How many authors are on your mental auto-buy checklist? How many are on your keeper shelf? And how long have those authors been at the heart of your reading universe?
I’ve been noodling around with these questions for some time—a couple of years, probably—ever since I first read about Dunbar’s Number. If you’re not familiar with the concept, Wikipedia describes it as a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. Or, to put it crudely: there’s a limit to the number of people your brain has space for.
Dunbar’s Number has been around since the 1990s, but I came across it when I started writing fiction with an eye to publication and realized that meant I’d have to get to grips with social media. If you’d like to know more about the idea in the context of online relationships, click here for a Youtube link to anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s 15-minute Tedx talk: Can The Internet Buy You More Friends?
If you’d prefer the short version, it goes something like this: we humans maintain social relationships at various levels of intimacy, and the number of people we have the capacity to manage at each level is more or less predictable.
- We have a very inner core of intimate friends and relations, people we would turn to in times of deep emotional stress. Typically there are about five of them.
- We have a group of best friends, people we know well, confide in, trust, spend time with. That group would likely be about fifteen people, including the inner five.
- The next closest layer, good friends, would be about fifty people (including the first fifteen);
How many of your favorite stories are written in first person? All, most, or none? Any recommendations? What do you particularly enjoy about them?
One piece of advice often given to newbie writers is to choose the point of view that best fits the story you’re trying to tell. Something that’s shared less often is that for many flavors of genre fiction there seems to be a consensus on that ‘best’ point of view choice. Certainly that’s the way it works for the four hundred or so books in the main menu of my kindle.
I had great fun a couple of weeks ago talking about Okay, You Got Me – the moment when a story sinks its hooks into a reader and won’t let go. Ideally it’s a scene early in a story when the reader commits to the heroine/protagonist because the character does something that makes the reader care about them and want to know what happens next. In Devil’s Cub, my favorite Georgette Heyer, it’s the moment when Mary, the heroine, defends her virtue by shooting Vidal, the very badly-behaved hero.
Okay, You Got Me, or Save The Cat! is an important and wonderful scene, because at that moment the whole tantalising promise of the book stretches out ahead of the reader. If the scene has done its work well, the reader should be speculating like crazy based on the information they have been given. The writer’s mission for the rest of the book Continue reading