"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, May 5, 2014

POV: Messing up and getting it right

Today's Lit Central OC article on Point of View: What is Third? got me thinking. When I write my humor column, I write in First Person Point of View, because the story is about what happened to me. So far, my novels have been written in Third Person POV, using "he, she, they," etc. I may someday write that First Person novel, but not today.

One thing I am vigilant about is head hopping. This is when the writer is showing you events through one character's eyes, then suddenly leaps into a different character's head and heart. Many times, this is subtle. Here is an example:

* * * * *

“I found this in my tack room.”

The sight of her coffee mug reminded Willie of her visit to the wrong stall and her encounter with Fermino. She fought the tears back as she reached for it, embarrassed to let Tyler see her raw emotions, but her voice was breathy. “Thank you.”

“Are you okay?”

Willie lowered her head. She was not going to have any kind of heart-to-heart with this man. “Yes,” she whispered, then sighed. Get a grip, Wilhelmina. “I’m so sorry about poking your horse this morning. She’s a good girl.”

Tyler shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. You got spooked.”

“Yeah, well, thank you.” She held up the mug.

“You a big ‘Full Tilt’ fan?”

“Not really.” She caressed the mug, staring at the logo, focusing hard to keep her feelings in check. “This was my husband’s,” she blurted. “He’s been gone three years now…pancreatic cancer.”

Willie had no idea why those words tumbled out, but she felt powerless to stop them.

“Now I’m sorry.” He looked away, embarrassed.

* * * * *

Did you catch it?

We've been in Willie's head for most of the conversation. Now, Tyler looks away, embarrassed. How does she know he's embarrassed? Maybe he's sad or angry or IDK, got a gas bubble.

Naturally, I deleted that sentence.

When I wrote MURDER ON THE HOOF, I was hyper-vigilant to the temptation of hopping from one head to the other. The book does have a few POV changes, but I was determined to keep each chapter in the same noggin.

The problem was, I went a little overboard. I began describing everything happening through someone's eyes. Willie observed things. She saw stuff. People seemed to be doing x and y. I was staying in her head, but I was pushing the reader away.

As one of my beta readers said, "Dear God, this is so passive!"

Good thing I'm a fast learner. I quickly reworked my story so that things actually happened and people actually did them. The book became stronger.

The result is a book I'm proud to be releasing, in ebook on May 21, and in paperback on May 24. Stay tuned - there will be shouting and confetti and prizes!


JennyRedbug said...

Or something like: "Tyler glanced away, looking embarrassed" could work. But it is stronger without it. There shoukd be a rule about how many pocs to have, too...I'm. Working on a ms now where I have been in 5 people's heads. Too many for me.

JennyRedbug said...

Povs, I mean.

Gayle Carline said...

Wow, 5 POVs. I suppose if it's a huge book (I'm thinking sci-fi or fantasy, over 100k) and each character gets their own chapter, I could get used to it. Not saying I'd love it. I like to save my POVs for main characters. Five is more of an ensemble.

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