Whose Story Is It, Anyway?


Courtroom

by Lillian Csernica on March 24, 2013

Back in high school, I was on the Speech and Debate Team. We had an opportunity to compete in the Mock Trial. That’s exactly what it was, a mock trial held in a real courtroom before a judge. The teams who participated in the competition were given packets that included information on the plaintiff, the defendant, the scene of the event under dispute, statements from both plaintiff and defendant and the police officers called to the scene. Mind you, those people were all made up, strictly fictional. The only real people were those of us competing, the judges, our coaches and the lawyers who volunteered to help us understand courtroom procedure and etiquette, such as how and when to make an objection.

I learned a very important lesson from the lawyer who helped train my team: “There are always two sides to every story.”

When I set out to write a story, I have to know whose story it is. From what point of view (POV) should I tell the story? In romance novels, it’s customary to write from both the hero’s and the heroine‘s POVs so the reader can enjoy the full development of the emotional connection between them. It’s also possible to have multiple POVs beyond just the main characters. In my current novel, I pop in on the bad guy every now and then and let the reader see how his evil plans are progressing as he continues to search for the heroine so he can capture her and give her to a powerful ally. That led me to start adding in scenes where the major rival of the bad guy hears about his search, so the rival decides to send his spies out and see if the rival can take advantage of the situation to thwart the bad guy. That makes four POVs! A multiple POV novel is a lot like a cake. You have to know how to add in the ingredients at the right time and in the right amounts. Then you turn up the heat! If all goes well, you get a very satisfying treat.

Layer cake

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? There’s another question that brings it all down to the bottom line: “Who has the most to lose?”

I once wrote a short story from the POV of the heroine. I was sure she was the one who would lose everything if the bad guys won. As I developed the plot and its complications, I realized the hero was the one in a much worse position because he would very likely end up dead. What did that mean in terms of POV? It meant I had to rewrite the story from word one according to the hero’s POV. The story is now much more intense and dramatic.

Everyone involved in the main event of the story, major characters, minor characters, spear carriers and passers-by in the background, all have a story to tell. They each have their own POV. They each have something to gain and something to lose. I try to keep this in mind when I’m out where I can eavesdrop on other people. (Yes, it’s a terrible habit. Call it an occupational hazard.) Everybody has a story, probably several. I never know where I’m going to find that sudden spark that fires up the engines in my Idea Factory.

Idea Factory

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Writing

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