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Fiction Series: Style & POV Basics

An authors' writing style, mixed with their characters' voices and the tone of the story, creates a unique voice for every book.

But developing your style can be difficult and confusing - will you write formally with lots of description, or casually with a focus on snappy dialogue?

Here are 5 ways to sharpen your style and POV:

1. Point of View (POV)

There are three points of view you can choose to write your story in: first, second or third.

First person writes directly as the character and their thoughts. (I, we, my)

Second person writes as if the reader is the character. (you, your)

Third person writes about the character, and has several of its own subcategories. (she, they, her)

So, how do you choose a POV?

Usually, you'll have a preferred POV to write in that resonates with you the most. But sometimes you'll notice that there's a way to write your book that just makes more sense with the narrative.

Any choice can work well, but you have to be an expert at using it - and make sure you ALWAYS stay consistent.

2. Tense

Is your book written in past, present, or future tense?

This is one a lot of new authors struggle with, but getting your tenses right is vital so you don't confuse the reader.

In general, past tense goes best with third person, and present tense goes best with first person. You'll very rarely see second person or future tense used at all!

  • First/Present: "I drink from the glass, needing the hydration"

  • First/Past: "I drank from the glass; I needed the hydration"

  • Third/Present: "She drinks from the glass, needing the hydration"

  • Third/Past: "She drank from the glass; she needed the hydration"

Choose a tense that works well with your storytelling and the voice you want to create.

3. Tone

Is your book going to be written formally or casually? Is it witty or serious?

These are very important questions to ask yourself as you develop your voice. Your tone is based not only on your character and they way they might communicate, but should focus on your audience and a voice that will resonate with them.

An old man will talk very differently to a young girl, and this should show in the narration. However, if your audience is children, they may not understand the voice of the old man, and you'll have to have him narrate in a tone that children will understand.

4. Unreliable Narration

Can you trust the voice that's telling the story?

Unreliable narration, particularly through first person, is a great way to have your character lie to the reader. Maybe there's something they know about a crime that is only revealed at the end, or maybe you see the story from two perspectives, and they differ enough you know one is deceitful.

But it doesn't have to be so ominous. Unreliable narration could be as simple as writing from the perspective of a very unobservant character who often misses things. Alternatively, it could be a character who overthinks everything, causing them to jump to incorrect conclusions.

Unreliable narration is always fun to write, but make sure you have the skill to do it well, or you may just end up annoying your readers.

5. Dialogue

Dialogue is one of the most important elements of fiction. Although it has set rules (that I recommend you learn), there are still different styles you can use.

Each of your characters should have their own voice and opinions, to the point where a reader should be able to tell who's talking without being told. Dialogue must always feel real and have purpose. You can read your work aloud to see if it sounds like something a person would really say.

However, you need to decide how - and how often - you'll use aspects like dialogue tags. At present, publishers prefer a lack of dialogue tags and over description, preferring that your quotes speak for themselves. Too much description can distract the reader from simply getting through the dialogue themselves.

But your style might call for description. Maybe your characters need to be distinguished, or speak differently to what we're used to. In these cases, more descriptive dialogue is fine.


Need help writing your book? Email me about Developmental Editing!


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