Forums Forums Editing the Romance Novel Week 3 discussion questions Reply To: Week 3 discussion questions

Brittany McIntosh

1. What are some common flaws you’ve noticed in how authors do world-building/describe setting?

As Misha said, I would have to agree that there’s a fine line between too much or too little information. Too much and it’s overwhelming for the reader, too little and the reader is left feeling like the story is floating in a world they can’t quite grasp. With romances in particular, I feel that authors put such an emphasis on the relationship between characters (which they should), but they often neglect the setting. I like to feel grounded in the place and time where the story occurs. Also, a pet peeve of mine is when authors provide a physical description of their MC that reads like a bulleted checklist. It’s possible to integrate these details in a more subtle way that doesn’t feel so forced.

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.

For me, the connection between setting and plot is most evident when thinking about fantasy/sci-fi novels because the author gets to create an imagined world that isn’t subject to the same boundaries and expectations as our own. And not just in regards to the physical environment, but also in terms of social norms/expectations, politics, culture, economics, etc. For example, in a fantasy novel I read many years ago, the story took place in a world where the societal structure was matriarchal rather than patriarchal, based on the fact that women were stronger, magically, than men. This influenced the goals/motivations of the characters and thus, the plot.

3. How can you help the author create a sense of deep perspective?

Encourage them to use internal monologue effectively to dig deep into the character’s head. I would also advise them to not have more than 1-2 POVs in the story, especially if they are an inexperienced author. It’s not impossible to do – one author, who’s books I read, actually does a great job at executing an ensemble cast of POVs- but in general, I think these are difficult to pull off. Also, I would strongly suggest that the author take advantage of dialogue and action scenes to show character emotions, rather than tell them in exposition. For example, rather than tell the reader that Katie has a crush on her co-worker, Mike, write a scene where she becomes extremely flustered when he surprises her at her desk — she spills coffee all over her white shirt and struggles to form a coherent sentence. Her internal monologue, during said event, would be quite entertaining, but it would also have more emotional impact than if the author had merely written, “Katie has had a crush on Mike for a very long time.”

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?

The best thing to do as an editor is to start pointing out the instances of head-hopping to the author. If they are struggling with executing this concept I think putting it in simple terms helps – if it’s written in character X’s POV, you can only write what character X knows. I would also encourage them to only shift POVs at the start of a new scene or chapter.

5. What can editors do when authors have trouble realistically conveying the perspective of the opposite sex?

Firstly, I would suggest that the author seek advice and feedback from friends/family who are the opposite sex. Run some chapters by them and see what they think. And interview them about specific issues or situations where they are finding it difficult to understand their character’s reactions and perceptions. I would also recommend reading novels where the author is of the opposite sex and so is that author’s main character (i.e., a male author writes a male MC). Of course, they would need to be wary of making sweeping generalizations about the gender and mindful that the author may be using cliches and stereotypes, but I think it could be enlightening, nonetheless.