The book I’m currently writing is a contemporary novel, a detective story, featuring a PI by the name of Lews Canon. It is a not-so-serious story, written in a light-hearted style. Sure, there will be some action, some violence, after all it is a detective story, but mostly it will be filled with humorous dialogue.
I wrote the first few pages quite some time ago, but it never went anywhere. In fact, the main character was Mark Canon, not Lews Canon. I changed the name later on, because it made more sense having him named Lews. It fit much more to the theme and style.
Sound it out and you may get an idea of what I’m talking about.
After reading those first pages, I thought they may make a good story, but what would I write? So I actually made a character sheet of all the characters I mentioned in those few pages. I even developed backgrounds for them. Then I wrote some more, then I made an outline of a story. Of course, as I’m writing, the outline changes, the story may take a different road, but at least I do have some sort of guide.
This one is written in the first person. Lews Canon is telling his story. As a writer I have to become Lews Canon. I have to experience in my mind what he experiences. I know what he thinks, but I don’t know what the other characters think. I will never know, unless Lews Canon is a mind reader. Since this isn’t SF, he isn’t. He’s just a normal man with normal abilities.
Should I, for some reason, decide to write a chapter featuring one of the other characters, I could also write that in the first person, but then I wouldn’t know what Lews Canon is thinking.
So, as you can see, there are certain rules when writing a story.
Third-person limited omniscient
When writing in the third person, the same rules apply. When we follow the main character, we have to write from his/her perspective. We also know what (s)he thinks but not what the others think. It is called POV (Point of View). Many writers don’t seem to understand this principle. They will jump from one character’s thoughts to another, sometimes in the same paragraph. It is also known as ‘Head-hopping’. It is not a good way to write, because it can become confusing to the reader. It is not difficult to write with only one POV, even though some writers think it is. It takes a bit of discipline but can be achieved.
There is another style where the narrator of the story knows the thoughts of every character, like a god, who knows everything. It is called the ‘omniscient mode’. Some writers write in that style. I don’t really care for that way of writing. It is head-hopping at best and can become quite confusing. One never knows who is featured. The story becomes impersonal and as readers we can’t identify with any of the characters.
More next time