Wednesday, May 2, 2018
P...O...V... by J. S. Marlo
J. S. Marlo BWL Author Page
Way back when I was writing free stories for fun, someone mentioned POV and told me I would need to start paying attention to it if I ever decided to become a real author. To be honest, I didn’t think I would ever become a real author—whatever real meant—but most importantly, I had no idea what POV stood for. Prepositions Or Verbs? Pickles Or Veggies? I had to ask what POV meant. The answer was Point Of View, which didn’t enlighten me at all. For my defense, I write in my second language, but when I tried to translate the answer in French, it didn’t help. So, I begged for the lengthy explanation-for-dummies.
For each scene I write, I was told I needed to step into my hero’s or heroine’s body/mind. I could only see what my heroine saw, so unless she was an alien with eyes behind her head, I couldn’t see the guy behind her clenching or unclenching his fists or ogling her. I could only hear what she heard, so unless she was the Bionic Woman (it was a TV show back when I was many many years younger), she couldn’t hear the other side of a phone conversation someone else was having...then again the man at the other end of the line with the woman beside me at the drug store two days ago was so loud, I overheard everything he said, and I wish I hadn’t. I could only taste what she ate, so I couldn’t say the dish of the guy at the other end of the table was too salty, though if he spitted it out or grimaced, I could venture he didn’t like it for some reason. Obviously my other characters could touch objects my heroine could see, but unless she also touched it, I couldn’t say the guy felt it was rough, or soft, or clammy, unless he said so. I could only smell something she smelled, and I could only write down her inner thoughts...unless she was a psychic who could read other’s people mind.
It made sense and that sounded easy until I started paying attention to it. If my heroine walked into a room in the dark, a room in which she had never been, I couldn’t describe the room, until she bumped her toes on something and patted the object to figure out what it was. I couldn’t say someone was hiding in the closet with a knife until that someone jumped on her and stabbed her, which meant if I wanted that detail known, I had to write another scene before that one in which the killer stepped into that room and hid in the closet. I couldn't say if my hero liked the kiss if I was in my Heroine’s POV, but I couldn't tell if she enjoyed it if I was in my hero’s POV, though I do tend to write most of my love scenes in my heroine’s POV. In other words, I was forced to think before I wrote, which I ended up finding fascinating.
Before I start writing a scene, I need to determine whose character’s body/mind I’m stepping into. More than once I’ve written the same scene twice, once from one character’s POV and the other from a different character’s POV, then read both aloud to determine which one made greater impact. Two of my novels feature deaf heroines, so it was interesting writing in their POVs. Noises couldn’t startle them. They couldn’t hear snowmobiles, or steps, or voices, or birds singing in the trees, or explosions, but they could feel vibrations. I usually write around 45% in my heroine’s POV, 45% in my hero’s POV, and the last 10% through other character’s POVs. I write romantic suspense, so I like to step into my antagonist’s mind and/or some secondary character’s mind a few times through the story.
When it comes to POV, it seems different publishers have different requirements. Some have very strict rules, like 60% heroine/40% hero/0% other character, while others are more flexible. I’m lucky my publishers are flexible.
As a reader, or a writer, or both, how do you feel about POVs? Do you like stepping into the mind of the antagonist a few times? Or a secondary character? Or do you prefer staying into the heroine’s or hero’s mind the entire story?
Let me know, I’m curious.
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