Part One: Don’t Panic
Part Two: Me, Myself, and Fly
Part Three: Bodies, Eyes, and Flies—oh my!
For this last part to the series, we are going to talk about REACTION.
Reactions are one of the most important areas where Deeper POV (Deeper Point of View) is concerned, yet the one missed more often than not.
EVERYONE has a reaction to whatever is happening to them in the moment, whether a perception/thought—Hey, that’s cool/That guy is a jerk—or an emotion—anger, embarrassment, love—or a physical reaction—pain when burned, full chest when feeling loved and appreciated, cold chills when freaked out, tight jaw when holding back a verbal reprimand, etc. Each and every person has a reaction from the smallest thing to the biggest event…and, most important, every person’s life experience determines said reaction.
This is a big separation between Fly Telling and Showing the experience through your main character using Deeper POV.
Let's look at a physical reaction first. Once again, Dane will be our main character for example purposes.
Dane McCord squinted one eye open as the dust billowed up from where he’d landed flat on his back in the dirt.
A whinny of the chestnut mare that had just thrown him mixed with feminine laughter growing nearer.
He blinked both eyes open to find Kathleen leaning over him. Kathleen’s blue eyes sized him up from his Stetson-bare head to his cowboy boots. She smiled, and Dane smiled back. Dane wanted to roll the beautiful cowgirl in the dust with him.
I don't know about you, but seems to me getting thrown off a horse would hurt, plain and simple. But there is nothing in the above example that lends to a physical or sensory perception of the actual experience of falling off a horse.
Swatted Version: (Character Experience)
Squinting one eye open, Dane McCord winced and held back a groan as the dust billowed up from where he’d landed flat on his back in the dirt. Painful, short breaths only enabled him to get enough air into his lungs to ensure he wouldn’t pass out.
The gleeful whinny of the wild chestnut mare that’d just thrown him mingled with raucous feminine laughter growing nearer in a shadowed form against the glaring noon-day sun.
He blinked both eyes open to a waterfall of raven hair leaning over him. Kathleen’s twinkling blue gaze sized him up from his Stetson-bare head to his prone cowboy boots. A small lift of rose-red lips caused instant heat to seize his gut—if he wasn’t still straining to replace the air into his knocked lungs, he’d have rolled the beautiful cowgirl in the dust with him.
He stood and brushed the dust from his butt, and his hand felt the ring in his pocket.
Again, after landing on your back in the dirt, surely standing would have consequences to your body, too.
Muscles groaning their complaints far beyond his thirty-two years, Dane heaved himself to a standing position. The scrapes on his arm stung as he brushed the dust off his backside in a ruse to make sure the ring was still in his pocket.
Swatting the Fly by layering in Deeper POV from Dane’s specific experience of the moment Shows the reaction of falling off a horse and lets the reader feel his discomfort at the same time.
And that is what you want…to make the reader experience the moment with your character. This connection is what endears him or her to the reader, grows empathy, and gets them invested in the character's life so they want to keep turning the pages instead of turning off the light to go to sleep.
Now, let's try an emotional/internal sensory reaction:
A wide grin spread over his face as he thought he could give her the horse as a wedding gift.
Kathleen got closer to the horse. Dane was nervous. He didn’t want her to get hurt.
He tried not to worry and focused on Kathleen.
Why is he nervous? There is no actual validation given for Dane being worried--the Fly is simply Telling the reader that he is.
Hmm, maybe I’ll give her Flamin’ Jane as a wedding present.
Grinning at his brilliant idea, he watched Kathleen, one of her slender hands extended as she approached the wild chestnut mare. The cool breeze brought to him her gentle words, soothing the agitated beast…and gripping his heart.
What if she gets hurt? The words snuck into his mind, and his spine stiffened. He’d never worried about her with a horse before, why now? Folding his knuckles in a tight fist, he forced back the disturbed thoughts.
Both sensory and physical action are used to mirror his concerned thoughts, filling out the tension of the moment, drawing the reader directly into his concern. Notice how validation for his worry isn't simply Told to the reader but rather woven into the moment through his short, yet specific, visual descriptions of the "wild chestnut mare" and "agitated beast."
(Did anyone also notice how this Swatted Version layers in other forms of Deeper POV we have discussed over the course of this series?😁)
Simply revising in a few specific descriptive sentences quickly changes the scene from Fly Telling to Showing the main character’s experience.
Each and every person—each and every character—is unique, so it is important that A) you make sure your character has a mental and/or physical reaction when they should, whether to a minor moment like someone touching their arm to a major moment like getting tossed off a horse, and B) the reaction is in character for him or her. For instance, a vain woman all about high fashion and perfecting her look wouldn’t have the same reaction to a smear of dirt on her cheek as a country girl working on a farm.
Now, remember last week we talked about how the Telling Fly buzzes into a manuscript when a voice or tone is described BEFORE the main character hears the words spoken? The same thing goes when a reaction is described BEFORE the event actually happens to the main character or something is described that he or she can't see/know in that moment.
Jake stood in the barn doorway behind them. “Well, you sure did good there, Miss Kathleen.”
Dane turned to see his foreman and grinned.
This is Fly POV because...how can Dane describe what is behind him when his focus is in front of him?
“Well, you sure did good there, Miss Kathleen.”
At old Jake’s rusty voice, Dane turned and grinned at the ranch foreman leaning against the barn door frame.
As a side note, this also goes for introduction of new characters (and refers a bit back to Part Two). If someone the main character has never met walks into the room, then he or she cannot describe this newcomer by name until introductions have been made, whether formerly or by a secondary character giving him or her the information. The main character can have a perception/reaction to the person—the cranky old man or the snobby debutante—but it would be Fly Telling to use an actual name the main character has no knowledge of with respect to that person.
Another big Fly POV buzz ringer is a page or more of dialogue with minimal to no actions and no reactions by the main character to what is being said.
“Okay?” Kathleen asked.
“Do you mean it?”
“Yes already. Go on, give ‘er a try,” he said.
"Don’t look at me like that. I mean it—I ride her, you give me your word you’ll marry me.”
“You have my word.”
“Not the way a lady wants a proposal, but sometimes we gotta take the bull by the horns to get through a man’s stubborn head.”
Not only is the image promoted as just two people standing face to face, hands at their sides, staring at each other and speaking, but Fly Telling is prominent because there is no reference of how the main character is perceiving the conversation, reacting to it. In fact, there is no sense of a main character in that example at all. Let’s face it, everybody has a point of view on almost any topic of conversation. That especially goes for your main point of view character. Simply dotting in a bit of his or her specific interpretation and a mirrored action here and there as the conversation progresses layers in Deeper POV to the whole scene.
“Okay?” She eyed him warily.
He nodded and held a hand out toward the horse. “Go on, give ‘er a try.”
“Don’t be giving me that cocky brow, McCord. I mean it—I ride her, you give me your word you’ll marry me.”
He put his hand to his chest, over the heart she’d owned since the first moment he saw her. “You have my word.”
Her cute little chin snapped in a sharp nod. “Not the way a lady wants a proposal, but sometimes we gotta take the bull by the horns to get through a man’s stubborn head.”
One last note on the topic of reaction, as there is a specific type of scene unrelated to these characters but happens so often I feel it needs to be mentioned--the car crash. I see the most Fly Telling and lack of physical reaction in these scenes. Often is it simply Told to the reader that the character saw blood on their hands from a head wound or crawled out of a broken window. And that's it. Ummmmm, would a cut bleeding that much not hurt like the dickens? If crawling out over broken glass, wouldn’t the pieces slice or sting or poke through your jean-clad knees, not to mention muscles protesting from being banged around so suddenly? SO MUCH awesome potential for physical/sensory reaction is often ignored for the Telling Fly when only an added sentence or two could really make the reader experience each shard of glass on their bare hands as well.
The main trick for understanding Deeper POV is to simply put yourself in the place of your main character. Wait a minute—let me clarify…I mean doing so at your desk or wherever you write, NOT actually being your character and say, staking out a dark back alley, jumping out of a moving vehicle, taking down terrorists, or going up to a handsome man and kissing him senseless, LOL. Just in your head, please. Simply ask yourself some important questions related to the moment, such as what would it feel like to fall off a horse or watch the love of your life risk hers by getting on the same wild horse that just threw you? What would you experience if you crawled out of a window with shards of glass sticking out and splayed on the ground all around? What would be the internal/external sensory, physical, or mental reaction of your character to the moment on your computer page in front of you?
This is the most important part of perspective, because a good, character-driven story isn’t about what you as the author or the pesky Fly sees and Tells, it is about what your character experiences in that moment, and at every turn, and Showing that in order to make the reader experience the same thing at the same time. Remember…
Be the character, not the Fly.
Well, that about rounds out this initial series on Demystifying Deeper POV.
To sum up, the essence of Deeper POV is swatting out the Telling Fly in order to Show the experience of your character, through your character’s specific perception and reaction.
One more time…
Deeper POV is simply Showing the experience of your character
through his or her specific perception and reaction.
through his or her specific perception and reaction.
And, as I’ve mentioned briefly before, remember that Deeper POV doesn’t mean adding gobs of internal detail and emotional descriptives—sometimes just a well-placed sentence or phrase, very specific to the reaction or moment, is often all that is needed.
Thank you so much for joining me over the last four weeks. Writing is a learning curve for new and/or established authors, and finding what works for you is important. I can only hope you were able to take away some tips and ideas to try out with the goal of strengthening your manuscript. Feel free to let me know what you thought of the series in the comments or by email at bystacydawn @ gmail . com (no spaces).
Be sure to join me next Wednesday for Demystifying Deeper POV: Behind the Series as I share a bit about how this actually came about plus some fun stuff it entailed along the way...such as, have you ever written a story backwards?
For those curious about Dane and Kathleen, their full short story will be a bonus addition to the ebook version of this series I plan to work on in the new year, adding even more explanations and examples. Until then, I will be adding links to the sidebar soon so the series can be easily referenced again by you or anyone you may want to recommend pop over for some swatting practice.
All content ©bystacydawn
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