COME ON IN THE WATER IS FINE
I took the above shot of a mule deer doe just down from my house
So what is on my mind today?
POV, or point of view for those of you who are not writers.
We make a lot of choices when it comes to our writing. Most of us have multiple ideas in our heads, but we must choose that one idea to run with. Then we must pick where to set the story. Where to begin -- where to end, because as writers we no far more than the slice of story that make sit onto the page. Or at least we should.
I'll bet anything that Janet Evanovich can tell you plenty of things about Stephanie Plum's childhood that has never been mentioned in her novels. Or that Harper Lee knows what Scout grew up to become. (Lord knows she's had plenty of time to think about it, but that is another post for another day)
But of all those choices. POV is the most important. Through whose eyes, is your reader going to look? Imagine Evanovich's novels if Lulu were the POV character. Or Ranger. Totally different books. And would To Kill A Mockingbird be a classic if Boo Radley had been Ms. Lee's vehicle to describe the town. or Scout's father? No, that story worked so well because we looked at racism through the filtered view of a child.
Imagine this is the backdrop for a scene in one of your stories. You have four different potential POV characters. A young boy of eight, an elderly woman in her sixties, her man in his mid thirties, and a girl in her early twenties.
Let's hit the surface stuff first. The young boy will think it's neat as will the man in his thirties though his excitment will be a bit more subdued. The older woman may feel nostalgic if she knew the building had any dealings there and the young girl might just be indifferent.
But let's up the ante. This building used to be a department store(true story). Let's say the elderly met her husband there back in the early sixties while working in men's fashion. If she were the POV of this scene it would feel sad, nostalgic. Unless, her hubby went on to cheat and divorce her for a girl twenty years his junior. So then when this elderly woman went in to the coffee store nearby she was rude and belligerent to the young girl behind the counter because of her jilted memories the sight of the old building stirred.
Let's change and say we are in the young girl's POV. There she is minding her own business at work when some old lady comes in and starts griping at her for no reason. Deciding she's had enough the girl quits on the spot and walks out. She pays little attention to the building being torn down nearby until she notices the film of dust on her brand new car. Cursing the construction crew she races out of the parking lot mad and distracted because she's just quit her job and now she won't be able to make her car payment. What she need is some tunes, so she reaches for a CD in the passenger floorboard.
Cut to the young boy. He's standing just off the curb. His mouth is open as he watches the big ball swing into the steel and concrete. His smiles increases with each puff of dust as pieces of the building rain down. He never sees the car swerve toward him.
Jump over to the the man in his thirties. He's waiting for the bed of his dumptruck to be filled so he can drive off and dispose of the rubble. Occasionally he glances in his rearview mirror to gage progress but the novelty of demolition has long since worn off . Unlike the young boy he sees over near the sidewalk. The man watches the boy for a few seconds but his real focus is on his vacation which starts in six hours. Man is he itching to sit down at the poker tables. This time when he boards the plane to fly home from Vegas he's going to have money left in his pocket. All those hours of watching Texas Hold'em on TV will be worth it. Maybe that will get his wife off his ass. He could take out the garbage anytime, but learning the ins and outs of poker, that will pay dividends once he got to Vegas.
In a novel you could use these each of these to build upon the other and to increase suspense. The trick would be to order them in a way that builds reader interst and to choose which character needs to reveal which pertinent facts.
But what if you are writing a short story and you can only use one POV to tell the story of how the boy happened to get run over?
The elderly lady is still in the coffee shop smugly drinking her latte after chasing the young girl away. She doesn't even know the boy has ben hit and the boy's POV really wouldn't add anything but the facts to the story. That leaves the man and the young girl, but again the man adds nothing except maybe his daydreams, and unless the boy getting ran over somehow ruins his vacation there's not much story there. So in this case the best POV would be the girl and through the use of dialogue and character interaction we could reveal nearly every bit of the facts I stated above. Maybe the reader will not know the exact motivation behind the older woman's belligerance but done the right way they will have an idea, and the guy in the dumptruck's daydreams could be brought out. Maybe he and the girl talk at the hospital or something.
My point is that in choosing the right POV the author can fully show the complete story. But sometimes you don't want the reader to know everything. In that case choose the POV that only knows what you are willing to let the reader in on.
Artful use of POV will make your story come alive, add the needed suspense, and engange your reader so think about the view you want to give your reader. It just might be the most important factor in fiction.
Thoughts on the subject?