So, I just finished writing about 2,000 fresh words in the novel in progress, “The Devil’s Wind.” My pirate/amateur sleuth is figuring out that a simple-seeming death is not so simple after all, while simultaneously dodging the Royal Navy. That’s complicated enough, but things will get more complicated, of course.
The chapter I wrote tonight is a good rough draft. The next step is to let it simmer while I imagine the same chapter as seen through another character’s eyes. I won’t ever write it from that different point of view; I am writing a mystery, and it is important for me to present it all as Spider John, my “detective,” encounters it, rather than go skipping through the minds of several people. I have no real objection to mixed point-of-view, mind you, but fixed point-of-view works best for what I am writing.
But if I spin that chapter through my mind as though I was writing it from another character’s point of view, I likely will notice things I did not notice before. This chapter, for instance, involves Spider, his young friend Hob, the first mate, a visiting Royal Navy lieutenant and the captain’s daughter. All was plotted out from Spider’s vantage, and the reader sees and hears everything Spider does.
But if I imagine the same scene from, say, the daughter’s viewpoint, it may make me aware of weaknesses in my chapter. For instance, Spider and Hob are quite nervous about being eyeball to eyeball with a Naval lieutenant. Abigail is sharp, and surely she will notice their discomfort. That may well influence her actions and attitude toward Spider later. I need to account for that in my plot, and I might not ever have thought of it had I not considered the story from Abigail’s vantage.
I’ll review it all next from the first mate’s vantage, and from Hob’s, and from the lieutenant’s. Once I get inside the heads of those characters, I’ll know how to flesh out what I wrote tonight.
Then the next night’s writing will start with adding whatever I learn from re-examining the chapter through various characters’ eyes, plus some scene setting and description. I tend to bypass the stage setting and descriptions the first time through, while focusing on plot. By the time all is said and done, I probably will almost double those two thousand words in that chapter before moving on to the next.
And so it goes, a thousand words here, a hundred there, sometimes even just a good line of dialogue or a nice descriptive phrase that occurs to me while folding laundry or shoveling snow — until I have a second Spider John novel in hand. Easy, right?