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How to Write a Novel

Step Ten: Character Viewpoints

This is a really fun step, in which you get inside the skin of your characters, discover if there are any impossibilities (such as someone being in two places at once) in your plot plan and give the story a level of depth that you just couldn't get by coming at it from your omnipotent author viewpoint.

What you're going to do is write a synopsis of the story from the point of view of each of the major characters.

If you’re using the Novel Factory, once you’ve created your scenes, they will appear in the Viewpoint Synopsis tab of each character’s details. In each one, describe the scene from that character’s point of view. Or if you’re not using the software, just do it in your chosen format.

You should let your imagination loose at this point, so don't worry too much if you get carried away, just don't burn out before you've done them all!

If your story is primarily told from the point of view of the lead character, it’s not necessary to do the synopsis from their point of view – the novel will do that.

Do your best to try to really get into each individual character; speaking as they would speak, noticing what they would notice and even using metaphors that they would. Does your character use a lot of long words or a lot of slang? Do they immediately scope out the decor of a room, the people in it, or the escape routes? Do they use a lot of sporting metaphors or sea ones, or sensory ones?

A useful technique is to imagine the character sitting on a stool in the middle of a room, being asked to explain what happened.

Before you write each character story synopsis, make sure you check over the notes you already have to remind yourself of what you've already learned about your character. This will help you keep it consistent and also inspire the synopsis.

The character story synopsis should not tell the entire history of the character, starting when they were a child (unless that's relevant), but should start at the first relevant point to the story. This may, however, be before the story begins for the lead.

For scenes where the character is not ‘on stage’ it’s still a good idea to make at least brief notes about what they’re up to. Think about what the character is doing in-between encounters with other characters and appearances in the story. You don't have to know every single detail, but they should never vanish from existence.

By doing this sort of synopsis, not only will you get to know your characters better, but you will make them seem much more real, as it forces you to think about what they're doing when they're not in your main narrative. This starts to give them their own lives, and can affect how they behave when they are in the main narrative.

For example, if you haven't thought about what a character has been doing immediately before your lead encounters them, they may tend to be in a neutral mood, and just hanging around doing nothing, or doing something vague. Once you've walked through the story in their shoes though, you might know that they've just had an argument with their sister, or just received a long awaited letter, or simply just stubbed their toe. How will this affect how they receive your lead?

At this point you will probably need to go back to make more edits to your scenes and plot points, and insert any other useful notes.

In this way you can add more interesting complications and conflict, which increases depth and realism.

Task Ten: Complete Character Viewpoint Synopses for each of your major characters.

Click here to go to the next step or go back to the Novel Writing Roadmap overview.

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