Book Review – Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint

Why I read this book:  I have the others in the “Write Great Fiction” series.

Did I enjoy this book:  Mostly.  There were portions that dragged, and the author clearly is a fan/writer of romance, as she favors this genre heavily in her examples, but I don’t hold that against her:  We cite examples from that which we know.

What I learned from this book: Her draft approach of Character/Reader/Writer is a great philosophy, and I’ll try applying it in my own work to see if I can gain some speed that way.

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective ViewpointsCharacters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nancy Kress

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, author Nancy Kress fulfills the promise of the title and takes us through these three areas of story development. For the character side, she provides a lot of good ideas and details on fleshing out backstory (even if you never directly use it). Likewise, she touches on several categories and how much they should be focused on, such as appearance and dialect.

Her book shines on the emotion side, covering both the basics of emotion and techniques for showing them rather than telling them. She also hits in great detail on several key emotion/emotional moments: Love, Fighting, Death, and Frustration.

On the Viewpoint front, she covers the basics: Third Vs First, Limited Third vs Omniscient Third. She does however, go a bit further and dives into some detail on distance when writing Third, noting the differences in an extremely close third, vs one so distant it’s only a step away from omniscient.

All in all, there’s not a whole lot here that you wouldn’t get from Techniques of the Selling Author or Writing Tools, or any of the more comprehensive Story-Craft novels out there, but she does reiterate one point that stuck with me and may help influence the way I structure my own draft process: When writing, you have to be three people: Writer, Character, and Reader. She describes an informal drafting methodology of writing first as character… Getting all the emotions, thoughts, feelings, and actions on the page. Second pass is as a reader… Make sure all the details are present that need to be there. Third pass is finally as the writer. Are the symbols rightly woven in? Does this scene need more sculpting? Should this sentence be its own paragraph?

If you enjoy books on writing as hobby, this one is a pleasant, easy read. If you are digging specifically for new tips and tricks, you may find one or two nuggets here worth mining, but otherwise your time is probably better spent on the classics of the genre.

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