Monday, October 6, 2008

Deep Point of View

The other day I had a great visit with Meredith Efken,, an editor recommended to me by Randy Ingermannson, . I'll share an insight she gave me if you'll promise to check out her website (and her books--hilariously funny fiction!) so that this "free" advice I'm passing on to you from her will at least give her some publicity.

We were talking about POV. She says that though, technically, I do my main character's POV correctly, I'm still not taking my readers close enough to the inside of him for them to feel connected. It had never occurred to me that doing the POV from his mind wasn't enough. She said, in so many words, that I also need to put myself behind his EYES--to see the scene from his perspective. She pointed out that I'm describing what he sees, but from a distance. I'm looking at him in my mind as I write from his POV instead of looking at what he's looking at.

It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one. A slight shift in my position—from Zinovy’s mind to his eyes—will bring the reader more immediately into the story.

Here’s an example, I can say, “Zinovy walked across the field, staring into the distance, pondering his problem.” or I can say, “Zinovy kicked the pebbles away from the side of the trail and looked up to the glowing horizon in the distance, pondering his problem.” The movement of my perspective from the distance to right behind Zinovy’s eyes automatically forces me to be more descriptive and it puts the reader into the scene instead of just in Zinovy’s head.

Meredith also pointed out that every time I use words like “he thought,” “pondered,” “believed,” in reference to my POV character I am again distancing the readers from Zinovy. I’m putting them just one step farther away. I am “telling” what is going on in his mind. If I leave those words out, I allow the reader instant access to his thoughts. So instead of saying, in the above scene, “. . .pondering his problem,” I could simply state the thought, as if I am quoting inner dialogue: “Zinovy kicked the pebbles away from the side of the trail and looked up to the glowing horizon in the distance. How to solve the problem?”

Speaking of inner dialogue, I hear rumors that some editors don’t like it. (Yes, Andy Meisenheimer, I acknowledge that you claim you have no idea where that urban myth about you started.) The problem seems to be that the italics required become too much of a distraction and make the dialogue too hard to read after a while. But the situation is easy to fix. All you have to do is take the statements out of italics and change the tense. For example, instead of, What do I do now? you might say, “What should he do now?”

Meredith’s advice was so helpful. I'm going to have to go through my scenes again, disciplining myself to "see" things through Zinovy’s eyes instead of mine, and not just "tell" things from his thoughts.

If any of you are having the same problem, I hope this helps. I heartily recommend Meredith if you need some manuscript tweaking. She has a full editorial service and she's good!

Deep point of view is not a new idea. The internet is full of helpful references. Just type the phrase into a search engine to find them. One of the best is an article by Camy Tang. Check it out, for sure:


Victoria Gaines said...

I'm gonna learn much from this blog of yours, my friend. Thanks for the post! ~ Vicki

Karla Akins said...

That's good stuff! Write on!!

Camy Tang said...

Thanks so much Ginny! I'm glad my article was helpful!

Meredith said...

Ginny, I'm so glad my comments and feedback were helpful to you. I'm very honored that you wrote about me in your blog. Thank you. Your article is an excellent explanation of the concept of deep POV, and I hope I get a chance to see what you've done with it.