1. What are some common flaws you’ve noticed in how authors do world-building/describe setting?
I find that authors sometimes either do too little worldbuilding or far too much. Both this week’s assignment and last week’s struggled from too little worldbuilding. In last week’s assignment, we didn’t get any context–when in feudal England was it set? What was going on outside of the immediate story? In this week’s assignment, we learn that Marcus is a biological computer, but don’t get any explanation of how that works or why. If the story is set anywhere besides the present, some explanation will be needed to situate the reader.
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.
In the book I’m working with for the assignments, The Night Mark, most of the story is set at a South Carolina lighthouse in 1921. The time period is important because it’s a time travel story, and Faye, the main character, has to adjust to living in a different time. The location is important because the lighthouse is secluded from society and the MCs’ relationship has to remain a secret to protect Faye’s identity. The ocean is also extremely important to the plot; it’s the way that the characters travel between 1921 and the present, and is the scene of a pivotal boat accident.
3. How can you help the author create a sense of deep perspective?
Emotions are central to effective romance, and incorporating thoughts and emotions is an easy way to get into a character’s perspective. Some important aspects of this are including what the character thinks, even if what the character thinks is incorrect, as well as excluding things that the character doesn’t know or notice. By making sure that the narration excludes anything the character doesn’t know or wouldn’t be thinking, the author can also eliminate a lot of unnecessary exposition, which will help both the perspective and the flow of the 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 that the easiest way to fix this is to focus on one character and question, sentence by sentence, whether that character would know or think that thing. Tension and conflict build beautifully when one character doesn’t know something central about another character. In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy doesn’t know the truth about Darcy and Wickham’s past, and this allows the conflict and drama to keep them apart for most of the book. Because we experience the book through Lizzy’s point of view (mostly; regency writing was its own thing when it came to perspective and POV), we don’t learn this until the reveal, and thus the drama and tension are heightened. Sticking to what only one character knows prevents head-hopping, heightens drama and tension, and makes for good conflict that can be resolved later!
5. What can editors do when authors have trouble realistically conveying the perspective of the opposite sex?
My biggest issue is when writers go too far into the archetypal male/female characters. Male or female, your characters are still human, and most of their thoughts will not be Man Thoughts or Woman Thoughts. When writers rely too heavily on Man Thoughts, we wind up with characters who are not believable, and who often could be featured on the Men Writing Women twitter page. While male and female perspectives will be different (especially if the story is set in a different time period), they are not SO different. Focus on the character’s goals, motivations, and identity in society, and these things should lead to realistic perspectives more than simply using “This is the man’s voice because he is a man.”