Our guest blogger today is Sherri Wilson Johnson, writer and freelance editor.
Whenever you experience something, you experience it from your point of view. Two people may experience the same event, whether joyous or traumatic, and have two different points of view. The only way someone can know your point of view is for you to express yourself in either words or actions. People cannot read your mind. When you share, you share your point of view and people may agree or disagree with it. Either way, it’s still your point of view.
In a novel, characters each have a point of view (POV) but may not be able to express themselves openly because of their particular circumstances. You, the writer, allow the reader into the character’s mind, even if he can’t express himself outwardly.
When you write a scene in a novel, it consists of one or more characters. If there’s only one character, the scene is in that character’s POV. Your reader won’t be able to know, see, hear, smell, touch or taste anything that isn’t from that character’s POV. If your scene has two or more characters, you’ll choose which character’s POV the scene is in and write from that POV only.
If the hero walks into a room, what’s the heroine thinking about him? What kind of reaction does his presence provoke in her? If someone trips when they walk into a room and the POV character is forbidden to laugh, what’s she thinking about the situation? These are the things that you’ll write about in the scene.
What you won’t write about is what’s going on in another character’s head. What’s the hero thinking about the heroine? What reaction has her presence provoked in him? How does the person who tripped feel? Those thoughts and emotions will be saved for a scene in which he is the POV character. Whatever you learn about another character within that scene is learned by the POV character’s interpretation only. If you don’t stick with one character’s POV, this is called “head-hopping”.
And then there’s Deep POV. This is when you reach deep into the POV character’s head. Avoid words like: saw, hoped, wished, looked, watched, realized, etc. These are telling words and not showing words and they take you out of the character’s thoughts.
Instead of saying: “She wondered what it would be like to go on a date with Tom.”
Say: “What would it be like to go on a date with Tom, the man who stole her breath every time he walked into the room?”
Instead of saying: “She watched him walk across the room.”
Say: “He walked across the room and her heart dropped to the floor.”
This tells you exactly what she’s seeing, thinking and feeling in one short sentence.
When you say: ‘She wished she would graduate from college’, you remove the reader from the character’s head.
Just say: Would she ever graduate from college?
That puts the reader in the POV character’s head and that is deep POV.
POV needs to be established with each new scene. Make sure you don’t write anything that your POV character is not feeling, thinking or experiencing in some way. Save that for the next scene and the next character.