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So I'm going through my first novel again. The more I write, the better I get, and the more I fix each go through. Here is the problem.


My novel is written in first person from the perspective of a young heroine named E'oi. She has a love interest named Nathaniel. Thing are completely fine until Nathaniel gets kidnapped. Now ... in the current novel there is a time skip, then they meet up. But Nathaniel is a completely changed person after the time skip because of the things done to him. After re-reading it seems strange, his new personality. But since the novel is in first person up until chapter 16 (of 20), I don't want to switch to another perspective after being with E'oi for 15 chapters. So should I re-write EVERYTHING to 3rd person, which would give me the ability to add in several chapters of Nathaniels exploits? Or do I tell his tale in the second book?


Thoughts on how to escape this mess?

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Hello TAS--


These questions off the top of my head:


1. How long is the book now? If you are closing in on say 75-80,000 words you might not want to add more chapters in any POV. You don't want your ms to exceed the usual published length for it's genre. How icky would it be to put in all that work only to have a publisher, agent or even a good editor (if you go indy) ask you to cut the word count? Pretty darn icky since the side adventure may well be the thing you'll need to cut. I know you want to serve the story but it is worth considering the practical aspects, especially if they save you work.


2. Because your character is so changed and the heroine does not know the reasons, you have a GREAT story potential here. The 'strangeness" of his new personality is a potential goldmine. The heroine and the reader will have the same questions as to the causes. You could have some real fun parsing out the answers, bit by agonizing bit, using them to enrich slower moments of the story, deepen characterization etc. You could always leave some unanswered questions to be resolved in the sequel; a carry over of mystery that could help the books flow together well. Plus, we all know how creepy kidnapping can be. Maybe Nate doesn't even remember all that has happened to him. Maybe he doesn't want to talk about it. Think of all the great TV shows where the central character has something that drives their behavior and we, as the audience, don't know what that 'something' is. Are you tuning in next week? I sure am!


3. Adding chapters of Nate's trials may make you stray too far from your central story goal (what the characters are trying to attain, accomplish or prevent) and make the story line seem fragmented, you know? You might lose momentum for the main story line as you tell Nate's story. Even if Nate returns with a vital something needed to achieve the story goal and the specialized information to use it, the reader still probably doesn't need to know all the details of what happened to him. I would think long and hard about the value of what you gain (and what you lose) before switching POV to include it. You might be able to find a way within the realm of your story world to disclose any necessary info without the all details of his adventure.


4. If you really love the adventure of his kidnap and escape but it is only a short part of the narrative and unecessicary to the main thrust of the plot of this book, you could write the adventure as a 'short,' to sell separately. That way you get the fun of telling his side, are not bound by the current POV, don't add fat to your ms, and still have the potential to sell the material. This might work particularly well if you are thinking of publishing "Indy."


5. And my last question for you: does your Heroine love the 'new guy?' Does the 'new guy' still love the heroine? That might be a fun (for you!) thing to explore to add to this book and work through in the sequel!


As far as I can see you are not in a mess at all! You are suffering from a wealth of dramatic potential and now get the fun of making the best choices. That is a very good place to be, although I know the indecision is hard.


As an aside, I once had, gosh, it was probably 150 pages, of a WIP and had doubts as to whether it should be in 1st person. As an experiment, I tried re-writing the first chapter in 3rd limited. I didn't get far before I knew it was wrong for the story. I gave up too much when I lost the 1st person voice and kept it as it was. You might well discover the same thing if you tried to re-write a section. You might realize Nate's story is not worth losing the voice.


I hope there is something here you find helpful. Sounds like this novel has some great things going for it! Keep at it.



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In general, I agree with everything Rocki says above. Personally, I'm less concerned about length in a draft. Yes, it can be a pain to think about cutting (Lynx is now 140,000 words, which while not completely outrageous for a historical is still 20,000-40,000 more than I hope the final draft will be). But the subconscious works in mysterious ways, and one means of fleshing out characters (especially the kinds of characters who act rather than talk) is to set them in motion and in conflict and see what happens. You're sure to end up with stuff that doesn't go anywhere that you can later prune. Meanwhile, you may come up with a better understanding of Nathaniel that will let you slowly reveal his troubles without actually adopting his POV.


The question is, really, whether you're willing to experiment or whether you're aiming for this to be your final draft. If the latter, then, absolutely, don't expand or change the book more than you have to. If you're still uncertain, here are some ideas:


1. Try writing an initial scene or two in rotating 3rd-person POV, as Rocki suggests. I'll bet you'll find out that (see subconscious, above) there's a reason why you initially felt E'oi needed to be the one to tell the story. Some characters are more interesting when you don't know what motivates them. Telling a story in 1st person is an excellent way to deal with such characters, because the reader knows only what your narrator knows at any given moment.


2. Even if you stick with 1st person, try to re-imagine the story from Nathaniel's POV. You can write it down to save for reference or as a spinoff, or you can just imagine it in your head. The reason for this is that E'oi also has blinders, and she will not see past her own flaws. For example, my heroine is a real go-getter. Without the hero to sit her down once in a while, she'd run till she dropped and not even realize that she was under strain. Imagining the day from his POV lets me see that by now she has to be about to keel over. Imagining how E'oi appears to Nathaniel will reveal more about both characters to you. I would think about the story in terms of both his pre-kidnapping and his post-kidnapping self, which will also spotlight some of the ways that his character has changed (the things E'oi is noticing and reacting to).


3. To make #2 easier, sketch out what exactly happened to Nathaniel during his captivity and how he responded (Storyist plot points are great for this). Make sure you know who did what, how he felt, how that changed him. Write it out, if necessary (all, some, it doesn't matter), with dialogue and scene. It doesn't have to go in your story—and indeed, he might not talk about it or even want to think about it—but it will help you figure out how he's changed, what E'oi would see, how she might help him deal with it and eventually share some of it. Then you can focus on a few essential behaviors that may mean you don't have to tell us what happened, because you are showing us. And if he can't feel, E'oi can express the grief, fear, anger, etc., for him.


4. Make sure you understand what brings them together and keeps them together. Why did they connect in the first place? How do the changes brought about by the kidnapping alter their relationship? Did E'oi become more independent? Does Nathaniel like that or hate it? Do they stay together out of guilt? Is their love stronger? Weaker? Do they have to rebuild trust (does Nathaniel trust anyone)? The more clearly you can see and show the effects of the kidnapping in speech and action, the more control you have about when and how you let Nate account for himself and the less dependent you are on having him tell his story as a separate narrative.


Definitely, they don't have to resolve everything in book 1. They'd hardly have time, and there's no need. Anne Perry's Inspector Monk lost his memory 20 books ago, and he's still discovering pieces of his past. That's what makes him interesting: you never know what he will uncover next. The uncertainty and the struggle (internal and between E and N) make for a great ongoing source of conflict.


In brief, I would hesitate to change the POV of the entire book to solve this plot crisis. On the contrary, it sounds as if 1st person E'oi is exactly what you need. Play her confusion and all its attendant emotions to the hilt! (I know, she's your lead character and precious to you, but making life difficult for her is your job as an author. So be ruthless.)

Should be fun,



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I think you've already gotten a lot of good advice there, TAS. And I agree, slowly revealing what had changed the kidnaped lover is a wonderful source of drama and tension (Rocki's point #2). You might want to write the kidnapping story separately, from the lover's perspective, if only to get straight in your own head what actually did happen (as M suggests in her point #3).


And don't worry about the length of a draft.

It's easier to cut than to write.


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