Breaking the rules: The Charm Necklace

February 2, 2016 Writing  No comments

I probably broke more than just the rules listed below, but these are the only ones that stick out to me. 

1.) Writing in first person point of view is the hardest to write. So you shouldn’t try it for your first novel. Or, really ever, because your readers might have a hard time relating to your protagonist. 

I remember the first time I heard this at a writing conference. I was in the final stages of production and was about to publish. And this statement caught me totally by surprise. Because not only did I really enjoy writing in first person, it was the view I naturally wrote in. I wouldn’t say it was easy or that I’m the best at it, but, for me, it was easier than writing in third person. (Which I did try for a chapter or two in the beginning efforts of the novel, but it just didn’t work.)

If the writer is doing their job, than the reader will have no problem getting inside the head and skin of someone completely different from them. I don’t have to be an urban black teenager to relate to Tyrell in Tyrell by Coe Booth. I don’t have to be a son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, raised in Afghanistan to feel deeply connected to Amir in The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

In fact, I appreciate these points of view more than I would of someone who is more similar to me, because part of the reason I read is to see the world through other people’s eyes. 

It’s becoming more common in NA romance for writer’s to write from the male’s POV. (I usually prefer this to the female’s, honestly.) Granted, yes, the author’s are female, and how do they really know how a guy thinks? But I don’t think it’s that much of a leap. Maybe they know their significant other (if they’re straight) really well. Maybe they ask their dude friends lots of questions. Maybe, just maybe, they’re very insightful and curious and empathetic towards how other people think about and perceive the world. Isn’t that what authors do of their characters regardless of gender identification, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious views, etc? Isn’t the whole point of writing to explore other ways of seeing the world?

The Charm Necklace is told solely from Skylar, my female protagonist’s, POV. However, I did play around with writing from Logan’s POV outside of the book. I wrote a few of Skylar’s chapters from his POV, and I wrote a few original parts. Just cause it was fun. And I was curious.

My current WIP, alternates between the female and male protagonist’s POV. Although, Jamie is definitely a bigger player in the story than Collin is. To the point that I consider her the primary protagonist and Collin, the secondary protagonist. 

Just like with any book, readers employ a suspension of belief in how things actually work in reality in order to fully engage with the story (to varying degrees, depending on genre). For example, my characters tend to be weirdly observant and self-aware — that’s how I fit in detail I want the reader to know without breaking character. And yeah, I’m not a dude, but I’ve grown up with several brothers, generally had more guy friends than girl friends, and have been with the same person of the male species for nearly a decade now. I might not have everything down perfectly, but I do have a pretty solid understanding of how the male mind works. And specifically, I know how my character’s mind works. 

 

2.) Write your first novel. Then throw it in the back of the closet. Or the bottom of the drawer. And never let it see the light of day again.

Despicable-Me-Minion-Saying-What

Someone please explain this to me, because I still don’t get it. That just seems extremely impractical and a huge waste of time. It’s like having your firstborn child and locking them in the closet to “get them out of your system” so you can “do better next time around.” 

Seriously, makes no sense. 

No, your first novel is not going to be your best. But the whole point is to make good art, produce the best quality product you can for where you’re at, and put it out into the world for others to read. That’s how you get better. 

Then, you move forward from there. Each book, each project, should only keep getting better and better. 

 

3.) Don’t flashback, or go backwards chronologically, or include backstory at the beginning of your story. 

Generally, I’m going to say this is probably good advice. 

However, it was not how I did things. Again, it was one of those things where I just wrote the story how I saw it. And then I “learned” that I’d done it all wrong. 

In The Charm Necklace,

I open with the funeral in Chapter One.

   Right away, the reader learns that the man Skylar is engaged to is dead.

  • And while the reader is starting (hopefully) to feel connected to Skylar, there isn’t much to go off for Michael. Or for them as a couple. 
     

So, for the next three chapters, I jump back.

     In Chapter’s Two and Three, I show how they met and a few key moments at the beginning of their relationship.

  • To give the reader a break in the tension from the previous chapter, feel the light breathlessness of falling in love, get to know Michael as a person, and as the other half of the couple that has just been ripped apart.

 

     And in Chapter Four, I jump to the day Michael died.

  • So the reader can experience it with Skylar, be there with her through it. This not only strengthens the reader’s emotional bond with Skylar, but with the story as a whole.
  • If they didn’t want to before, now they want her to be okay. They want to root for her. 

 

But, I thought, this works. This is how the story goes.

So I kept it. And I haven’t really gotten any complaints on that part so far. In fact, people tend to really enjoy it because it increases the tension and raises the stakes. Just to break your heart.

On second thought now, maybe I didn’t really break the rules after all. Because if you do nothing else in your story, it should be to constantly tweak tensions and raise the stakes. Always have your readers asking a question. 

So, go ahead, break the damn rules. 

Until next time, farewell, & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity.

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