Editing Tip #75 – Voice Shifts

toilet paper embarrassmentThere are basically three ways to write a story:

One narrator (only see the world through their eyes)

More than one narrator (different perspectives on the same situation)

On narrator (omniscient – all seeing through some god-like point of view)

The first two types are the most widely used in this day in age for two reasons:

More personable/relatable

Easier to keep a sense of mystery

So what does this have to do with Voice Shifts?

Well, if you write from one point of view (only one narrator) then you need to make sure that during your edits you don’t accidentally look at what’s happening from another character’s perspective – it’s actually a relatively easy mistake to make in the early drafting stages.

If you write from multiple points of view there are two main ways to do this:

Give each character a new chapter

Shift voices within the same chapter

The more difficult of the two options is the second. Why? It’s easy to lose track of who is thinking what if you try to do this in a casual and frequent way.

The best rule of thumb to follow is this:

Leave a scene break when you change from the internal thoughts of one character to another – NEVER shift to a new perspective in the middle of a paragraph.

It’s death if you confuse your reader. By missing a tense shift in the wrong place you’re setting yourself up for failure. This is one editing flag that would be perfect to saddle your beta reader(s) with or a trusted colleague if you are unable to hire a professional editor.

This kind of mistake is like walking down the red carpet in a hot mini-skirt with toilet paper trailing out from the back of your underwear! Readers/reviewers have long memories and you want them to remember the good things about your manuscript not the faux-pas.

Happy Editing 😀


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