This blog has nothing to do with this gorgeous looking book cover, which happens to be my July 2012 release. I just wanted to get your attention!
This week I am preparing a workshop on Point of View with two other author friends for the June meeting of my local RWA chapter – LARA. It reminded me about the blog I wrote for the Seekerville blog way back in February. I decided to share it here for those who may have missed it.
Speaking of blogging, this week I have the privilege to blog at the brand spanking new Special Edition Authors’ blog Tuesday, May 8th. I’ll be talking about the lure of the family in the SE books. On Friday, May 11th I will be spolighted at the Harlequin Junkie’s blog. I’m giving a book away at both blogs, so I hope you’ll stop by!
Now – on to Point of View
Nailing POV is one of the toughest things I had to do as a writer, and I still occasionally get called out by my critique partner for messing up. The concept of a character being the “eyes” of the story is monumentally important. One false move and your reader will be thrown out of the story.
The tell-tale signs of Not Quite There Yet POV (from now on will be referred to as NQTY POV) are subtle, but once the reader is on to the error it bugs the heck out of them. I see this most frequently as a contest judge, but I’ve also seen it in published books. Evidently it isn’t a big deal to some editors, or it’s so subtle it slips under the radar.
Everything is going great and then…
The POV character commits the sin of self-description.
There you have it, my pet peeve, and a true breech of POV. The authors, in their eagerness to get their character on paper, have the wrong person describe their physical characteristics.
- How many of us glance at our lap while eating lunch and think of our strong thighs? (Well, maybe someone who has spent years at a gym developing those muscles, and someone who might be a bit in love with themselves.)
- When we run our hand over our hair do we think what color it is or that it’s silky? (Perhaps if you just paid big bucks for a Brazilian blowout)
- Have you ever buttoned your blouse and thought what a great rack you have? (Katy Perry might, or someone who just had breast augmentation, but I’m talking about regular folks. Us!)
Admittedly Bad Example:
Example #1: Calista stomped across the room in her pink pumps, furious at Giorgio. How could he be so inconsiderate? Gathering her nerve to chew him out, she ran her hands over her curly red hair then spun around and nailed him with her cornflower blue eyes.
Do you see what I’m saying? It doesn’t have to be this obvious, but little slip ups here and there are enough to make for a bumpy reading road. The last thing we want to do is make our books hard to read, right?
When I read stories in contests that have sections like the above example, I suggest to the author that they wait and let the love interest describe the character. A description means more coming from the opposing character. They see things about the other person that the character themselves might not notice or value. Letting the love interest or antagonist physically describe the protagonist brings a whole new dimension to the story.
Let’s fix the above example in Calista’s POV.
Calista stomped across the room, furious at Giorgio. How could he be so inconsiderate? Gathering her nerve to chew him out, she ran her hands over her hair, then spun around and nailed him with a don’t-mess-with-me stare.
Now let’s give Giorgio a shot:
Calista stomped across the room almost losing her cute little pink pumps. Did she have a clue how much she drove him mad when she was angry? Giorgio knew she was furious with him, he’d let her down again, but if she’d give him a chance to explain…
She ran her hands over her shining red locks, taunting him. The gesture stole his complete attention. In the middle of imagining running his fingers through those curls, she spun around nailing him with an intense stare. How was he supposed to take those baby blue eyes seriously?
Example #2: Rebecca rubbed her neck, tense with the day’s problems. Her black pencil skirt cut into her waist, and her pinstriped blouse strangled her torso. Who was she trying to fool dressing like a professional? She was nothing more than a member of the secretarial pool, and hadn’t convinced Jake Rutherford otherwise at today’s meeting. In fact, since she’d boldly opened her mouth and made a suggestion, he probably didn’t respect her anymore than he did her position in the company. She pulled at the bobby pins in her luxurious wavy brown hair and let it fall to her shoulders. It helped relieve her headache. Somehow she’d make him understand she was more than a secretary. She had plans and dreams, and she’d show him he wasn’t the only person in the company with a vision.
This example isn’t quite so obvious, but let’s clean it up a bit:
Rebecca rubbed her neck, tense with the day’s problems. Her clothing felt too tight. What was she trying to prove dressing like a stylish business woman? That wasn’t who she was; she was a hard worker, a proud member of the secretarial pool, the department that documented all of Jake Rutherford’s business. He probably didn’t respect her anymore now since she’d opened her mouth and blurted her suggestion, than he did her position in the company.
She pulled at the bobby pins in her hair and let it fall to her shoulders. It helped relieve her headache. Somehow she’d make him understand she was more than a secretary. She had plans and dreams, and she’d show him he wasn’t the only person in the company with a vision.
I hope I’ve helped someone somewhere have a lights-on moment regarding NQTY POV. Now repeat after me – I won’t let any of my characters describe themselves…I won’t let my characters describe themselves.
Until next week, make it a great one!