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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Keep a Flyswatter on your desk

Okay everyone, get out your flyswatters. Nope, it's not summer (OMG not even spring with all the snow we've had recently­čść), but it is time you let your characters show their story.

One thing I see a lot of is narration coming from the point of view of something that sees all and knows all. Personally, I call this a Fly on the Wall POV—as if a fly is stationed merrily on the wall above everyone and telling the events. The problem is...the fly isn’t a character in the story.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of stories done in this type of third person narrative and some work well. The issue that I see too often, however, is a story being shown from the perspective of the main character and then the fly dropping in to have it’s say--essentially head-hopping to the Fly's POV and thus pulling the reader out of the head of the main character (and subsequently, the story).

One other main issue the FLY POV often produces is passive writing in the form of more Telling versus Showing.

Using deeper point of view, keeping in the “head” of your main character, describing things from their specific experience, perception, and viewpoint, gives the reader a chance to know them, to understand them, and most of all, to relate to them. You want a reader invested in your characters and the story so they leave the laundry, housecleaning, and any other chore behind for another time while they are riveted by your character’s journey.

Deeper POV describes the moments specifically through the main character of the scene, and therefore, anything that happens, any knowledge, anything described, can only be shown by what the main POV character actually knows, sees, hears, feels etc.

Let’s take an example:

Her cheeks flared an angry shade of red, and her hands fisted at her sides as she aimed her steamy blue gaze toward the bane of her existence.

This is Fly POV because, unless the character is looking in a mirror, she wouldn’t know the specific color her face had turned or be able to reference her own blue eyes is such a fashion. The above is a description from that of a fly on the wall looking at her, and because of this, it is Telling--telling the reader what it sees.   The other issue is that her hands are moving on their own as if without her knowledge, making that what can be called disjointed body parts.  A fly sees her hands fist, but the actual character is the one controlling the movement.  Therefore, this description also needs to be revised so as to keep it active to the main character.

Let’s revise showing the moment from the experience of the actual character--Deeper POV.

The burning in her cheeks scorched down her neck. Fisting sharp nails into her palms, she choked back a verbal slaying and narrowed her gaze toward the bane of her existence.

The above is now described through sensation and direct action of the character's perception/experience of the tense moment.  Also note that revising to Deeper POV doesn't mean adding gobs of description--the sentences are almost the same length.  Always remember, it is not about the amount of words, but the right choice of words.

Another fly example that happens often is referring to the POV character in a group:

They came to a small pathway and decided it was better for the other two to go first.

Who is the POV character in the above sentence? Exactly.  Unknown. Right there is a big red flag for passive writing and Fly Telling. The sentence also doesn’t show much about the path or tension of the scene—is it a happy, yellow brick road or a scary, dark corridor?  A rocky road of determination or a long, leisurely stroll in long grass?  If a reader can think up that many different descriptions for the scene, then you as the author have not painted the picture for them--painted the "path" you want them to follow.

A possible revision:

Jenny bit her lip as she stopped behind her friends near the dark, gravel pathway. The boys decided to go first, and she blew out a thankful breath, only to suck it back in when a cold breeze blew across her neck.

Now we know exactly whose experience we are sharing (Deeper POV), AND the picture is painted for the reader--there is something about the path making her nervous. That “something” is what makes the reader WANT to continue reading to see if she is going to be okay.

Remember, for a stronger read, swat that fly off the wall and let your characters show their story.

Up next is another Friday Special Edition of Love, Meg.  Find out where she is headed to next!

©bystacydawn.com 2018

6 comments:

  1. Very good point to keep in mind. Thanks for reminding us. POV can be a challenge.

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  2. Great reminder. It hadn't occurred to me that telling what "they" did is a pov violation. Very helpful.

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  3. Wonderful article, thank you! I love the fly analogy; it's a great visual for writers to learn from.

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  4. "Swat that fly!" I think I'll post that above my computer - love it! Thanks for the great image, and reminder.

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  5. Excellent post! I know I've been guilty of that. You just have to keep reviewing your manuscript.

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  6. Thank you all so much for popping in! I'm glad it helps or is a reminder.
    Katie--love the post it note idea--gives me a good idea for a future post! Thanks!

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