My POV

In working through my Sapphire line edits, I’ve learned something new about myself.

I know – who’da thunk it?

And yes, the line edits have been dead easy. I’m sending them off today. I don’t know why I was so worked up on Tuesday about it – thanks to all of you who said supportive things.

At any rate, one of the things my editor, Deb Nemeth, picked out was phrasing that kept the reader out of deep point-of-view (POV). The reader, instead of feeling like the reader she is looking through the character’s eyes, feeling what they feel, can get yanked out by these filter words and phrases. So an example would be “she saw the cat prancing through the cactus” instead of “the cat pranced through the cactus.” The second takes out that step of observation.

It’s been pointed out to me before that I do this. As an essayist, this writing style is no problem. Actually, it lends itself, because the art of the personal essay largely relies on being able to take that step back and observe your own life. But for fiction-writing, especially genre fiction, which is all about sweeping the reader up in the whirl of a new world, you don’t want to do this.

I’m learning.

Deb is an excellent editor and quite deft at pointing out where I create this objective distance. What I’m discovering is why it’s been hard for me to lose this kind of lens.

It’s because that’s how I see my own life.

Ever since I can recall, I’ve kind of narrated my own experiences. My first memory, back when I was in diapers, watching my parents drive away with all the abandonment grief that goes with it (they, um, were going to a movie), was also accompanied by a sense that, hey, here I am in a body and isn’t this interesting? There’s always been that part of me that steps back and observes objectively. Yes, I sometimes refer to myself in the first person. Sometimes I give my remarks dialogue tags. All in fun, but I might IM to a friend “bitch!” and then “and I mean that in the nicest way possible, she added hastily.”

Thus, for my characters to step back and observe, to have “she said to herself” absolutely reflects how I see the world.

It’s good for me to understand this. On the Meyers-Briggs personality test, I come out as an INTJ (introvert-intuitive-thinker-judger). One way they describe INTJs is:

… many INTJs do not readily grasp the social rituals; for instance, they tend to have little patience and less understanding of such things as small talk and flirtation (which most types consider half the fun of a relationship). To complicate matters, INTJs are usually extremely private people, and can often be naturally impassive as well, which makes them easy to misread and misunderstand.

All very interesting to me – and helpful in understanding why I behave in relationships the way I do. But it never occurred to me to examine how that influences how I *write* also.

In the end, it’s just another acquired skill in the craft of writing. It’s easy to say “that’s just how I write” or “that’s my voice” or “that’s how I see the world.” But, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish in a story, you may have to alter those things, to maximize the effect for the reader.

Which is, after all, the point of it all.

11 Replies to “My POV”

  1. I do the same thing… She saw, watched, observed.. etc…

    Like adverbs, I'm now merrily slaying them.

    It's now a post it note reminder on my desk:
    "Stop SEEING and just DO."

  2. ~cue POV police sirens~

    Love it when you open an IM conversation with swearing. It promises to be an entertaining chat. Too bad that stunt doesn't work as a great opening for a book. ~le sigh~

  3. I'm always on my students about that — we want to live the story from within the characters, not hear them tell us about it.

  4. Great post, Jeffe. I belong to the same club–narrating constantly. My critique partners are forever carping about "show don't tell" blah blah.I recently read a very helpful blog on same.
    Basically the author suggested thinking in terms of "Observe and report" –be present.Ideally that would put you in the character's head.
    Works for me anyway.
    Doncha just love this *craft* stuff.

  5. I love that sticky note, Patty! We must be soul sisters, forever sitting back and observing…

    You know, KAK, I do open a lot of IM convos with you by swearing. hmmm….

    That's a great way to put it, Devon!

    Always a learning process, it's true – thanks, Jeanne!

  6. Yay! A fellow INTJ! Alas, INTJs aren't thick on the ground. But I always enjoy my fellow masterminds!

  7. So glad your experience with Deb is being helpful and growth inducing. : ) I have a narrator in the back of my head too. When I was a kid – before the idea of reality TV – I used to pretend that I was being watched all the time by some invisible audience, the inner voice narrating all the while.(We will never, ever tell any of my mental health counselor friends about this)

  8. Sometimes it takes an outside eye to see the things about our writing we've become blind to. Thank goodness for good editors. 🙂

  9. Yay, Laura! I think we are the rarest combo. Lovely that we found each other – but no wonder we click so well!

    Oh yeah, Kerry, I was always with the invisible audience. Um, still am, often.

    Amen, Sister Linda!

  10. I have to watch that same habit, Jeffe. But, like you, I tend to see my life from the outside as well.

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