Monday, September 10, 2012

Getting into your character's Shoes. Deep POV

Presented by Lady Rosalie Skinner
Hi, I am the Australian author of the epic science fiction and fantasy series the Chronicles of Caleath.  published by Museitup Publishing as eight ebooks. Book Five is now available. 

As I go through my next novel for release in the series, UNDERGROUND: The Day of the Sun, I am concentrating on correcting any POV errors, as well as redundancies, echoes and any superfluous prose.

To write in Deep Character POV you need to be inside your character's head. Here are a few exercises and tips on how to achieve bringing your reader, hopefully, into the Fantasy world you have created.

 How to stay in your character’s head.

 A useful analogy is to think of a cameraman filming a scene. Since many of us see our stories played out like movies in our heads as we write, this should make sense. To begin the shoot our camera angle would be using a wide lens  to give an overview for the audience. 

Once established the camera closes in. Zooming into focus we now view our character's and begin to create empathy with them. As the scene progresses the camera records a rise in tension, conflict or establishes how the main character is feeling.
The camera, the vision we witness through the lens, is only able to convey what is SEEN or what the character believes. The camera cannot tell what other characters are thinking. Neither can the main character when using this POV. If a camera cannot SEE a thought, neither can the character. To suddenly read minds is to change POV and will distance the reader. 

Another useful idea is that if a artist cannot DRAW the information, it is telling, not showing. A little harder to grasp, but give it some thought. Can you see Anger? He was angry. Is telling. His fist clenched, his brow lowered, he cast an angry glare toward the broken mirror. You can draw clenched fists, lowered brow, an angry glare. Just a tip to remember.

It is important when writing from your character’s POV to only reveal the thoughts and reactions of your character experiences. Actions and emotions of other characters can be described as if seen by the main character, but they must be interpreted through the main character’s eyes. More on this later.

The advantage over the camera is the author can share the main character’s emotions, while witnessing the scene. Their anxiety, happiness, pain or anticipation are available for the author to share.

 The tools for doing this are probably best learnt and understood through participation, rather than reading notes. So, let’s begin.

 Getting into our Character’s shoes…

 The aim of this exercise is to describe in a hundred words (or less), the simple act of putting on a pair of shoes, boots or trainers, from our character’s viewpoint.

Try to visualize and describe the shoe, the foot…

Give the reader an idea of how the character feels, are they about to begin a journey, go on a date? Is our character refreshed, exhausted, anticipating a big night, an interview, meeting someone?

What does our character smell? Taste? Hopefully nothing too bad, being shoes and feet but in a fantasy world where bathing is scarce. Hmm… doesn’t bare thinking about… or does it?

Describe the texture of the shoe, the skin of the feet, stockings, socks as our character experiences them.

 Thinking about our exercise let’s look at what not to do…

 Gerald hoped no one would notice his boots needed cleaning. He wondered if the day old socks would do another outing. Taking a deep breath, he smelt them. The odor made him recoil. He decided he needed a new pair.

 The words that distance us from Gerald’s POV are hoped, wondered, would, smelt, made, decided.

The same information written from Gerald’s POV without the distance might go…

 Gerald rubbed mud from the toe of his boot. With luck no one would notice the scuffed leather or mud stained soles. He dragged day old socks over freshly washed feet, sniffing as tell tale odors insulted his nose. Recoiling, he tossed them aside and grabbed a new pair from the drawer.

 We can improve on this example too. What do you suggest? Want to share your ideas?

Post your examples in the comments if you would like feedback. Use this example or one of your own.

 Deep and meaningful.

The psychologists tell us that when we talk face to face with someone, we only assimilate 10% of our information from what they say. The other 90% comes from tone of speech, body language, nuances and innuendo. If you watch ‘Lie to Me’ you will see how the science of body language has enabled the characters in this show to almost read minds. To use their level of information when writing would mean each conversation could evolve into a three page essay. We need to be concise and succinct while informing our readers as much as possible.

 These examples demonstrate the importance of giving your character a chance to share what they interpret. Back to Gerald…

 “Hello Sweetie,” she said. “ I have something to tell you.”

 “Hello Sweetie.” Gerald turned at the sound of her voice. She drew herself to her full height. Arms folded, foot tapping, she glared down her nose. “I have something to tell you.”

“Hello Sweetie.” She slid across the bench and draped an arm across his shoulders. Gerald recoiled. Enveloped in a cloud of her whiskey breath, he dared not breathe lest his blood alcohol level exceeded legal limits. He leaned away but a determined squeeze warned him against ignoring her. A glance into clear, focused eyes betrayed the largess of alcohol. “I have something to tell you.” Clear, crisp words, spoken sotto voce suggested urgent need. Once uttered, her shoulders slumped, arm slithered free and she stumbled toward the door.

“Hello Sweetie.” The sound of her voice grated. Gerald turned. Her manicured hand lifted in an artificial wave. She walked across the room, a catwalk strut, designed to turn heads. Gerald braced as she ‘air kissed’ both cheeks in greeting. “I have something to tell you.” She glanced toward the full length window. Gerald followed her gaze to where her reflection preened in glorious clarity. Forgotten, he relaxed. 

 That was fun and we only just begun to delve into some of the senses Gerald interpreted from each scene. These might be a bit clunky, but we have avoided; Gerald thought, realized, saw,  or knew. Or, ‘she seemed’, or  ‘as if she’ . Although not really jumping out of the character’s POV, there are often times we can avoid using these distancing words and phrases. As always we have avoided using 'was', 'had', 'were', and those pesky 'telling' words.

 Remember; try to include all five senses as you work.
 Take a simple line of dialogue and see what you can do with how your character reacts to the words and their delivery. Post them in the comments if you are prepared to share.

Thanks for dropping in. 

This exercise was posted on the Museitup Blog back in July 2011.It's never a waste of time redoing useful exercises. 

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