefer just the two.

    I need to start a physical (instead of digital) story bible. As I’ve been cleaning up my house, I’m finding dozens of story notes. Need to compile them.

    For the LIS, the hero/heroine characters are Nathan Jameson (police sargeant) and Laura Daniels (child advocate attorney). I only recently found out that Laura has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trails, so is more of a outdoorsy girl than I had planned. BUT this will serve me well when the climax arrives.

    The other story has only recently been drafted – a one-page description. So I have more work to do there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lisa Jarvis permalink
    Monday, September 7, 2015 11:38 pm

    1. Main Characters:

    Grandmother- Cassia has a role in the inciting incident of the first chapter/prologue but is deceased through rest of story.

    Protagonist – Katryna it’s her internal journey and her adventures.

    Antagonist – Eudora – has a story that parallel’s Katryna’s and they intersect and wrap up together with events at climax

    2. Major Secondary characters no POV

    Katryna’s brother – Gavin (illness is ticking bomb/stakes)
    Romantic interest – Liam
    Mentor – Ethan
    Katryna’s mom – Leigh
    Antagonists partner – Astor
    “Scooby Crew” – protagonists 3 companions

    3. First chapter / prologue will be third-person limited to Cassia’s POV (grandmother). Most of the book will be first person from Katryna’s POV. YA books generally have a single or very few POVs. I am considering a few chapters from Eudora’s POV but I’m still working that out. All of the book will be past tense / active.

    4. I will be reading YA books and taking notes on POV and voice. I’m going to spend some time reviewing how the narrator relates setting and character descriptions that sound true to a young adult voice. For example, when writing in the first person POV for Katryna I need to make sure the story is told from the unreliable view of an inexperienced teen. I need to describe other characters, settings, events in terms of how a self-centric teenager would perceive everything. I need to embrace my inner drama queen. My protagonist should judge, act and react with no thought given to consequences.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Monday, September 7, 2015 11:48 pm

    Viewpoint (Main) Characters:
    Preston Stonewall “Stone” Marshall (Hero)
    Alexandra Montgomery Kilbourne (Heroine)

    Secondary Characters: (so far, anyway)
    LauraAnn Marshall, Stone’s sister
    Illona Montgomery Kilbourne, Alex’s daughter
    Charlie Kilbourne, Alex’s ex-husband
    Ross Lefkowitz, Alex’s personal assistant/PR manager
    Kady Neil, Alex’s best friend
    Caylor, Dylan, Flannery, Jamie, Zarah, and Bobby from the original Matchmakers books (in more minor roles than the characters above)

    Because this is a romance novel, I’ll be sticking with the standard 3rd person/limited/past-tense.


  5. Shirley Taylor permalink
    Friday, October 7, 2016 3:33 pm

    Could you please define S.H.A.P.E. for me please? I might like to use it but have no clue what each letter means. Thanks! 🙂



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