POV Part III - 3 Ways on Where to Focus Perspective

When editing for perspective, what are you watching for? Where do you make your changes? These three mistakes were areas where I found myself messing up. Frequently.

1. Don't describe the sparkle in your eye or your own wry grin.
You can't see your own face. Instead, focus on actions (i.e. grinning, frowning, chewing your lip, running your hands through your hair) and the internal feelings that caused those actions (i.e. joy, anger, amusement). Example, "I grin in amusement at his antics." or "She frowned at the criticism."

OK, I admit those are some pretty lame examples. If anyone has anything better, I'd love to hear it.

And you know what else, people don't really know what they look like or sound like either. For that matter, I forget what I look like as soon as I walk away from the mirror. And I am always surprised when I hear my voice on a recording. And nobody--well, very few--would confess that they were whiny. You can be sure that Luke Skywalker thought he was the Force's gift to the universe rather than the snot-nosed whiner we all saw him as.

An excerpt from my coming novel Never Forget gives an example of handling whining in POV's:
     "Barra," he interrupted, rolling his eyes, "shut your trap. Mama let you come on out here, so why don't you stop whining and just enjoy it?"
     I shut my mouth. I hated it when my brothers accused me of whining. They'd say that I'm girly and roll their eyes at me. Papa laughed when I balled my fists up and stamped my foot. I was just as good at trapping, hunting, and riding bareback as they were, and I would remind them who shot the straightest at last Winter's Festival games and won First Prize. Mama just shook her head at me and lectured me that ladies don't argue, brag, or whine, all of which she said I was doing. So I just learned to shut my mouth.

2. Don't describe what you can't see.
Unless you're Superman, you can't see through walls or hear sounds from miles away. But you can grouch to yourself, "They're probably talking about me right now. And if I had my way, I'd show them!" 

Furthermore, your character should  turn around before they recognize who came in the door behind them. Unless, of course, you add a statement like, "She knew it was John. Nobody else slammed the door like that and stomped through the kitchen like a herd of elephants."

Christopher Paolini made this mistake in his book Brisingr. Two characters were fighting a battle against a small battalion of soldiers. At this point, Eragon seemed to be the POV, but the reader knew what was happening with both characters. It doesn't say that Eragon was concerned about his companion and turned to check on her in the midst of battle. Just magically he knew what was going on. Or worse, he didn't and the author was jumping in to narrate for Eragon. Anytime your readers are reminded that there was an author behind the story, that's bad.

So now you are not in the battle. You're just floating above it somewhere watching, but not participating. Readers want to participate. They want to feel that winning the battle was their own victory.

3. Don't describe what you can't feel. 
You can only surmise what is going on in the heads of the people around you. But this is where writing can become fun. It stretches you as a writer. After learning about the POV rules, I went back to reread my draft--written in 1st person, it was even more important to follow the POV rules--and I was shocked on how often I told what non-POV's were feeling when my POV couldn't have possibly known.

Instead of telling emotions, describe the outward signs that the POV could see or use dialog to bring out the emotions. Fear--their faces pale. Weariness--they drag their feet. Pride--they smirk and say haughty things. Humility--they smile gently and encourage others. Anger--they turn red, sputter, and ball up their fists. Love--well, that depends on what kind of love you're talking about.


Writing Assignments
1. Edit a section of your own work to cut out emotions or visuals that your character could not know. Play around with descriptions that could portray the same information but from the POV's perspective rather than from yours as the author.

2. Practice writing emotions that you witness in others. What were the visual clues that made you surmise what the other person was feeling.

3. Please post examples from your work or any other mistakes that are common to authors.

4. Read previous posts on POV.

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