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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Look Who's Talking

When authors talk about Point of View (usually abbreviated as POV), we mean whose head are we in as we write the scene. Are we seeing things unfold from the heroine's perspective? The hero's? A secondary character? Writers hear all kinds of rules about POV, too. The most popular is write the scene from the POV of the character who has the most at stake.

That's not how I choose whose head to be in when I write a scene because I don't always know which character has the most at stake when I start a scene, and let's face it, not all scenes have something at stake. At least not in the way that I interpret that.

So how do I decide which POV to write?

There are a few factors that can be quantified. Balance is a big one. If the two previous scenes are in the heroine's POV, I'm going to lean toward doing the next in the hero's head. If he cooperates. And considering the trouble my characters cause me all the time, it's not a sure thing that he will.

The other factor I consider is the need for secrecy. :-) Some information needs to be kept away from the reader even after one of the characters knows it. In that case, if I have a scene that's going to be skirting close to what I don't want revealed, I'll write in the other character's point of view.

Sometimes I just go on instinct.

But the biggest consideration for me is which character is talking the scene in my head.

I hear my characters--their dialogue, their inner thoughts--and if I'm hearing my heroine run through a scene for me, I'm most likely to write it in her POV.

This doesn't always work. In the story I'm working on now, I started the second scene of the third chapter in my hero's head because I was seeing the later part of it through his eyes and because it would be more difficult technically to write the scene in my heroine's POV.

The scene started out fine and then sputtered to a halt last Friday. I spent Saturday not getting anything accomplished, and the instant I turned out the lights and got into bed that night, I knew the problem was because I was in the wrong POV. I had to write the scene from my heroine's perspective. I restarted the scene on Sunday and was tearing up the pages fast and furious all day and on Monday during my lunch hour at the Evil Day Job (EDJ), too. And then Monday evening I was stuck.

At first, I thought it was because I couldn't remember where I was going with what I wrote hours earlier. I left off mid-scene, but not necessarily a good stopping point. I didn't have much choice since the EDJ expects me to be back at my desk when lunch is over. I spent last night trying to figure out what I thought I was going to do and came up with no answers. I finally cut the last little bit I wrote with the intention of starting over today, saved the file, and went to bed.

And as soon as I turned out the light and got under the blankets, I realized I needed to switch to my hero's POV. I even immediately knew the place where I needed to transition from her head to his.

Why didn't I get this information hours earlier when I could have done something with it? Sigh.

But with this new epiphany, I cut what I had, rewrote it from my hero's POV and finished the chapter. Yea!