Wednesday, June 5, 2019

For Writers: Solving the Mystery of Deep Point of View—Part One


by Sarah Sally Hamer @SarahSallyHamer

Get out your magnifying glass! We’re going to dig deep into deep POV and see if we can figure it out!

Deep POV really isn’t a mystery, it’s a technique used extensively in modern-day writing. It’s a to-the-bone character development which is expressed in your writing. In so many words, it’s FEELINGS. What does your character feel? And how do you express that on the page?
 
But first we have to understand exactly what it is we want to express. 

All humans have feelings. As writers, we want our readers to sympathize with those feelings. In fact, if we can convince a reader that our characters are real, we can draw them into our stories and make them laugh or cry or get angry or cheer. It’s just a matter of making that character believable.  

So choose a character and be mean to her. Put her through a terrible divorce or the loss of a child. Of course she’s going to feel something. But if the reader doesn’t FEEL her grief and anger and pain, it doesn’t exist. 

Maybe she blows her top at that soon-to-be ex-husband and has to be restrained by the court bailiff. 

Or maybe she doesn’t show her emotion on the outside -- she’s pale and withdrawn in front of others at the funeral home, for instance—but, when she gets to her car, she screams and pounds on the steering wheel until her hands bleed.

Either can work, as long as we SEE the emotion somewhere on the page.

TIP: Deep POV doesn’t have to be shown on every page and, in fact, should not be overused. Build up to an emotional scene by using a few small “hits” of deep POV, then increase the pressure by adding more in, one at a time. 

We have a large arsenal of weapons to help us show deep POV, and can use them in many combinations throughout a story. 

Dialogue: 
One of the best ways a character can express deep POV is through what they say or what they don’t say. The words that come out of our mouths often give away more than we want them to, especially if we’re upset (well, maybe you don’t have that experience, but it’s the way my life works). So when our soon-to-be-divorced character is put under the pressure of an unwanted divorce, she might scream ugly things at the woman her husband is leaving her for in the courthouse hallway. It’s easy to imagine her falling apart at the seams, with a moment of politeness escalating into a hissy fit of monumental proportions. We can FEEL her feelings on the page and, because it’s a natural reaction, we empathize with what she’s going through.

Not saying something is just as effective. The mother who has lost her child may be almost silent at the funeral, pretending to be okay, to be strong. She’ll smile and nod at the people who hug her, thanking them for coming. But when the show is over and she’s finally by herself, she’ll express those feelings she’s been holding back, with bloody hands to prove it.

Allow your characters to talk, to express their feelings, even if it’s just to themselves. Find ways for them say something that allows the reader to know what’s going on in their head. Combine dialogue with body language (next on the hit parade!) and allow them to lie, if they need to.

Body Language: 
Do you study people and how they act? Even if you’re not aware of it, every person you see is telegraphing their emotional state to you in ways that your subconscious is evaluating every second. It’s the way we tell if someone is dangerous to us, or if their words are telling us the truth. 

The contrast between the body language of the new divorcee and the grieving mother is immense. One can’t hold her emotions back, the other is so locked up in her misery she can’t express anything. We could even reverse the two women’s reactions if we needed to – if it’s needed somewhere else in the story.

So how would you describe the divorcee’s body language? I can see her walking into the courthouse, completely in control. She may even have a smile on her face as she speaks to her attorney but her hands are clenched into fists. So, no matter what comes out of her mouth, the reader knows she’s tense. Then, she sees the ex. Her smile becomes a grimace, her entire body stiffens. When he steps back a little, the girlfriend appears. Now our heroine’s body language changes completely. Indications of anger (part of the sympathetic nervous system) appear: flushed face, narrowed eyes, head slightly forward, body poised to attack. She’s only a second away from ripping someone’s hair off, unless someone stops her. Do we need dialogue here? Not necessarily, since her body is telling us everything we need to know. 

If you were reading this in a story, would you have any doubts as to what her feelings are? Writers don’t need to TELL the reader, we only need to SHOW them through our words how someone feels.

Can you write a short paragraph for me, similar to the one above, about our grieving mother? What would her body language be? And, if you’d like, combine the body language with dialogue and make it even stronger. 

TWEETABLES


I wish to express gratitude to the giants whose shoulders I stand on and who taught me so much about the writing craft. I would list every one, if it were only possible.

Sarah (Sally) Hamer is a lover of books, a teacher of writers, and a believer in a good story. Most of all, she is eternally fascinated by people and how they 'tick'. She’s passionate about helping people tell their own stories, whether through fiction or through memoir. Writing in many genres - mystery, science fiction, fantasy, romance, medieval history, non-fiction – she has won awards at both local and national levels, including two Golden Heart finals.

A teacher of memoir, beginning and advanced creative fiction writing, and screenwriting at Louisiana State University in Shreveport for over twelve years, she also teaches online for Margie Lawson at www.margielawson.com. Sally is a free-lance editor and book coach at Touch Not the Cat Books, with many of her students and clients becoming successful, award-winning authors. 

You can find her at hamerse@bellsouth.net

8 comments:

  1. Thanks, Sally, Informative with practical application.

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    1. Thanks, DiAnn! I always appreciate your comments!

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  2. Thank you, Sally. Good advice as I plunge into my current WIP.

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    1. Great, MaryAnn! Getting deep POV right is SO important!

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  3. Great post Ms. Sally. Am learning that I must consider POV even in my nonfiction writing. One of my greatest lessons continues to be "Show don't tell." God's blessings ma'am.

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    1. Thanks, J.D.! I agree that POV is extremely important in non-fiction too. Many non-fiction books have true stories (or stories based on true events) and an understanding that good story telling makes a difference is essential.
      Best wishes to you!

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  4. Wow! We certainly think alike. I always love learning from you, Sally.

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    1. Jackie, I'm lucky to be able to learn from you too!

      Thanks!!!

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