Monday, 17 October 2016

The Problem with Conveying Emotion

It’s an element that all writers need, but they are not always good at showing the reader. The problem with emotion is that sometimes, it’s just difficult and awkward to get right.

The aim for any writer is to move the reader, so that they read a particularly moving scene and feel the emotion behind it and they may feel a tug at the heart, or even feel like crying. Perhaps they read a terrifying scene and it affects them with fear or apprehension. Or there might be a heart-warming, happy scene that simply makes the reader smile.

Getting the reader to react to what the main character is feeling is no mean feat.

The most common problem with trying to convey emotion occurs when writers sometimes make the mistake of telling the reader the emotion they should feel, for example ‘John was sad’ or ‘John was angry.’ While this may seem logical to write, it doesn’t convey any feeling; it doesn’t mean anything to the reader. For emotion to work, the reader has to feel it or be affected by it.

As an example, compare these two scenes. The first one has little emotional depth, while the other does:

His heartbeat grew loud in his ears. The sounds of desperate men floundering against barbed wire and bullets soaked his senses.

He hid among tangled arms and legs and sand-smeared entrails, stooped to the knees in a pool of a dozen soldiers’ sacrificial blood.  There could be no surrender, no glory in death.

Something trickled down his face.  He couldn’t stop the tears...

This example doesn’t even try to show much emotion. The narrative simply tells the reader what the emotion is and doesn’t describe anything in detail. It fails to engage. Compare the same scene with more emotional depth:

His heartbeat unfolded like a flower. It grew loud in his ears, louder than the blasts that shredded the ground, louder than the voices in the middle of a blood-raked beach.  The sounds of desperate men floundering against barbed wire and bullets soaked his ragged senses and made him shudder.

Purple scars stretched across a blackened sky.

Fox in the hole; he hid among tangled arms and legs and sand-smeared entrails, stooped to the knees in a pool of a dozen soldiers’ sacrificial blood. There could be no surrender, no glory in death.

He thought about his family then; their memory burned to his mind and the new born child he would never see. Something trickled down his face then, and he couldn’t stop the tears...

This is the same narrative, but with the added emotion and sentiment. This one is much better; it engages the reader and it shows the emotion through description and the ‘showing’ technique and highlighting the emotive themes of loss (he thinks about the child he will never see), and cold acceptance of his fate.

The more you can give to the reader, the more they can feel.

The way around the problem of conveying emotion is to describe a character’s physical responses rather than telling the reader about them, for example the mention of tears, the twitching of the bottom lip, the colour of someone’s face as frustration gets the better of them, their reactions with objects, such as door-slamming, pushing things over, even hitting someone. All are reactions to and because of emotion.

If you can convey emotions well, you have a chance of affecting the reader in the same way. They will feel sad, happy or relieved, or angry at something.  Remember that not only do your characters need to feel; your readers do, too.

In a nutshell, emotion is about responses; it’s a reactive feeling to something or someone. There are other devices to use:

  • Physicality to highlight emotions
  • Use thoughts or dialogue to show emotion or sentiment
  • Subtext can be used to show emotion
  • Use imagery to suggest emotion
While it may seem daunting trying to encapsulate the sentiment of a situation, emotion helps the reader connect with the character. The reader can identify with the character’s risky predicament or perilous journey, or the ultimate goal they’re trying to achieve. And because of this connection, they can sympathise with or feel for the character when things go wrong or the character is in danger. Simply telling the reader how a character feels just doesn’t work. There is no emotion involved.
Conflict creates an endless list of emotions. Be ruthless with your main character. Put them in mortal danger, take away the things they love most, kill off their nearest and dearest and create all manner of trauma. All these create reactions and in turn they generate emotions. Don’t be afraid to push your characters, torment them or be mean to them. Physical and psychological pain creates emotion, too, and none more so when we sympathise or empathise with what the character is going through, because certain situations will be all too familiar to us.
Something else that packs the emotional punch is the descriptions you create. Manipulate them to emphasise the emotion and make them believe the feeling is all too real. Remember:

  • Excellent characterisation is essential – create immediacy and a connection to the reader.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Emotive themes always make for emotional writing – loss of something or someone, grief etc.
  • Create empathy and sympathy with familiar themes.
  • Conflict & overcoming obstacles provides emotion.
  • Quality of writing counts.
  • Look inward for own experiences to convey them to the reader, however hard or painful.

The thing about emotion is that it’s something everyone feels, even to those who pretend otherwise. It’s inescapable because we all feel pain, joy, despair, sadness, anger, grief, love...all the things that can and do take place within stories.

Conveying emotions doesn’t have to be hard. It just takes a bit of thought to understand why these emotions are important and how they should be shown.

Allwrite is taking a well-earned break and will return in two weeks.


Saturday, 8 October 2016

Character or Plot-driven Stories?

Many writers may not be aware that there are choices when it comes to how they approach their stories, and not many writers stop to think what kind of story they’re telling. There are, however, two types of story that are often referred to: Plot-driven and Character-driven, and they each serve the story differently.
Most commercial fiction is plot-driven. In other words, the plot and the unfolding events linked to it drive the story forward. The characters revolve around that plot, rather than a secondary plot revolving around the characters.
In character-driven stories, the opposite is true. The unfolding story revolves entirely around the characters and the plot takes a back seat in terms of importance.
But which one should you use?
That depends entirely what you want from your story and the genre you choose. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, so it’s important to not only choose the right one for your story, but to know it’s the right one and that it will fit with the type of story you’re telling.
So what are the differences between them?
Character-driven Stories
In these types of stories, the plot tends to be less developed than the characters. That’s because the emphasis is placed on the personal growth, development and inner turmoil of the main characters, and therefore the plotline is seen as less important.
Character-driven stories are noticeably less action-driven and tend to concentrate on the emotions, sentiment and conflicts and motivations of the main character(s) in relation to the story. They concentrate on internal conflicts and relationships more so than the external conflicts that can be found in plot-driven stories. They tend to use the emotional development and growth of characters to drive the story forward, rather than use a plot to move things along.
These kinds of stories suit certain genres, which is why you will find that romance, fantasy and literary novels are almost certainly character-driven, since there is a heavy emphasis and influence of the character’s inner feelings and emotions that are developed as the story unfolds. Novels such as The Girl on the Train, The Catcher in the Rye, The Kite Runner and Sense and Sensibility are great examples of character-driven stories.
The style and language, in literary fiction in particular, also lends itself to focus completely on the character rather than the crux of the story, simply because there is less need for explosions and guns and all manner of action. The usual fare of commercial fiction is less significant.
The advantages of these stories is that it allows the writer to indulge in their characters; they dictate the story, so the emotional depth and feeling is very well explored, but the downside is that the heart of story – the plot – suffers and doesn’t have as much detail as it should.
Plot-driven Stories
Unlike the sedate charm of character-driven stories, plot-driven stories are focused on the nitty-gritty of the story; the action, the multiple events, incidents and turning points and how they affect the characters, particularly the varied external conflicts and the turmoil they create.
The plot is the focus – it’s about how the story evolves, how sub plots are part of the main story arc and how plot twists help drive the story forward. Whereas the character-driven stories are heavily influenced by emotional development, in plot-driven stories, the action takes centre stage. While characters may be well drawn, these types of stories rely more on the swiftly evolving inner mechanics of the story rather than the characters.
The likes of action thrillers, crime novels, horror, psychological thriller, science-fiction and urban fantasy tend to be plot-driven, such as the Hunger Games, The Da Vinci Code or the Maze Runner.
The advantages of plot-driven stories are that the heart of the story is fully developed, as are the sub-plots and relevant plot twists. This makes for an engaging read. The drawback is that characters may not be as fully realised, certainly not to the thoughtful detail of character-driven stories.
If you want to tell a story from beginning to end in a way that involves the reader with the events, turning points, plot developments, tension, atmosphere and action, then a plot-driven story will be the best choice.
If, however, you want your story to focus on the inner feelings, conflicts, aspirations, goals and tensions as the character progresses on their journey of discovery, then a character-driven story is the best choice.
But isn’t it possible you have a mix of both? 
In truth, many novels do achieve this. They tend to be neither one nor the other and are often balanced with some thoughtful plotting and deep character analysis, but on the whole, most novels fall into either category in the way they are written.
The genre and type of novel you want to write tends to dictate the style of the plot, so it’s wise to think about what exactly you want from your story. If you really want to focus of your characters, then it will be character drive. If you’re a plotter, then it’s very likely you’ll create a plot-driven novel. The choice is yours, but choose carefully.

Next week: The Problem with Emotion

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Importance of Motivation – What drives your characters? Part 2

Part 1 looked at some of the reasons that might motivate our characters, things like backstory and emotional responses like revenge, resentment or love etc. But it’s not all down to those common emotional catalysts.
There are other factors that help create motivation for your characters, for instance:
Basic Need
This isn’t an emotion, but rather a human requirement, but it’s still a driving force for motivation. It’s the need to do something, to find something or to achieve something. It could be a need to get to the bottom of something, the need to find ourselves, the need to feel happy, the need to settle down and have a family...all these needs are motivation markers that are inherent in all characters.
It’s the simple things that writers miss, and basic needs are often overlooked.
Past Incidents & Events
The things that happen in our lives can have a positive or negative affect on us. Some incidents can scar us not just physically, but psychologically. They stay with us for a long time and can affect us in so many ways, even when we think they don’t affect us. Sometimes these events are traumatic or highly emotional for very different reasons. Everyone responds in different ways, we all react slightly differently.
Imagine what your characters might feel if something traumatic or damaging happened to them. Negative childhood memories continually reinforce behaviour in adulthood and so it provides motivation for them act in a certain way.
We all harbour some of these incidental memories. If we look closely to why we act and react to certain things, the reason often lies in some event from our childhood.
The Present
It’s not just that past that can create motivation. Incidents and events happen in the present, too, like something that happened hours or moments ago in your character’s world, something that kickstarted their actions and set them to behave in a certain way.
Just as past incidents leave their mark, present ones do, too.
While emotions provide characters with reasons to act the way they do in any given situation, there are also other factors that provide motivation. One of them is the antagonist.
The Antagonist
The antagonist – the bad guy – is normally the lynchpin to your main character’s reasons for acting the way they do, and will almost certainly involve the range of emotions already described in Part 1.
The antagonist is behind most of the conflict that occurs in a novel, so he or she will have done something to your main character – either in the past or the present - to motivate the protagonist into embarking on their journey. In that sense, the antagonist is almost like a lure to the protagonist; they are drawn to each other.
The quest for the truth is one of the strongest motivational factors in fiction writing. The need to find the truth of something or someone can make us very determined to find it, whatever the consequences. Truth and knowledge are often driving factors behind main characters finding a long lost loved one, or a valuable heirloom, or even treasure. In real life, we all strive for truth and knowledge, and it’s no different for fictional characters.
Giving your characters motivation is way of laying concrete foundations for your story. Motivation is all about knowing the following:-

  • What your character wants to achieve, or what their ultimate goal is (truth, knowledge or a basic need?)
  • Why your character wants to achieve this (emotions, a past incident, an antagonist?)
  • What might the consequences be if they do?
All these aspects provide motivation, emotion and ultimately conflict. This is why motivation plays such an important role in fiction. Writers may not realise this, but every important character in your story has motivation, they all have their reasons to be part of the story, therefore they all drive the story forward.

To summarise - what motivates characters?

  • Emotions – resentment, hate, love, revenge etc
  • Past incidents
  • Childhood events
  • Present incidents
  • Need – what does the character want and why? How will the character achieve it?
  • Antagonists
  • Truth and knowledge
At the root of motivation is a primal need. Emotional reasons, such as revenge, resentment or love are prime catalysts for motivation. Past incidents or events are catalysts. Things in the past can greatly affect what we do in the present.

Motivation is so important – without it there won’t be a character in your story for your reader to care about. That’s because most emotional aspects of motivation are shared by just about everyone on the planet – we want truth, a sense of justice, a sense of life balance, we want to get the girl or guy or our dreams, to live happily ever after, we want to exercise those demons and negative emotions or put the past to rest. We want to achieve our goals. All these things motivate us.

Make sure your characters have plenty of reason to be in your story.

Next week: Character or plot driven stories – which is best?

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Importance of Motivation – What drives your characters? Part 1

Motivation is such an important element to fiction writing. Without it, there would be no story to tell. That’s how vital it is.
Everything we do in life has a reason behind it, even the mundane things. This is basic human nature.  And sometimes, if we don’t do something, there may well be consequences.
The thing about motivation is that is it controlled by behaviour – so psychology plays an important part. Characters, like real people, behave according to the things that go on around them and to them.
Writing is all about the need to know why.  Why do people do what they do? What makes them react in a certain way? What lies beneath? It’s basic psychology; the need to not just know, but to understand the root of human behaviour.
Every one of us has a backstory.  So do your characters.  Our backstories tell people who we are, where we’re from, who our parents are, what we do in life, our hopes and dreams and fears, and who we share that life with. We all have a childhood; we all have good and bad experiences – our childhood and environment shapes us as adults. That means sometimes we take on the traits of our mothers and fathers – good, bad or indifferent – which forms the way we behave. That’s why we all react differently to different things. All these ‘things’ form the basis of motivation.
Character backstories form the main staple of the story. What drives them? Well, all the ‘things’ that have happened to the characters, and often it is usually one event, one incident, one moment or feeling that drives them.
The common denominator with motivation is emotion. Emotion is closely related to motivation, from the word mouvre. Emotions fuel us, they affect our behaviour and they can often overwhelm us. Emotions provide a huge amount of motivation where your characters are concerned.
The most common emotional catalysts found in fiction - which are all interconnected – are as follows:
Bitterness is an all too common trait. There are all sorts of reasons why we resent, and it drives us to sometimes act impulsively or stupidly. Some people can take control of it deal with it, while others are consumed by it and cannot forgive or forget – it really is a driving force. They hang onto that negative emotion, and it’s the negative side of that emotion that drives their behaviour.
Characters that resent someone or something - such as a situation- may be bitter and stark until the reason for such hatred is resolved, so their ultimate goal would be to find a way of dealing with the person or the situation or by forgiving the person they believe is the cause of such bitterness.
Most stories have this as the main theme, and it’s not surprising because humans harbour the primitive need to seek justice for all manner of things, by whatever means. Characters that are out for revenge will do things that are often out of character, such is the strength of this emotion. And of course, with revenge comes consequences.
Another driving force, hatred is an all-consuming emotion that turns normally likeable nice people into raging animals. It overrides our sense of morality and logic, so characters driven my hatred will be deeply flawed and less likable, but engaging nonetheless because there will always be a reason behind why they are behave the way they do.
The negative emotion is what motivates them, and will continue to do so until the emotion is quashed, usually by taking revenge.
In much the same way that hatred can consume us, love does, too. The things we do for love are not always logical, but can be endearing. We’d go to the ends of the Earth for our loved ones, and your characters will be no different. Love is a powerful emotion – especially if the love is unrequited, and so it provides plenty of motivation for characters.
Fear is not necessarily the jump-scare kind, but rather the inner fears we all have. The emotion of fear is also a driving force and motivates characters - fear of loss of a loved one, fear of rejection, fear of not being accepted, or fear of losing something invaluable. These are all valid fears that cause all sorts of different behaviours. It can motivate characters in the most unusual ways.
There is no stronger emotion than this. The survival instinct is something we all have, and when our backs are against the wall, we fight tooth and nail to get out of danger. This is more than enough motivation for your characters.
Other motivation facilitators are created by events and incidents in the past. Our childhood is a huge sponge full of stuff that shapes who we become as adults, and often these develop our behaviours, in the belief we’re doing the right thing, in order to justify our actions, be them right or wrong.
In part 2 we’ll look at other catalysts that lead to character motivations and the behavioural markers that lead to actions and reactions common place within novels.

Next week: The Importance of Motivation – What drives your characters? Part 2

Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Art of Writing Scenes - Part 2

Part 1 looked at the importance of effective scenes and how they work to enhance elements such as characterisation, plot, moving the story forward and imparting important information to the reader.
But with all those elements in place, how do you start a new scene that seems natural and not forced? How can it appear to be a cohesive part of the story without it stuttering?
There are many ways to begin scenes, and they will largely depend on what has happened in the previous scenes – remember that the story flow must be chronological, so proceeding scenes will follow in a logical way.
Begin With Simple Exposition
Writers sometimes start their scenes with a few narrative lines to get the reader into the next part of the story without A) too much info-dumping or B) jolting the reader, for example:-
He slept better on a full stomach and in the morning he checked himself in the mirror and saw that his complexion had changed completely. He no longer looked like the pale grey creature that stalked the streets at night.
In this example the narrative is primed for the reader; it eases them into the next scene without overdoing it or without the need to spend half a page describing the event.
Begin with Action
Writers love to jump straight into action scenes, especially when the preceding scene hints of the action to come. These scenes have to follow logically from previous scenes for them to work. You can’t jump from a quiet, reflective scene to explosions and mayhem in the next scene without making the reader aware of why or how, otherwise it will just come off as disjointed.
Writers use the cliffhanger device – in the preceding scene they hint as what might happen by leaving the hero in some kind of predicament, then a new scene or chapter begins, for example:
The flash of light rasped across his vision and he instantly grabbed Amy and threw her to the ground to avoid the blast, while debris fell all about him in a thunderous roar...
This example jumps into action and allows the reader to fully immerse in the scene.
Begin With Flashback
You can start a scene with a flashback, if it’s important to the current plot developments. Just remember to hint to the reader so that when you do use the flash back (identified by the past-pluperfect tense), the reader will comprehend. If you don’t, the reader will easily become confused, for example:
Feelings welled within him, and those sensations gave rise to half hidden memories. He remembered the time, back in 1976, when, as a seven year old boy, he had first met the man who would bring terror to his family...
Here the example hints to the reader there is a flashback scene, by introducing the notion through the character’s personal feelings and thoughts. The tense correctly changes from past tense to past-pluperfect, to denote the flashback.
Begin With Dialogue
Scenes that open with dialogue are very common, as a run on from the last scene, or an introduction to other characters in a new scene. These kinds of scene starters are compelling, because the reader hasn’t been given any description or narrative to introduce it; so it makes them want to find out more.
Begin With a Setting Description
Some scenes can start with setting of the scene, especially if the action moves to another place or involves other characters elsewhere in the story. It doesn’t have to be long or lusciously described. A few sentences are more than enough to satisfy the reader, for example:
The light flickered in the distance as John approached the house through the snowdrift. The forest remained eerily quiet, bathed in a full moon...
The simple description sets the scene and creates some intrigue and mood to start the scene. These kinds of scenes don’t need to be overdone; sometimes less is more.
The art of writing scenes is to try to open them at an interesting moment, or to create some atmosphere or tension, or to make it compelling enough to pique the reader’s interest, while moving the story onward.
Most scenes contain a hint of conflict, even if it’s only implied. And that could mean internal and external conflicts that help with the plot. Remember, conflict doesn’t have to take place between two or more people. Conflicts come in many guises.
Do your scenes achieve what you want it to show or say? So they give the reader information and hints, do they push the story forward, bolster the mood or atmosphere, or perhaps slow it down for a more gentle approach? Do your scenes follow on from each other? In other words, are they in logical order? If they’re not, there’s a problem; it means you’ve scene-skipped. This will confuse and frustrate the reader; it will be hard for them to understand what’s going on. It’s like watching a movie that’s been edited in the wrong order.
In essence, scenes rely on a whole host of sensory elements to help the reader visualise.
Summary of what scenes achieve:

  • Provides motivation, conflict and emotion
  • Allows character revelation through dialogue
  • Gives sensory detail – makes the reader visualise
  • Provides important background information
  • Leads the reader and moves the story forward
  • Descriptions set the tone, mood and atmosphere
  • Allows the writer to exercise flourishes to enhance the experience – metaphors, symbolism, foreshadowing, assonance etc

Each scene is a stepping stone to the next, and so on. They must make sense, they must flow, but ultimately, they must tell the story.
Next week: Motivation – What drives your characters?

Saturday, 10 September 2016

The Art of Writing Scenes – Part 1

There is no escaping it – every book needs great scenes in order to convey the story in such a way that the reader becomes fully immersed in the book and is unable to put it down.
But is there a specific way writers should approach writing scenes? How do they know what to put into a scene and what to leave out?
Every book is constructed in such a way that they rely on pivotal scenes that propel the story forward. It’s important that all scenes keep some kind of momentum and don’t allow the pace to grind to a halt. This is why many writers find constructing scenes a little overwhelming, especially when they’re not always sure what kind of scenes they need.
We use scenes in various ways:
  • To show the reader what’s going on
  • To move the story forward
  • To show characterisation
  • To impart important or relevant information
  • To help the plot
Writing scenes might sound very straightforward, but there are a few things to think about when considering the elements that are required, and the first thing to consider is the reason the scene needs to be there in the first place. What does it need to say? Who is involved? What is the point you want to make?
Scenes need to have purpose because they show the reader what is happening in a logical order. If they don’t have a point to make, they are not really helping to tell the story.
Another other thing to think about is, what do you want the scene achieve? What should happen to facilitate this and does it move the story forward?
Writers have to know when and where scenes will start. Often it’s better to start in the middle of something, for dramatic effect, rather than spending a page and a half setting up the scene and boring the reader in the process. Avoid info dumping and waffle and just get right to the heart of the scene.
Elements for Writing Scenes
As already mentioned, scenes need to have a point, they need to have a reason to be there in the first place, so whether it’s introductory scene (where the main character(s) are introduced), an action scene, a revelatory scene, a reflective scene, an emotional scene, a light-hearted scene or a dread-filled, atmospheric scene – these scenes need to lead the reader and the story.
Scenes also need to get to the point, so a scene between the protagonist and another character might lead to a revelation, so it’s best to start the scene with the immediate lead up to that revelation, or open right in the middle of it. Don’t make the mistake of writing half a page about the weather or what’s in the background as the main character goes for a walk to meet the other character.  Here’s an example, followed by the same scene that gets to the point – compare the two for effectiveness:
John walked the path next to the canal, his mind of the meeting ahead with Diane. It looked as though it might rain and he pulled his collar up as he rounded the corner and made his way across the street to the café.
‘This better be good, John. You made me come out in this weather and I’m soaking wet.’
‘I know, and I’m sorry for making you come out in the rain,’ he said. But here’s something I need to tell you.’
Now compare the long winded scene above – which doesn’t have much purpose or point – to one that doesn’t get bogged down with irrelevant description and instead gets right to the point.
John stood in the doorway, out of the rain.
Diane turned to face him. ‘This better be good, John.’
‘Save the anger. There’s something I need to tell you,’ John said.
This example gets right to the point. It doesn’t need all the extraneous waffle. With the average novel running from 80K – 95K words, writers can’t afford to have scenes that are full with irrelevant information. Don’t let scenes drag on. If they do, you’ll lose the reader’s interest.
It’s also no good having a thrilling action scene followed by a scene with the two main characters in a garden, talking about the flowers and the lovely weather, because it does nothing for the story. It doesn’t impart important information or clues and it doesn’t lead the reader or the story. It doesn’t show the reader anything; it doesn’t have a point to make and doesn’t move the story forward.
If you have these kinds of scenes, get rid of them.
Another element to scene writing is that writers have to provide information, hints or clues via narrative or dialogue to help readers visualise the story in their minds. That’s why scenes are an effective way of delivering such information.
Another thing to bear in mind is that you should always establish the POV character and stay in that POV through the scene or chapter. This makes it much easier for the reader to follow. Never change POV in the middle of a scene. This will confuse the reader and will weaken the entire story. Every time the POV needs to shift to another character, start a new scene or a new chapter.
Every good scene should establish the setting so that the reader knows where the action is taking place. If you have multiple POV characters within the same place, you won’t have to establish the setting every time you change scenes. But if the next scene moves from a ballroom, for instance, into the garden, then you need to point this out so that the reader can easily follow what is going on, otherwise they will think the action is still in the ballroom.
When establishing a scene, a few simple lines of description are all that is necessary without overloading the narrative with scene-setting info dumps and irrelevant exposition.
No story can be told without effective scenes. The story is a chronological order of scenes from start to finish.
Remember that scenes do more than tell the reader where the characters are or what they’re doing.

Next week: The Art of Writing Scenes – Part 2

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Perfecting Third Person POV – Part 2

Part 1 looked at the different types of third person POV available and the advantages this viewpoint gives the writer. Now we’ll look at the possible drawbacks to using 3rd person POV and ways to work efficiently with this commonly used POV.
Thankfully there are not too many negative aspects to working with third person, but there are a few things for writers to be aware of.
One of the main problems of third person POV is that with a cast of many characters, and trying to accommodate all of them, it can lead to something called ‘head hopping’. This is when the writer flits from character to character in the same scene, meaning the POV is all over the place. This means that any attempt to create emotion, tension, conflict or atmosphere, is lost. Here’s an example:
John looked around the café and saw Diane at a table along the far wall, a book in her hands and her expression drawn in concentration. Despite her frown, she still looked beautiful. He approached with a reserved smile. He didn’t want to look too overbearing. ‘Hope I’m not interrupting...’
Diane peered up at John. ‘You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear you’re following me.’ Not that it bothered her; she had secretly hoped he would follow her back from the train station, since she had spent the best part of four hours talking with him on the journey.
The mistake here is that the POV is not cemented with either character. It’s hard to tell who the main character is. This is a common error made by new writers. This is a typical head hopping scene. But the focus of any scene should always be from the character’s viewpoint you choose. So for this example, let’s make it John’s character: 
John looked around the café and saw Diane at a table along the far wall, a book in her hands and her expression drawn in concentration. Despite her frown, she still looked beautiful. He approached with a reserved smile. He didn’t want to look too overbearing. ‘Hope I’m not interrupting...’
Diane peered up at John. ‘You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear you’re following me.’
He offered a warm expression. ‘Well, we have just spent the best part of four hours talking on the train, but it’s not as dramatic as you think’. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small photograph, the one she had shown him soon after boarding in London. ‘You left this on your seat...’
This time the POV exclusively belongs to John. It’s all about him and it’s from his perspective. Diane’s involvement is deliberately limited to allow John to come forward in the scene.  If I wanted to change to Diane’s perspective, I would need to start a new scene or chapter.
The other disadvantage is that it doesn’t create the amount of immediacy that first person POV does. This is because the writer has many character viewpoints at his or her disposal, and the more characters he or she has to juggle, the less opportunity there is for the writer to connect with the reader. A single character – first person POV - is ideal for relating with the reader, but a handful of characters will make that connection challenging.
The way to overcome this is to build more emotion and empathy into your characterisations and key scenes. Emotions are part of a universal language – we all share the same emotions, therefore in third person POV, the writer should engage the reader with those emotions – make the reader feel everything the characters – and the main character in particular – are going through; make them feel pain, hurt, joy, fear, love...whatever the character feels, make the reader feel it, too.
The other thing to consider is that when there are multiple characters, there is going to be a lot of pronoun use, since they will either be ‘he’ or ‘she’ a lot of the time, as opposed to ‘I’ in first person.
To avoid too much use of he/she when there are scenes with a number of characters, especially if there is more than two male or more than two female characters at any one time, writers have to ensure they construct sentences carefully so that it’s clear who is doing the talking, for example:
John sat down next to Diane and sipped his drink.
She offered a shy smile.
Jenny eased into the chair to next to Diane and nudged her shoulder. She lowered her voice. ‘He seems really nice...’
‘He’s amazing,’ she said.
John looked up at the two women and grinned.
This kind of construction avoids overuse of pronouns, which can end up being quite confusing for the reader if there are multiple characters in a scene, unless it’s controlled.  Here it is clear who is doing the action and the talking, without reverting to too much he/she constructions.  
The great thing about third person is that it’s the most versatile POV for first time writers and gives them a chance to explore and experiment with their writing and expand their skills without becoming bogged down with the technical difficulties associated with first person POV.
And the best way to perfect POV – whether first person or third person – is to practice, practice, practice.

Next week: The Art of Constructing Scenes