Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Points of POV by Cindi Madsen

At this year’s Pikes Peak Writers Conference, I sat in on Debra Dixon’s Point of View workshop. One thing Debra said again and again was, “You can do anything you want to do in fiction, as long as you do it well.”

I guess the trick is doing it well, then. Easy enough, right? When you get ready to start your novel, you’ve got to decide which point of view to go with. Remember, POV delivers the POV character’s agenda, not the author agenda.

First person is presentational, intimate, and an inside job. Third person is representational and as it happens. With third person, you can choose to use omniscient or limited points of view, getting in really close to our character. Decide how your story is going to work. What will your reader need to know? What do you need to keep from your reader? How can you do that with the POV you choose? And if you have multiple POVs, when do you switch? Debra suggested choosing the character who has the most at stake. Shift when the emotional weight changes or if suspense will be increased. After we discussed these points, she listed six stages of POV.

1. Observation
How does your character see the world?

2. Join in action
Make your character do something

3. Perception (here’s where we start getting deeper into the character’s POV)
What are things that skew how they see things?
How would they say it? (This is where a strong voice comes in)

4. Thoughts
Show the inner thoughts. Show us what they think about the things they’re doing and perceiving.

5. Emotions
Add emotions to the thoughts/actions/perceptions. Put us there with the character. Make us feel what they feel.

6. Deep immersion
Blend 1-5 into one paragraph.

So whichever POV you’re using, think about adding all of these to your characters, until he or she becomes a living/breathing person. Watch for descriptions that might pull a reader out of POV.

For example, unless your character is cocky, a sentence like, “He moved gracefully from one corner of the room to the other,” even in narrative, displaces you from the character a bit. Add that voice in. How would your character describe himself or herself? A good way to tell if you’re moving out of intimate POV is to ask yourself if you’d think or say that about yourself. Would I say, “My smile tipped up at the corners of my mouth?” No, but I might say that about the guy I’m checking out. Would I say, “I ran a hand through my silky, wheat-colored hair and blinked my sapphire eyes?” Probably not.

Even in your narrative, the voice of your characters should shine through. So take a look at your descriptions and see if you can put their POV spin on it. See if you can’t add more perception, thoughts, and emotions so that your characters become the friend your reader is sad to leave at the end of the book. Good luck!

About the Writer:  Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting, revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes this makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She lives in Colorado with her husband and three children. Look for her YA novels, All the Broken Pieces with Entangled Publishing, and Demons of the Sun with Crescent Moon Press to be released Fall 2012. More information can be found on her website: cindimadsen.blogspot.com

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