Tim Frankovich

Writer's Blog & Home of Warpsteel Press

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Frustrating Readers with Multi POV

Yesterday, I picked up a fantasy novel from the library and started reading. I read the first chapter and my thoughts were something like: “Okay, this character is intriguing in multiple ways. I’m interested in seeing what happens with her.”

The point-of-view (POV) shifted to a second character for the next chapter and my thoughts were something like: “Hm. Don’t really care. This character is kind of boring and the situation she’s in doesn’t interest me at all.”

I found the third character point-of-view to be interesting like the first. So two out of three isn’t bad, right?

Actually, yes. Yes, it is bad.

Think about what’s going to happen as I continue reading. As I hit chapters from the first and third POV, I’ll start each section interested. As I hit chapters from the second POV, I’ll start each section thinking, “Oh. Her again. Ugh.” In fact, several more chapters into the book, this is exactly what is happening.

Now it could very well be that later on in the story, character #2 will have captured my attention with something that hasn’t been revealed yet. But that’s assuming I keep reading the whole book. (I’m stubborn, so I almost certainly will, though I may be tempted to skip over some sections.) Some readers will bail out, toss the book, and never pick it up again.

This is the inherent danger of writing books with multiple points of view. Keeping your readers interested in each character and their story becomes more difficult with more points of view. Opening chapters are vitally important. You need to catch the reader’s interest right away, appeal to their emotions or their curiosity, in order to tie them to each character. In many ways, it’s like writing multiple books at once.

But the introduction isn’t the only place you might lose readers. Switching POV in the middle of high tension can be another. I once read a book (for review) in which the primary protagonist was an elite soldier off on dangerous missions in the Middle East. The secondary protagonist was his girlfriend back home, who… honestly didn’t have much at all to do. This led to a totally ludicrous reading situation: the guy was engaged in a life-threatening situation, bullets flying, etc., and then… the story abruptly shifted to the girl. And what was she doing? Pulling into her driveway and thinking about the guy, wondering what he was doing, how he really felt about her, etc. Hello? He’s about to die! I don’t care about your car and driveway! I don’t want to find out whether you think he’s serious about the relationship; I want to find out if he survives!

That was the most egregious example I’ve run across, but it happens frequently. I’ll admit there are times that a story has shifted points of view… and I’ve skipped over that section to get back to the character I want to read about. I’ve even done this briefly with books by some major writers.

It’s a tough balancing job. Of course people are more interested in reading about people who are more like them – whether that’s gender or personality or whatever. But a skilled writer can make readers invest in characters that are nothing like them. In the example from the first paragraphs of this blog post, the interesting characters are nothing like me, but their stories intrigue me because they contain enough mystery, emotion, and so on, to make me want to keep reading.

Until All Curses Are Lifted has two main point-of-view characters that get approximately equal time. A third character gets a handful of scenes. I had a fourth, but deleted him in the editing process because his story wasn’t compelling enough, and only served to distract from the main characters. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary to make the book work.

As I work on the second book in the series, the problem has escalated. Now I have at least four major point-of-view characters, and a couple of minor ones. As I did in the first book, I’m writing each of their stories separately before trying to decide how to balance them. It’s a writing challenge, and I love it.

How about you? Read any books where you loved one point-of-view character and hated another?

What It’s About

After the cover reveal yesterday, the number one question I received was: “What is the book about?” (And also: “When can I get one?” – answer: Very Soon.)

Until All Curses Are Lifted is a fantasy novel. If you’re a current fantasy reader, it’s easiest to compare with Brandon Sanderson’s work. If you’re not a current fantasy reader, then, uh… Lord of the Rings. It’s like The Lord of the Rings. 🙂

The back cover copy tells a little, but here’s a slightly longer version:

In the realm of Antises, the moral laws are enforced by magic. If you steal, assault, rape, murder, etc., then you immediately face the consequences with a curse. But when this system was created, the lords of the land exempted themselves. Instead, the curses for their actions fall on their children.

Marshal is one of those children. Cursed since birth because of his father’s sins, he lives an outcast’s life with his mother. But then his half-brother shows up with news: as the oldest son of the lord, Marshal will inherit the lord’s vast magical power. His half-brother wants that power for himself and will do anything to get it. He sends a terrifying assassin to kill Marshal and his mother, who flee for their lives. Their only hope is to find a way to lift Marshal’s curse.

But curses do not change. No one has ever escaped from one. No one.

At the same time, a young woman named Seri arrives on the island home of the Conclave of Mages. Her dream is to become one of the Master Mages, the first woman to do so. Yet even as she arrives, a violent earthquake shakes the island. The magic that holds the world together is weakening. No one is entirely sure why.

As Seri begins her training, a shocking murder disturbs things further. Someone is killing the Masters. And the ground shakes again.

Seri discovers a unique ability that helps her uncover more about both mysteries than she ever dreamed. But she’s powerless to change things.

Both Marshal and Seri are unaware of other powers that are observing them, and the way in which all these problems are connected.

Cover Reveal

Here it is! The final cover for Until All Curses Are Lifted!

More importantly, the book will be available next month!! (Exact date still being finalized.) Stay tuned!

In the meantime, just look at this awesome cover. Just look at it!!

The cover was designed by Rofiatul Adawiyah, and I’m absolutely thrilled by it.

Publication Update

All of this NON-writing part of being a writer is making my head spin at times. I keep discovering even MORE new things I have to do in preparation for publication. (At least, if I want it to go right…)

So here’s what is happening right now:

  1. The cover is finalized. It looks fantastic! I’m trying to decide the exact day at which I’ll reveal it. Ideally, it would be when pre-orders are available, but I’m not sure I can wait.
  2. Starting up a mailing list very soon™. It will include a free short story download.
  3. An artist is working on my map page.
  4. I’m finalizing the interior layout & design.

Finally, I’m looking for reviewers. So if you have a blog or review site (or you’re just a famous writer yourself!) and are interested in epic fantasy, let me know!

And then there’s my regular job, and trying to find time to write on the next book, and maybe getting a little exercise, and…

The Business of Being a Writer

Who knew?

When I dreamed of being a published author, I always imagined sitting at a keyboard, pouring out stories, then sending them away, sitting back and relaxing. (I also imagined money, but that’s another topic.) The truth is somewhat… no, greatly different.

Because I’ve chosen to handle publishing myself (for which there are many reasons I will outline more thoroughly someday), the business side of publication is huge. In order to have any hope of success when my book launches, I have to learn all about websites, social media advertising, Kindle Direct, Ingram Spark, ISBN numbers, mailing lists, imprints, and so very, very much more.

A couple days ago, I had to learn about SSL – Secure Sockets Layers. (It’s a website security thing.) I just want to tell stories! Why do I have to know about SSL and SEO and ISBN and all these other acronyms?

Because in order to successfully sell my stories, I have to sell much more. I have to sell myself AS a writer. I have to run my own business, and everything involved in that. It’s unfortunate, but true. Even those who publish through traditional publishers will often find that they have to do a lot more than they were expecting, in order to help market their products.

It’s frustrating, confusing, and… exciting. Publication is getting closer and closer. And while I have to jump over hurdle after hurdle to get there, I believe the end result will be worth it.

Thanks to all of you who are taking this journey with me. I’m thrilled that in the next week or two, I will be able to reveal my book’s cover to you. And then… then things will really get interesting.

Pardon the Virtual Dust

I’m in the process of updating this website, switching the host, and a lot of other boring technical stuff. I apologize for any weirdness along the way.

What did you DO?

You may have occasionally heard writers talking about their characters surprising them. Or that their characters did stuff they weren’t expecting, or weren’t supposed to do. To the average person, this may sound insane. I thought it sounded insane too, until it happened to me. But let me walk you through the process and maybe it will make a little more sense.

A few days ago, I was writing the second chapter of my new work in progress. My female protagonist, Seri, ran into a very bad situation. As I began writing the scene, I had only a vague idea of how it should proceed. I knew that this event had to happen, and I knew that there would have to be consequences. But the details of it, especially the parts involving magic, had not fully formed in my mind yet.

Side note: this is why I can’t really define myself as a plotter or a pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer). I do both. I had plotted this scene, but left the actual details to come out when I was writing, which is exactly what happened.

As I wrote, I developed the details. Based on the rules of magic I have established for this world, I reasoned out the exact way the scene should play out. Halfway through, I realized this would also serve to reveal some huge details about the full nature of magic in this world. That’s cool. Moving right along.

Seri is faced with this situation. She can let it go now, or… oh. You see, as a writer, I’ve fully developed Seri’s personality, motivations, and so on, over the course of the previous 130,000 words. Anything she does now should follow logically from what’s been established. And clearly, based on all that, she would not let this go.

Knowing this in my brain, I continued writing, just following what would logically play out, based on Seri’s personality, and the rules of this world I’ve established. Her actions had consequences. When the scene was all over, I sat back and whispered, “Oh, Seri. What did you DO?”

This changes her entire character arc for the book. It alters some major scenes I had planned later on. And it gives me something entirely new to develop when she meets certain other characters.

I could have chosen not to write this chapter that way. I could have kept her from taking this action. It would have been easy. But it would have contradicted either her character or the world’s rules. And readers would have noticed.

This is what I mean when I say a character surprised me. Logically, it’s not a surprise. It makes perfect sense. But I did not see it coming. I guess that’s more of an author’s blind spot than anything else, maybe? At any rate, it certainly makes writing interesting.

In other news, the publication road continues. Yesterday, I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors. This is another (important) step on the road. The resources and advice this group provides are immensely helpful. Check them out!

Things Are Happening

I have officially completed the final proofread of Until All Curses Are Lifted. The manuscript itself is as finished as it will ever be (unless a beta reader suddenly brings up a major plot problem or something).

So what’s next? Well, as I mentioned previously, I’m looking for a cover design. But that’s only part of it. Self-Publishing is basically launching a small business. I have a lot of other details to work out. It’s also not cheap, if done right.

In the meantime, I’ve officially started on the second book in the series, Until All Bonds are Broken!
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Here we go. I’m committed to this process. Let’s see where it takes us.

Quote for the Day

“The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Writing Update

I’m at a very slow stage in the writing. I’ve completed all the revisions and editing that I mapped out, and sent the new manuscript off to a final beta reader. I’ve also printed out a new

copy and am going through it word-by-word, doing a final polish.
My next step will be commissioning a cover. I’m considering several options for this, but am open to hearing about other possibilities, if anyone has suggestions.

After that, we’re looking toward actual publication, probably using both IngramSpark and Amazon KDP Print. This is very exciting, but also intimidating. There is a lot of work to be done in the background.
I’ll blog more when I have something more to say, review, etc.

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