1. What are some common flaws you’ve noticed in how authors do world-building/describe setting?
Some authors put so much information in the beginning of the story that it’s overwhelming. Authors want those first pages to set the scene for the reader, but if they throw too much at the reader at once they will likely lose them. No infodumping, please! The opposite is also true. Sometimes authors give so few details that it keeps readers from becoming fully immersed in a story. Also, the more specifics the better. I want to see it in my head. I also find more often than not authors forget to use all of the senses, only focusing on what the character sees and nothing else. I want to hear about the sounds, smells, and touches (when it makes sense). These details can really set the scene.
2. What are some ways the setting could affect/influence plot? If you’ve read a story where this happened, tell us a little about it.
If the story takes place in a real-life location and the details are incorrect or not believable, that immediately removes me from the story. If it’s fantasy/paranormal/science fiction anything goes, but with contemporary or historical romance I am much pickier. Don’t mention things that weren’t invented yet. Setting can influence how you feel about a character. Time, place, and environment are important. I might feel differently about a character who is a slave owner in 1860 versus in 1960. The right world-building or setting can heighten readers’ emotions and cause them to be more engaged. Also, the setting has to fit the plot. One of my favorite books was a romance that blossomed between two poor teenagers who lived in the Appalachian Mountains. They both desperately wanted to earn a college scholarship being offered as they knew it was the only way they’d ever be able to leave their town. The details about how they lived and what they had to overcome based on the setting fit perfectly and added a great deal to the plot.
3. How can you help the author create a sense of deep perspective?
Authors should think carefully about what the POV character would be thinking and feeling. They need to write as if they were the character as opposed to writing about them, avoiding the inclusion of anything he or she couldn’t know. I’ve read stories where I felt a certain chapter should have been written in the other character’s head because it would have been more emotional, so I think that is an important factor to consider when trying to decide whose POV to use for a particular chapter or part of a story. In order to help create deep POV, it goes back to making it a sensory experience. Aside from thoughts and feelings, an author should also include sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Along those lines, they should do more showing than telling and retain an active voice. This helps readers become truly absorbed in a story.
4. If an author is head-hopping, what are some things we can do to help build their awareness of what the problem is and how to fix it?
I think the more authors practice learning how to spot POV jumps and shifts, the easier it will be to notice them in their own work. Before writing a scene, it’s helpful to stop and think about the POV being used and why it’s being used for that scene. Authors should have checking for head-hopping on their self-editing checklists. If an author wants to switch POV in a chapter, he or she should use a clear signal such as asterisks to denote the change. As they are writing about other characters, authors should consider whether the viewpoint character knows the information without being in the other characters’ heads. To fix head-hopping, authors can delete information the POV character wouldn’t know or reframe it from that character’s perspective.
5. What can editors do when authors have trouble realistically conveying the perspective of the opposite sex?
I would recommend reading other books in the genre that include that perspective and noting what they like about how the character’s POV is told and what seems realistic. Authors can observe and talk to men and women around them and note how they act and interact. The key there would be to make sure to observe or talk to many and not just one. This is a great time to caution authors to avoid stereotypes and generalizations like all men think about is sex or all women are obsessed with their looks. Another idea is to suggest an author send a sample scene to someone and see if that person can tell whether the POV character is male or female and why.