I thought today an apt day to start a series with a topic terrifying to a lot of writers…
Don’t worry, because you are not alone—not by a long shot. Many writers struggle with these terms. I remember when I first started, the concept of Telling versus Showing was like a foreign language I just couldn’t grasp, and no one could really decipher it for me, either.
But these concepts don’t have to be scary or big mysteries any longer…and, in fact, I LOVE Deeper POV (Deeper Point of View) because this is essential for endearing readers to your character(s), pulling them into his or her plight, and investing them in your story so much their dinner ends up being late to the table, the laundry gets forgotten, or they stay up into the wee hours of the morning to finish your book.
Over the years, I have come to associate Telling to an impartial, omniscient third party that knows all and sees all…like a Fly on the wall simply watching the scene progress. Sitting there gives the Fly a perfect position to see everything, from the main character crying to the protagonist sneaking up behind him/her. To watch and listen to a covert conversation in a diner or in the bedroom of your heroine as she gushes about the handsome cowboy she just met or as they make love for the first time.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
Nope, sorry, there is a HUGE problem with that—the Fly is not a character in your story, not even a part of the manuscript. So don’t let this pesky insect Tell the story, either. [Disclaimer: If you are one of the 0.1% of the writing population actually creating a story about a Fly and/or its hundreds of family members then feel free to go with another omniscient subject of your choice. For the purpose of this series, however, the Fly is heading for the sticky paper😁.]
Let me repeat the important fact here, the Fly is not a character in your story—and, unless you are a Fly, it most definitely is not writing the story, either.
Write this down, type it big, make a sticky note on your computer, post it on social media—whatever will help you remember:
The Fly is NOT a character in my story, and the Fly is definitely NOT writing my story.
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the similar term used of Show Don’t Tell. Logically then, if Telling is the Fly you don’t want, then Showing is what you do want, right? So simply ask yourself, if the manuscript isn’t the Fly’s story, then whose story is it?
Your main character’s, of course. And this is why it is soooo important for your main character to Show his or her story.
Let's break it down even a little further...
A Fly just sits on the wall, watching. It simply Tells what it sees—two people talking, someone getting beat up, an argument, or a car crash. Basic action and dialogue—He did this/She said that. Yet, your main character is the one experiencing these moment. He/she has the amazing and unique ability not only to see what is going on, but to feel, think, sense, perceive, theorize, interpret, and most of all REACT internally and externally to these moments/events.
This is the essence of Deeper POV (Deeper Point of View): Showing the specific experience of your character, through your character’s interpretation and reaction.
One more time…
Deeper POV is Showing
the experience through your character.
This experience, this reaction/interpretation specifically from the main character then is Showing, which, essentially, is the same as Deeper POV.
And, since your character is the one experiencing the moment, he/she has far more details to offer the reader than a Telling Fly—sensory details, internal and external details, attitude, fears, emotions and perspective. Better yet, as each person reacts differently to an event depending on his or her life experiences, Deeper POV is unique and specific to each individual character.
For example, a woman with an abusive past will react differently to a relationship than one raised by two loving parents, or to a woman bullied for her unbecoming appearance in high school, or another raised by a single parent or an elderly grandparent, or any number of different scenarios as each person views their own upbringing differently. Or, setting down a fully cooked, whole lobster in front of one person may get a wide-eyed, drooling grin while another will wrinkle their nose at the offensive fishy odor, cringe, and back away (me!). And this is Deeper POV in a nutshell—describing the moment from your character’s specific perception/experience/sensory details/reactions…and not from an impartial Fly narrator sitting on the wall above everything. Because, remember, as the Fly is not writing the manuscript or a character in your story, then it should not have a point of view.
So, to sum up today:
Telling = what a Fly sees
Showing = what your character experiences
(being his or her Deeper POV)
But, we are not done yet!
Over the next three Writing Wednesdays, I will continue to Demystify Deeper POV by showing you how to spot that Telling Fly and give you specific tips, tricks, and examples to stop the pest from sabotaging your manuscript. Building strong, character-driven stories will not only engage your readers in the full experience but draw them in and keep them eagerly turning the pages to the very end (not to mention wanting to grab up more of your titles).
Between now and next week, take a few minutes and go over a page of your manuscript--I know it will be hard, but try to step back and read it as a reader would (not knowing anything but what is on that page), then ask yourself, “Whose story is this?” Is it an easy question to answer by just the paragraphs you read? Do you know who the main POV character is right away? Are you experiencing the moment with the character (feeling the chills, the fear, the annoyance, the heartache, the nervousness, the quickening of new love, the stinging scrape across skin or scorched hiss of a burn), or are you just being Told the basic actions and dialogue by a Fly sitting on the wall narrating what it sees?
Now, don’t panic if you’re worried it might be the darned Fly…because we are just getting started! Get your fly swatters ready, because we are going to SWAT THAT FLY right out of your manuscript!
Join me for Demystifying Deeper POV Part Two: Me, Myself, and Fly.
Also, feel free to leave a comment and spread the word to join us here for some good old fashion swatting practice!
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