Characters must Die

I’m not suggesting a literary rule of writing fiction. Except if you’re George RR Martin… in which case thanks for reading my humble blog, but I’d like to remind you that it might be considered appropriate if some of your characters actually survive! (Maybe that is how he can finish the books… “and then the White Walkers crossed the Wall and killed every single character. Yes, even Dave“).

I have decided that in Vengeance Will Come (my first attempt at writing a complete novel) some characters need to die, or more precisely some points-of-view (POV) need to be excised.

The Writing Excuses podcasts suggest that the first-time author has a maximum of three points of view. Well unfortunately I got their advice a little late and I’ve already surpassed that number by… a sizable margin… and now can’t bring myself to unmake the majority of my characters.

I fully admit that I have too many POVs. Part of writing a first (second, third…) story is that you learn from your mistakes and become a better writer over time, and I’m willing to chalk this up as one. My novel is so far through now that to if I were to significantly shed characters it would be quicker just to throw the whole project in the bin and start a new one. I am not going to do that because I want the experience (and discipline) of completing a story, even if I know it is not perfect. Expecting it to not be perfect.

The book originally had 20 POVs – although about six of these were cameos – and not all of the POVs are active throughout the length of the story.  In response to recognising my error though, I have managed to cut about 4 POVs. The number remains too high, but it is an improvement.

I am guessing the suggestion for a max of three view points is because it can be hard for the author to adequately differentiate characters, voices and motivations. I expect that it takes experience for an author to ‘wear the skin’ of each of their characters, and to keep that authenticity for the reader consistently through the length of a novel.

And the longer the novel the harder it could be, but that’s another post.

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