Wednesday, August 2, 2006

The Blank Page - POV & keeping it real

Finally someone got brave enough to give me a topic!!!! Yay! Am I really that scary???

Janet has sent me two great topics to work on… And I’m going to tackle them kind of back to front to the way she asked – but they are very good lead-on’s from the last post so THANK YOU JANET!!!

Alright we talked about dialogue being a foundation for a scene and then adding layers – POV, sounds, movement, scents, setting maybe… all of these are layers. But to my mind, POV can be one of the most important.

This lets us inside the characters minds and allows us to take the journey with them. In a film the actor has to try and let us learn everything through movement, expression and dialogue. In a book we don’t have the same straight to the eyeballs luxury with the movement and expression so we have to use that sparingly and cash in on the bonus we have of inner POV…. Which in a way allows us more scope than an actor! After all how many times have you heard someone say ‘The book was much better than the film’… It’s because a book can layer in so many different ways than film – mind you, I’d love it if they all had a soundtrack… I know I always have one when writing… Think of your writing as an onion… each layer you peel off should reveal something along the way until you get to the heart of it…Handy analogy if you’re writing a weepy I guess…

So, the first thing to think about when you think about POV is the way that you do it.

When you think about something do you think about yourself in the third person??? For instance as I write this am I likely to be thinking ‘Trish wondered if the people reading this blog would be able to make sense of it…’ – nope – I’m more likely to be thinking ‘I wonder if the people reading this blog can make sense of it…’ – but as we’re not writing in the first person for these lines we have to find a way of translating this across without using too many repetitive phrases…

For me, that has led to two differing methods…

There’s the inner thought in italics with an- - on either side that indicates a thought. So in this case I might use ‘No-one is going to make any sense of this blog’ and we know it's a thought. Especially if we put it in as a new sentence on it's own or follow it up with more narrative POV.

And there’s the descriptive method (narrative POV) which would be something like: She wondered if anyone would make any sense of her Blog. – A simplified version yes, but then let’s put it into perspective with some actual writing…

Using White-Hot! As an example, cos the lovely Ally Blake reckoned I got it right in that book…

And keeping in the back of your mind the whole time how we need to remember that men and women think differently lets look at Shane; who thinks in short, succint sentences without the procrastination that a woman might use:

She blushed a fiery red, “Answer the question Shane.”
“Which was what?” He focused hard on forcing himself not to step forwards and shut her up the best way he knew how. She was shooting his great plan to win her over to hell in a handbag and all it did was add to his frustration.
He was a guy, for crying out loud. A guy’s guy at that. He wasn’t supposed to be good with words. And what did she expect from him so early on – wasn’t just taking a chance to begin with a big enough step for her?
“You see me as some quick thrill, some sort of a challenge to you? Is that it?”
“No. That’s not how I see you.” And it wasn’t. He already cared about her. Something he didn’t feel as if he had to tell her, as she should already know by now! Hadn’t he made it obvious?
“Then what is it you want?”
You. He knew the answer was just that simple. In his mind, anyway. And to him that was enough. Because he knew Finn McNeill. Had liked her more every time he’d met her or talked with her or played the verbal sparring game they were so good at. Then the liking had turned to curiosity and then to fascination.
It had only been a matter of time before the fascination had turned into something more. Anything more than that was a bigger step than he was prepared to take. Never mind discuss.

The thing I think is to remember that inner POV should follow in a thought process that makes sense to the reader. It should flow. In the same way that it does as it goes through our mind. So it won’t always be grammatically correct. In fact, if my English teacher were ever to look at my work she’d probably shoot me! But people don’t think grammatically correctly. Well, not the kind of people I write about. If your character is an English professor or very highly educated then maybe they do. But most of my characters are everyday folk. That’s what I write. And the way that I put that across to my readers is a part of what makes up my voice

If you break down the dialogue in that section so that it stands alone from everything else, you’ll see that really they’ve given very little away to each other. But we, the reader, can see more going on beneath the surface because we have accessed the POV of Shane. Which is basically a narrative of unspoken dialogue.

Keep that in your head – POV is a narrative of unspoken dialogue

So it follows the same path as dialogue would follow. Which means we can ask the same questions of it as we do of dialogue – Does it make sense – even when spoken aloud? Does it flow? Does it tell us something that moves the story along?

What you do need to watch out for, if you’re anything like me, is dead words. What do I mean by dead words I can hear you cry!!! Well it’s the he said, she said’s. The wasted words that remind the reader it’s a book. And sometimes, because that’s the way we’re taught to write in school, we tend to revert to that rather than making it *real*…

I never use a ‘said’ unless I’m using it in POV as a character goes back over something else that someone ‘said’. The rest of the time I try to either add a movement or a description or I just let the dialogue stand alone. That way I’m not making a ‘pause’ in the story with a dead word that was unnecessary… Look at the paragraph above. Are there any said’s in there?

POV should tell you what the characters aren’t telling each other. They should add to the overall flow of the story… they should give us information without being long descriptive passages. And they should be broken up with dialogue, movement and any other layers you choose to use to stop it from being boring…

I’m open to questions on this one….

And Janet has also asked me about Introspection which I think follows on quite well from here as it's practically a siamese twin for POV… So we’ll do that next and then Jenna asked me about getting past stalling…*cough* - which is a tad topical for me at the moment… So I’ll blog on that until someone else asks me something or I do a poll…

Mind you, I could also talk a bit about echoes – which is an absolute favorite thing of mine – and one I do LOADS without even thinking about it. It’s kind of a follow on from some of the things Fiona Harper has been talking about recently on her blog regarding screwing the punch… Great term that!!! And we can also look at how I distribute the layers in a scene...

I leave it to you guys… You say… I blog…


Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Trish, these lessons are FAB - I am learning LOADS!

There's something else I'd like to throw in the pot. What's the 'official' view with switching POVs? It's something I'm finding I can't stop myself doing. My cp has suggested that there should be an extra line separating them to show the reader I've switched, but then she says that I do seem to have a knack of not confusing the reader so it may not be necessary. Hmm - confused yet?

Basically, what I'm asking is, is it okay to use two pov's in one scene if it's clear to the reader whose pov it is?

Anonymous said...

Trish, this is exactly what I needed to know. Thank you so much.

And... Yes, please do echoes as well! That topic looked really intriguing when I read about it on Fiona's blog and I'd love more thoughts and examples.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I've thought of a question on POV.
How do you layer in the emotion? Experienced writers say you need to show and not tell--- so instead of saying 'a feeling of disappointment came over her,' it's better to say something like 'she swallowed and blinked back the tears,' so the reader deduces the emotion from the body language.

But there aren't that many ways to describe an emotion through body sensations. How on earth do you show the emotion in lots of different instances without repeating yourself or resorting to telling and cliches? Read body language books maybe?

Janet ch.

Liz Fielding said...

I've just been to the M&B website and order the ModX, Trish. Can't wait!

Jacqui D. said...

So Trish, as I'm still very new here and working on some of the items you have posted as my own little workshop, the question I have as a follow up to this topic is for clarification only:

when you create your work in your wordprocessor, when you are typing the actual internal dialogue you use italics to distinguish?

Thank you so much for your informative posts.