path of the storyteller / blog

Stuck in your hero’s head


Five do’s—and five don’ts—of writing the inner life of your characters

One of the unique and fantastic properties of fiction is how it allows us to travel inside our characters’ innermost thoughts, feelings, and sensations. 

It’s so Vulcan mind-meld! In real life, we often struggle to understand and be understood by others. In fiction, we can dissolve that boundary between me and you and dive right in there. It’s really a superpower.

But like any superpower, the ability to depict the inside of our character’s heads can be used for good or for ill. Writers soon encounter all kinds of pitfalls in figuring out how to manage this internal landscape of consciousness.

For example: We know we’re supposed to show not tell, but eavesdropping on the voice in someone’s head often feels like nothing but telling.

And we know what goes on inside our ...

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The truth about head-hopping

narrator point of view Jul 06, 2022

Writing in the third person raises complicated feelings in some writers! There are just so many possibilities.

Some writers cling to the side of the pool and write in third while sticking closely to a single viewpoint character. They toggle in and out of that character’s head, and that’s as far as they’re willing to go. 

This is called writing in close third (also sometimes called limited third). It’s a good and necessary thing to know how to do, but if that’s all there is on the page, it’s sometimes a sign of that a writer lacks either the craft or nerve to venture into the deeper expressive waters of third person POV. 

And then there are the daredevils! Into the deep end of third person they dive. Every character is a viewpoint character! With “omniscient!” as their battle cry, they zip freely from the inside of one character’s head to the inside of another. In between, they offer all kinds...

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Who’s telling this story, anyway?

narrator point of view Jun 01, 2022

The question of where we writers end and our writing begins has been coming up a lot, lately. 

I talked about it a bit last week when discussing why our heroes might tend to be passive as we learn how to cut that fictional umbilical cord between the observing, interpretive stance of the writer and the active, transforming role of the fictional hero we’re writing about.

Another great question recently came in from a member of the Path of the Storyteller community, who wonders whether the narrator of our books is, fundamentally, us?

Today I’d like to talk about this fascinating and somewhat metaphysical topic: Who is the narrator of our books?

Is it us? Is it some nameless entity we invent? Does this entity always lurk there beneath whatever mask we place over it (a first person narrator, perhaps, or an intrusive narrator?), or is it a unique and temporary construction that we erect for each book? 

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the last word about first person POV


I've heard it too many times from too many writers: Isn’t first person easier than writing in third? And isn't writing in the first person more intimate that writing in third? Doesn’t first person have more voice than writing in third?

Nope, no, and not so, my friends. And yet these notions persist. This week I want to put them to bed, once and for all. We’ll bust the myths and examine just how much complexity lurks in this deceptively simple way of telling a tale.

Lots to say about this topic! Expect some discussion of one of my favorite butlers in literature, too. 

My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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crafting the multi-POV tale


By now you know the drill: A great story is a journey of meaningful change. Whose change? The hero’s! And, by extension, the larger world of the story.

But what about all those books that use multiple points of view?

Or that (gasp!) employ a true omniscient narrator that dives into the experience of many characters?

Who’s the hero now? Whose journey of change is it? What holds a tale like this together?

Many writers are drawn to these complex structures, but they’re not easy to pull off. This week I look at what makes them work—and what happens when they don’t.

My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

Or subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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the truth about point of view


Few topics cause writers as much consternation as point of view. What is it, exactly? Which one should you use? How are they different? Do you have to pick only one? And why is it so easy to go so wrong?

To be fair, much of the confusion about point of view comes from writers being told a bunch of stuff about it that’s simply not true.  Point of view is not just about pronouns. It’s the magic carpet of consciousness that transports the story that’s in your head to its new, forever home inside your reader’s head.

Sound deep? It is! Join me for what I hope is an illuminating discussion of that most metaphysical of writing craft topics.

My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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keep your distance

Like the dead mouse your cat proudly drops at your feet, 2020 has offered a number of unasked-for gifts. Fashion masks. The return of the shag haircut. Zoom school. And a new phrase: Social distancing.

Did you ever hear it or say it before this year? Me neither. Ever curious, I looked it up. It turns out “social distancing” was first used back in 2003 at the time of the SARS epidemic, although no one in particular is credited as the author of the term.

The World Health Organization apparently finds the phrase regrettable, and would like us to think of physical distancing instead, since that’s the real message. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, you can socialize all you want; just not in person.

In our writing, narrative distance is one of those writing craft topics too often overlooked. Here’s the question to ask, and you have to answer it sentence by sentence: What distance have you put between your...

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whose story is it?

The story of Thanksgiving that I was taught growing up was mostly a bunch of hooey. 

That familiar fiction of friendly Pilgrims and helpful Native Americans getting along feels terrific to tell and hear, if that’s the only story you know. It has no bad guys. It both instructs and inspires. If only we could all be so peaceful, welcoming, and cooperative! 

The problem, of course, is that it’s not the truth. There’s a gut-wrenching history of slaughter and appropriation just outside the margins of the tale that I was taught as a child. 

In terms of writing craft, we’re talking about point of view. Who’s doing the telling? To whom? And, importantly, to what end?

It’s said that history is written by the victors, but serious historians are always challenging the narratives offered by their predecessors. New research and new perspectives can’t change what happened in the past, but they can...

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