Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fiction Focus Friday: Point of View

 Due to a recent sinus infection, this Friday post is being posted on Saturday. If you don't understand, you've never had sinus issues. I suggest you try them; they're so much fun. 

My first novel. I didn't just head hop, I leaped. Everyone had a point of view. Even the horse.
And the point-of-view didn't change per scene. It was per line. As an editor (and a writer) I see other writers making this mistake. Especially new writers. 

The thing is, it's hard to understand point of view for a new writer. It's such a simple thing to see, once you know what it means, but impossible until you get to that magic "aha".  And to be honest, even experienced writers shift from time to time. So it's worth reviewing.

But before I do, I want to ask you a favor...I'm doing a presentation in April. Part of that presentation is about using point of view. Could you critique this interpretation for me? Is it clear? Or is it...pointless? 

Oh...and a word of warning. Because I'm also taking a speech writing class, I figured I'd use my "writing an informative speech" assignment as an opportunity to get a head start on my presentation. This is the first half of the assignment, creating an outline of your informative speech. I'm sure the formatting is going to go kerfluey here...hang on tight. ;) And--thanks for your crit. 

D. By using varying depths of point-of-view, you can expose the character’s inner conflict—inner pain.
1. Think: Brigit Jones Diary. First person point-of-view. You can’t go any deeper into a character’s head than that. What Fielding did was bring us into Bridget’s world—and her interpretations (truth) of that world—and the result was funny. The limitations of this point-of-view is that you are only able to see the world through one character’s eyes.
2. Third person point-of-view: Gives you more flexibility as you can go
into the heads of more than one character and get insight into their pain/conflicts. Think of it as a camera—you can zoom all the way in, or all the way out, depending on what best serves your story.
3. Here’s how I think of point of view. People might want to debate me on this but these are my definitions and it’s my workshop. So…get over it and just follow along. You can debate with me later. 

a) surface point of view (what reader sees—telling or showing)
b) skin deep (reader begins to see their physical, mental and emotional pain)—tends to be telling instead of a showing
c) sitting on the nerve endings deep-this is where you use thoughts but with a tag. Or they’re there, but not italicized, and using the character’s name or a pronoun. This is still you, telling the story to the reader. 

d) Deep p.o.v.—the reader is thinking right along with the character. It’s the most similar to first-person point of view; you can’t get any deeper into your character’s head. It’s showing to the point of exposure. (This is a good place to stop to see if there are any questions! Distribute handouts-Direct audience to look at handout one) Showing to the point of exposure.

1.Reggie looked down at Daniel. Now what? Sitting on the nerve endings. Notice--no italics.
In response, his eyes widened. He jerked in her arms, opened his mouth, and started to shriek. Immediate goal: quiet the baby.
Reggie looked at the door through which Trick and Kerri had gone. It was closed. She was alone with a squalling infant and had no idea what to do. Skin deep p.o.v. Conflict: Doesn't know how to quiet a baby.
“Shh, Daniel,” she crooned. “It’s all right. Really.”
He wailed louder, his opinion of her skills quite apparent.Surface p.o.v.; one character's interpretation of another from the action characters perspective. Notice the telling. “Uh-oh,” Reggie said.
Rocking. Aha. Deep p.o.v.; I'm now allowing the reader into her thought processes. She’d seen people rocking babies. So she tried it.
Daniel quieted, looked at her, then squalled again. His fists clenched and his tiny body spasmed. Motivation he’s loud and in pain? He hates me. Reggie stood up, and started walking. No good. Deep p.o.v. She took a deep breath. Singing. Try singing. Crap. I don’t know any songs! Deep p.o.v. so reader can feel her panic. Conflict: Reggie is pregnant. How will she ever be able to be a mommy? Reggie wracked her memory. Through Daniel’s infant ire, she could barely remember her name. She’s totally screwed. She opened her mouth and sang the first song that came to mind, a jingle from a beer commercial.
Daniel quieted, so she kept singing and walking. He settled, yawned, and studied her gravely. He squirmed again, and Reggie carefully lifted him up so his head rested on her shoulder, his fuzzy head brushing her cheek, his tiny bum cradled in her hand. Well…maybe I can be a mommy (If I were using deep p.o.v. here, this is what I'd write. But it wasn't necessary; it's evident in her actions; also, I'm backing out of her head as the conflict resolves. She tried patting his little back. Daniel burped. She felt him relax. Resolution of conflict
 (Yates, C.D. Kissing Trick. The Wild Rose Press, Adams Basin NY. USA. pp.156-157)

 2. a.This deep p.o.v. is where the best of your  comedy can go—in romance, especially. Because the goal of a romance writer should be to allow their reader to live vicarously through the characters s/he creates, we tend to spend some time there. (Warning: speaking from an editorial standpoint—not too much, especially with an ebook company. E-readers are funny and sometimes they don’t like funky formatting. Some publishers will discourage the use of italics, parenthesis and any kind of different text which could make the machine balk.)

2b. But this is where you can place the real “oh, poop” of your conflict, where the funny stuff is. So if you’re trying to write funny, get as deep as you can. 

2c. Sometimes, as the conflict escalates, you can sink in and out and finally  deeper into your character’s p.o.v.; I think it works in the first example and I think it works here.[refer to example two on handout] See if you can figure out the points of view:

Carrie’s cell phone rang. It had to be Phelps. She already figured out what she was going to tell him, starting with you’re and ending with  fired. How could he miss such a huge, furry, and expensive portion of Nana’s estate? Carrie dried off her hands and lifted her phone to her ear. “Hello?”
A harsh male voice. “If you don’t come get your dog off my property…”
Oh God. Again? But…how? The windows were shut. The a/c’s were running. The front and back doors were locked and chained. There were chairs in front of them, for God’s sake!
“Are you sure it’s my dog? I can’t imagine how she got out.”
“Is this Carrie Moore?”
“Well...” for a moment, she wished she could lie. Crap. “Yes.”
“Then, this is your dog. She’s already destroyed an entire set of wicker patio furniture and…”
“Wait. Did you see her do it? How do you know it wasn’t some kids or…something else?” Carrie gripped the phone. This was so not good.
“Because one of the chairs got stuck on her collar, so when she crashed through the fence…”
Oh God. Carrie leaned back against the tub’s slope.
“After she scratched the paint all the way down the side of my new Lexus. “
Oh… God. Carrie sank lower.
“And destroyed not only my entire topiary garden but my neighbor’s picture window. “
“Picture window?”
“When she tossed the chair off. Anyhow, we finally caught her when she fell into the koi pond. She was so busy catching fish, we managed to catch her. She is in my neighbor’s garden shed right now, and from the sounds of it, tearing it up something awful.”
“Can I call you right back? I’m…” Carrie dropped her phone onto the floor and sank into the tub, letting the water cover her face. Sunk. 

(Yates, C.D. Dog-gone But Not Forgotten. Blade Publishing, Ltd. Ontario, CANADA. pp 27-28)

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