Q&A with Professional Novel Editor | "How do character arcs work with multiple perspectives?"



hey guys it's Ellen Brock freelance editor today I'm doing the second part of my Q&A video so if you missed the first part I will put a link so if you want to watch that you can and I'm just gonna answer some of your questions very casual unscripted so we're just gonna hang out and talk about writing so I hope that you guys like this video and let's get started so our first question comes from Jennifer who says I know that generally middle grade books are written in the first person but for older middle grade is 3rd person ok or to be avoided you would still be seeing most of the events from the main character's perspective but it does give some flexibility to write selected scenes from another perspective would love your thoughts ok so this is actually not true that most middle grade is written in first-person most middle grade is not written in first person at the moment there's an influx of first-person middle-grade but even now as of I think 20 2014 or 2015 I really analyzed a lot of middle grade books because I was curious about how the industry has changed you know what's been going on and what the developments are and I thought about 55% or is still written in third-person so you're totally fine to write in third person don't let anybody tell you that middle grade is supposed to be written in first it's not supposed to be written in first it's not supposed to be written in to any particular point of view if you like third-person write it in third-person there are tons of absolutely wonderful middle grade books written in third-person so go ahead don't worry about it the next question is from Min Fernando who says what are effective ways of revealing the characters inner life other than having them say I felt happy etc how do you convey the emotion in a less telling way well it really depends on the style that you're writing and some omniscient narrators will be pretty direct about how the characters are feeling and if you're writing an omniscient it may make more sense to just say she felt happy when you see you said I felt happy so I'm not sure if you're talking about italicized thoughts in 3rd person or if you're talking about 1st person in both 3rd person with italicized thoughts were in 3rd in limited or in first-person you might use physical sensation to describe emotions you might also use different kinds of actions facial expressions different movements clenching fists versus sighing versus nervously scratching there are lots of different ways that you can convey emotions without directly stating it this is sort of something that gets easier with time you come up with ways to convey emotions that work well for you that's basically a my advice it really depends on the circumstance but I would focus on what the character can do to convey their emotions breaking things when they're angry stomping their feet hugging someone that they're happy to see there are lots of physical things people can do to convey emotions if you don't want to outright stated or if it doesn't fit with your style the next question is from Marianne Ferrara who says my book has three perspectives and so far in the first one each character is going to have nine chapters I don't think they all have time to have a complete character arc where they grow and change there doesn't seem to be enough time to show all three of their flaws and all three of them overcoming the flaws okay this is kind of a common problem so basically you have multiple points of view and you want to know should everybody have a character arc and is that all the question or yeah there doesn't seem to be enough time to show the character arc okay so it does not take very much time to show a character arc you can have a character arc and a short story that's a thousand words long it doesn't take time to show a character arc but it may be difficult to fit a character arc for multiple characters into one book less because of the time and more because of the circumstances because what's occurring that isn't sort of conducive to a character arc for all the characters so it sort of depends on the plot and how the characters fit in what the character arcs are in my opinion if you're going to have a character be that prominent that the chapters are sort of evenly divided between them if you don't have some kind of personal art for that character it may it may just not feel very satisfying when you wrap up that that characters plot line or that character's chapters when you get to the last chapter of that character because basically the reader will have invested nine chapters is what you're saying into this character and to just sort of have it end without any kind of growth or change might not be the best choice my recommendation in this situation would be not to evenly distribute the chapters because you should have one character who's more of the protagonist and the other and if that's the only one that's kind of a character arc I would not try to evenly force splits between all the characters to share all that space because the character is having two character arc is going to be more important it's going to be the protagonist and they're going to need to have the lion's share of space in the novel anyway and one problem that I see a lot our novels that are too evenly split between too many characters and it just prevents the reader from being able to connect it's not impossible but it makes it very difficult to write a novel with the care that the reader can connect to any of the characters significantly because you're splitting their attention so that's sort of an aside from your question I guess but if you if you don't want to have a character arc for all of them I would probably spend less time with the ones with the characters that you don't want to have a character arc for all right so this one is from YouTube the user Richard Hawkins asks on a separate note a question I want to ask in an ensemble piece like Lord of the Rings where you want to build a strong fellowship would it be best to allow each character to have their own scene or could everyone be done as effectively in one scene my instinct tells me they would do better to have a scene each of which to shine slash prove themselves but depending on number of characters that could take a lot of scenes although each character is given multiple times to prove themselves there would definitely be a turning point where the reader can start rooting for that character okay so you don't necessarily need to give a character a scene to get the carrot to get the reader to root for that character also more likely than not there's no way you're gonna introduce all of your characters in separate scenes if you have a large group unless gathering the group takes up a huge part of the book itself because if you have that group and you have all these individual scenes it's just gonna take up a ton of space in your stories so more likely than not it would be better to just have the characters demonstrate whatever it is that you want to demonstrate whatever to you means that the character has proven themselves or has had a chance to shine I would just work that into the various conflicts that move the plot forward if you stop the plot to introduce a whole group of characters in all individual scenes that's gonna take a really long time and it's probably gonna be pretty slow by modern standards so I would work it into the conflict I would let the character shine in the individual conflict you can definitely introduce multiple characters in one scene it's sort of hard to get more specifics and that without knowing if the characters are all if they could all be introduced at once or if all the separate scenes are necessary if all the separate scenes where the characters are introduced have conflicts that could be fine if you're talking about giving them all their own perspective I definitely would not do that because it's gonna be really hard to keep track of with a large ensemble cast so you could but I think it would be overwhelming to the reader if you if you had that many perspectives but I'm not sure if this helps you or not because it's kind of hard to give specific advice in this situation but hopefully they give you some kind of idea the next question comes from Dominic Schmitz who asks how can I deal with my main character being forced into a group that's solving a problem that is not the main characters problem presumably this happens right after plot point one the main character develops his own goal while traveling with the group is this possible or are the scenes he does not have a determined goal kind of boring or feel irrelevant he's gonna need some kind of goal before the first plot point otherwise what is the story gonna be about it can't be just a bunch of irrelevant scenes or a bunch of setup until you get to the main plot point so his goal it sounds like changes after the first plot point that's fine but he's gonna need thing that he's trying to achieve early on in the novel or it's gonna be it's gonna be too meandering alright so this question comes from Maryann I'm 15 is there any chance that a book I write now would be good enough to become a real book I know I'm a very good writer but I don't know if I could be good enough to actually write a book at such a young age okay so I think it's great that you are writing so young and this is what my recommendation would be when you're young it's easy to want to jump straight to publication you want to get notice for your writing you want people to read your writing and that's totally understandable when you're young you have a really great opportunity to spend a lot of time learning a skill and this is the same if you want to be in competitive sports or anything that you start young if you start young it will benefit you but only if you're learning from doing it so I would say to focus on learning how to be a better writer learning how to structure the story and structure scenes and do characterization because when you learn those things when you're younger it's going to save you a lot of time chances are anything that you write at 15 it's probably not going to be of a publishable quality because you have not had enough life experience and enough time of course there are exceptions to this and I don't know your life and it's possible that you have a ton of life experience and that you're very smart and very on on top of all kinds of things and that you get all of these things and that you will write a great novel I don't know but I can tell you that generally most people are not able to write a high quality novel until their 30s so you're very young at 15 the average age I believe is 36 to publish a first novel obviously lots of people younger than that are able to publish so it just depends on the circumstances but don't give up if you can't publish now and focus on what you can learn in all this time that you have right now that you can devote to it because when you get older you'll have less time you'll that you will regret not having learned things when you were younger when you have the time to do it so I hope this helps you definitely with it and keep working but I would say that getting published at 15 is pretty unusual and that's pretty high expectations so yeah have fun with it and learn and keep working and when you get older you'll be way ahead of everybody else okay this question comes from Narciso vanity I'm sorry if I'm saying your user name wrong a slightly unrelated question but can you write haha and dialogue my protag is very sarcastic and saying I laughed yeah right the dialogue being yeah right doesn't come across the same as haha Yeah right all in the dialogue I'm working on developing him now I mean his voice tends to say haha a lot can it be in the prose if the book is first-person and it's in the characters thought process I would recommend no purely because the vast majority of agents and publishers are going to view that as unprofessional and I understand why you want to do that and I'm not gonna say outright no absolutely you can't do it if your voice is super strong if you maybe get away with it I would probably not put haha in dialogue unless the person is actually literally saying haha like they're saying oh haha that's fine but if they're actually laughing and you say haha it's sounds like or it seems to the reader that the person is literally saying haha and that's probably just going to seem strange especially if it happens a lot but if they are saying it then yeah that's fine but if they're actually laughing I would say they laughed and not haha in the dialogue but in the prose in first person you can probably get away with it if you really want to in extreme moderation but I would like as an editor it hurts me a little bit but if you want to do it you can probably get away with it in moderation but I personally wouldn't do it that's the best advice I can give about that okay so the next question is from Wikipedia who asks once your manuscript is finished should you approach a literary agent editor or publisher first or all at once thanks for all your help okay so you don't want to approach publishers before you approach agents if you're going to get an agent the reason for this is because the agent is not going to want to try to query your novel to publishers who have already seen it so if you've already sent it to publishers the agent won't send to those publishers again so if you've sent to all of the publishers the agent probably won't accept your book because they won't have anybody new to send it to and the reason you don't want to do this is because your agent can help you to put together a better submission package then you can probably create on your own so they'll probably help you to make a better query letter and a better synopsis so if you wait until you have an agent you'll probably have more success with a publisher so definitely try to get an agent first and then try to get a publisher if you think that you're going to go the route of having an agent alright guys so that is all for now I hope you enjoyed this video and you learn some things if you're not subscribed go ahead and subscribe so that you can see the next part of the video and please like comment and share it really helps me out and I will have part three of this video up soon so make sure to check back for that and I hope you guys have a great week and I had a lot of fun doing this Q&A so I hope you guys enjoyed it too thanks for watching

26 thoughts on “Q&A with Professional Novel Editor | "How do character arcs work with multiple perspectives?"

  1. The time stamps make this incredibly useful. I do have a question. You say that one character needs to come out as the protagonist, I think the reason why was because the reader could only identify with one, is that right? So are there no instances that you know of where there is more than one protagonist?

  2. just wanted to thank you. i'm amazed at the time and work and dedication you put in. so so cool.

  3. I’m 18, been working on my series since I was 16. Very good help!

  4. I've just re-found your channel. I thought it was gone, but so happy to see it back to life. However, I am SUPER surprised… your hair. It looks sooooo good! A shallow compliment, but a sincere one. Hehehehehehehe

  5. Thank you, Ellen, so much for creating & sharing this content! It has been very helpful for my creative process, Peace

  6. ahh i was hoping you would say something about professional editing. i edited my book dozens already. but i want to know if i should send a query to a literary agent and have my novel already edited professionally (someone like you) or just send the query hopefully hook an agent.

  7. Thanks so much for the information. I passed it along to a friend.

  8. A good option for a young writer is to enter writing contests. When you're a writer, you never stop learning your craft, because writing is an evolving craft and there are many nuances to the theory and practice of this art. So if you feel your writing is good, enter it into contests to get yourself noticed, because you'll also learn something from putting yourself out there. Part of that learning will be the concept of facing some amount of rejection, which is very important for writers that want to be traditionally published, and it will serve you well to thicken your skin young.

  9. I think Suicide Squad is a great example of having characters that aren't given a chance to show why they were needed in the story. Although some of the characters were "used" to some extent, they were not given their "special moment." A special moment should be one that utilises a person's special skills. Imagine a film of Superman where he didn't use any of his special powers. There would really be no need for it to be Superman. In a film like Suicide squad, they should come up against obstacles where a particular character's special ability is the only way to overcome it. It could be argued that Boomerang, Slipknot and Katana do not really have very impressive Superhero skills, but it shows weakness in the writing to have them if they are not needed for the story. If they are lame characters with lame skills it is saying the story is lame and the writer could do nothing with it.

  10. Hi, I like the Q&A videos and would like to add a question: I would like to set my mystery/thriller in my actual home town. Are there are special considerations to be taken when setting a story in a real place? Also, what considerations (if any) are needed when creating a fictional setting that still exists in the real world (Example: fictional city, but exists in the real state of Florida?). Thanks!

  11. Hello Ellen, the book Im currently writing is a coming of age story but I keep getting stuck on some of the dialog. I want my characters to be angsty and rebellious but they just sound like whiny little kids most of the time. Any tips and/or good examples of teenage characters done well?

  12. I wonder if it's actually possible to publish a book if you are a minor, putting aside if the book is good enough or not.

  13. How long does it usually take a writer to start and finish(reach publication) with a novel?

  14. Thank you so much for answering my question ❤️ I've been following you for the last couple of years and I'm so enjoying the recent videos.

  15. I love your videos!
    Would you please clear something up for me? So, a book is divided into four parts (from the beginning to the 1st plot point, from the 1st plot point to the second, etc) is it mandatory that each of these parts have the exact same amount of pages? Can one be longer than the other? and if so, how much longer? I try to write the same numer of pages in every part, but it is very hard. Please, I'd love your opinion on this!!!

  16. Loving all of your advice Ellen! I do have a question, do you believe in the rule of always introducing your main protagonist in the first chapter, and do you believe in prologues? In the young adult fantasy novel I'm working on (split between modern earth and an alternative dimension), it feels natural to have the first chapter introduce the alternative world and the mentor character that inhabits it, and the 2nd chapter focus on our own world and introduce the compelling protagonist. Is it more appropriate to split the first chapter in two, or would a prologue, something I've heard is usually unnecessary and hindering, be used for our Obi Wan character instead?

  17. Should I hire an editor before querying book to agents?

  18. 'It's absolutely impossible to have a Hero, IF your story is in First Person, because you're always talking about yourself!!'

  19. If you want to publish when you're young, you definitely can. Anyone can publish a book, even if they aren't well written. I've met younger children than I, who have published books, beautifully written I might add. I'm 16 and I'm setting up for publishing a book from my online comic. Thank you for this video, very enlightening and helpful.

  20. About the 15-year old would-be novelist: Go ahead and write it, just for the learning experience, then shelve. Come back to it when you're 25-30 years old. You'll be surprised (and laughing a lot at your own expense, trust me. 😉 ) On the bright side, Younger You has already laid out a 'plot road map' so Wiser You can then take that clumsy (but noble 🙂 ) first attempt, and turn it into a real book!

  21. Hi, I'm from the Netherlands, and I'm 20 years old. I'm writing in English, and, even though I'm far from a finished manuscript, I want to get published in the USA. What are publishers's views on foreign (non-American) writers/submissions?

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