Saturday, April 3, 2010

WEAK POV - FIX IT

As you know, in February, Donald Maass graciously consented for this blog to use his book Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook to help writers enhance their writing. Since then we've completed exercises (no particular order from the book) on the Hero, the Bad Guy, Setting, Backstory, and Larger-than-Life Characters.

In no way should this deter you from buying his book. I'm just skimming these exercises. Their full impact can't be appreciate without reading both the book and the workbook. Besides, it's important to understand the generosity of many successful people in this business. The information is out there waiting for you, and like Alexandra Sokoloff, Mr. Maass is to be applauded.

Today, I thought we'd discuss one of my favourite subjects, Point of View. Why? Because too many writers I work with are quick to response, "I know, I know, my POV is all over the place. I'll fix it later."

Later is now.

POV, [like riding a bike: once you know, you'll never forget] is the mode by which the author shows the story to the reader.  You can't write your story without POV. We all know that. But what we forget is that every chance to convey the story through our POV character is an opportunity to show the reader who our protagonist is.

If you don't buy that, take your protagonist to the nearest park and describe what s/he sees, hears, smells, experiences so that it's deeper and more heightened. Then describe what YOU experience.

Is it the same? It shouldn't be.

Example of enhancing POV...

Valerie got off the bed. She packed her suitcase. The sun had set. Fourteen floors higher, she could see all of the harbour. The Space Needle in the background. The traffic beyond. Pedestrians rushing down crowded sidewalks. Life goes on, she realized sadly.

By creating a mood and a Valerie you might better connect to, the scene changed to:

(excerpt from Dead Witness)... Valerie rose from the bed. She zipped up her suitcase and braided her hair. Seattle's nights sounds beckoned, and she approached the window. Fourteen floors higher, she could now see clear across the harbour. The Space Needle appeared smaller, and the traffic below was a streak of lights burning down the black pavement. Life goes on, just like the night her parents died.

In this case, the change was more subtle than I would have liked, but because the book is published, I can't go one step further and exaggerate.

But you can. Pick a random scene in your manuscript. Locate the spot where your protagonist verbs: experiences something through one or more of the senses. Now make it bigger, more profound, more characteristic. As Mr. Maass says, "Point of view is more than just a set of eyes looking upon the world. Those eyes come with a mouth and a brain."

Turn to another page. It doesn't matter if it's the same POV character or not. Heighten something. The way he feels. What he sees. His responses must go deeper this time.

Go to another scene. And then another.

Enjoy.

Improve.

10 comments :

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Thanks, Joylene. I need to learn this stuff. The writers I work with are on me about going deeper into my POV character. I want to, but it's hard sometimes. Your exercises are helping a lot. Keep it up.

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  3. Hi Kevin. Keep writing. This stuff will eventually become so much a part of your writing that you won't have to think about it. It'll just come.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. I don't have too much trouble with POV, but there's always room for improvement. It's a great exercise.

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  5. Hi Anita. Thank you. I feel the same way. I love studying all forms of writing, even things I think I've got a grasp of. There's always room for improvement.

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  6. Joylene, thanks. I was muddling around with my WIP, feeling like something was missing, but not quite sure what, when... bang, you nailed it. I'm going through now, looking for all the verbs and making the scene deeper. I've also ordered Donald's book.

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  7. I recently picked up this book and workbook. Now, to make time to get started.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Cheryl

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  8. Great information. Using sensory details always helps enliven a story.

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  9. Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl. Hope you enjoy Donald's book. I think you will.

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  10. Cheers to you, Karen. Hope your writing is going well. Thanks for stopping by.

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