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.
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.
Anchor your reader into the body of one character at a time. Why? Because readers want to be in the story rather than floating outside it. Whether you use first person or third person, show the world from one character's eyes at a time.
Dean Koontz had two POV's in his book Intensity--the witness and the murderer. The witness stalks the murderer to his home. She's scared. But she still follows him, hoping he won't spot her. The murderer watches her follow him. Curious as to her purpose. Impressed with her resolve. Koontz masterfully weaves a heart-thumping, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat tale, expertly switching between the two perspectives with a new chapter for each perspective.Francine Rivers tells a love story in Redeeming Love. Husband--he's a God-fearing man--and wife--she's a prostitute since childhood--don't understand each other. At all. She's broken. He wants to fix her. She wants to run away. He does everything to stop her. Sometimes Rivers switches between POV's with a new chapter. Sometimes she uses a few blank lines.
When writing dialog, you can portray non-POV's personality. Their individual voices should be heard. Your POV might be very straight-laced, but the side character might be sassy. Or the other way around. When the two characters interact, those personality traits should come out in the way they talk. Mebbekew in Orson Scott Card's The Memory of Earth never narrates the story, but you know what he is like. You know how he will respond to a situation because of the way he speaks and acts.
Too many POV's in one book pulls your reader in too many directions. One of my biggest pet peeves about Robert Jordan is just how many POV's he has. (Another is that all females have the exact same personality.) No matter how minor the character, Jordan wastes space on two-bit players. The further you get in the series, the worst it gets because the cast grows. And you rarely get to know what's going on with the characters you love the most!George R. R. Martin also has a lot of POV characters. His A Song of Ice and Fire series has a great tale, and for the first few books, I was entranced. But by A Feast for Crows, I got frustrated. Every new chapter, I had to figure out who the character is again, where they left off, and why I should care. I had to reestablish a connection with the characters each new chapter, and for once, I didn't finish the book. Maybe I'll skim it when the last book comes out.
The crazy part is that neither Jordan nor Martin needed to give everybody's perspectives. In Wheel of Time, many of the Aes Sedai traveled together. We don't need a chapter for each bitch in the pack.Furthermore, you can leave some secrets that are revealed later. Or you can use cues to give hints of what's going on in other characters heads.
More on this to come when I write about how to write from one perspective.
What is POV?
POV stands for Point of View.
Think about how you look out at the world. What are you as an individual able to see? You can see other people's expression but not what they are thinking. You can see yourself in the mirror, but when there is no mirror, you can't see the twinkle in your own eyes or the smirk on your face. This is your personal point of view.
Just as people have a point of view, so does a story. In fact, stories have many points of view. Each character has their own personalities, their own goals, their own perspectives. If not, your characters are flat Yes Men, soulless creatures happy to go along with whatever their god (the author) has planned for them.
There are many viewpoints that you could write from:
- The omniscient author narrator
- The first-person narrator
- The third-person narrator
1. Omniscient POV
The omniscient POV is when the author is the one telling the story. Here's an example of from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
It was an unpleasant evening. Lucy was miserable and Edmund was beginning to feel that his plan wasn't working as well as he had expected. The two older ones were really beginning to think that Lucy was out of her mind. They stood in the passage talking about it in whispers long after she had gone to bed.
In this passage, C.S. Lewis basically does a roll call, listing each major player and what they are feeling, thinking, and/or doing. This was a popular way to write years ago, and you will find this kind of omniscient information in many of the classics.
Peter's got that worried I'm-the-oldest-and-I-have-to-look-out-for-my-little-sister look in his eyes again, and Susan always thinks she knows best. They are probably whispering about me behind my back. But I know what I saw. I know I was there. I just wish they would believe me.
I took another step, careful to avoid the colorful leaves strewn across the forest floor. My brown cotton skirt was balled into my hand so that I didn't make any extra noise. I held my breath. My heart raced wildly in my chest. I figured that he'd had to hear that, but he didn't move. He just sat against the tree at the edge of the woods, humming a familiar tune. I grinned. Maybe this time I'll actually surprise him. When I was just about to jump out from my hiding spot to surprise him, he calmly said, "You might as well come out, Barra. I know you're there."
...Her voice was strained, he thought. He watched as the girl closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath before she spoke. Are those tears in her eyes?
She let out a ragged sigh. "Galatia, this is Jadon Forsythe on a practice run for my father," Jadon answered the call. Jaak sneered. There wasn't a drop of emotion in her voice. I guess I was wrong—Poshes don't have tears.
...Jadon turned to look in the mirror. She frowned at the dash of freckles across her nose. "Soldiers don't have freckles," she grumbled. She ran her hand across the stubble on her scalp. It wouldn't do. The commander on the base would suspect something if her appearance wasn't pristine. She reached for the razor.
With her scalp smooth once again, she grabbed the blue uniform from her locker. She sighed. Lelea looked up. "It's the last time."
"I hope so," Jadon said. "I really do."
- Who is the POV?
- How does the author illustrate emotions of non-POV characters without jumping into their heads?
- How did the author's use of POV suck you into the story?
- How can you apply this to your own work?
- Does it add to the plot?
- Does it build the mood?
- Does it develop characters?
- Does it set the scene?
- Does it draw your readers in?
- Does it create tension?
Showing: A cold tingle ran down my back. My stomach cramped. My hands shook. Cold sweat beaded on my forehead.Telling well: I was scared shitless. If I had anything left, I would have crapped my pants right then.
- How intense does this scene need to be?
- How intense were the previous scenes?
- Would showing or telling better illustrate what I want?
- Did I start with a hook?
- Did I end with a push?
"So did you decide which way we're going, boy?" Papa asked Jhon. I looked up at Papa in astonishment. That had always been Papa's job. Why was he asking Jhon? But Papa seemed oblivious to my surprise, as though it was natural for Jhon to be in charge.
"Yes," Jhon said. "Rather than taking the main roads, we'll go on some of the country passes. It's a straighter shot, and we'll probably shave off a day or two of travel." Papa nodded approvingly.
"And we have everything we need?"
"Yes, but I will double check all the supplies just before we mount up."
Papa smiled, "Good job, son." Jhon lifted his head a little straighter, and his face broke into a wide grin.
- More character development
- You're in the story rather than in Barra's head
- You get a stronger sense of Barra's surprise when Jhon takes the leadership
- You see Jhon's pride at his father's words
- You wonder about the relationship between Jhon and Papa
Life would be boring indeed if every flower was a purple rose, if every tree a maple, if every animal a monkey, and every person had red hair and green eyes.
He hated blue coats. They were nothing but bones on the inside. Emotionless, sniveling poshes. Empty heads that follow the general's orders. Like robots.
He'd dreamed about the day he would come face to face with one and beat the thing until blood poured from its dry veins. And now he had his wish. But he couldn't even pull the trigger.
"I can't believe it's August already.""Rita, it's October."
Rita's Scientific Law:Healthy Body --> Healthy Brain & HeartHealthy Brain --> Intelligent WritingHealthy Heart --> Inspired Writing