This week's blog will feature my guest cj petterson. "cj petterson" is the pen name of Marilyn A. Johnston. She also writes under her own name as well as her maiden name of Marilyn Olsein. Marilyn loves to stretch her alter-ego writing skills and writes in multiple genres, from haiku and free verse to non-fiction and fiction to short stories and novels. You can find a list of her books here. You can also visit her blog, Lyrical Pens, which is both informative and entertaining. If you like what she has to say, visit her Facebook page or leave a comment below letting her know.
cj Sez: I try to write as much into deep point of view as I can. I’m not always successful, and it always takes a few edit cycles to reach the results I’m looking for.
Deep point of view is intense. It encompasses sights, sounds, and actions, filtered through a point of view character but goes deeper into her/his emotions, actions, and reactions. In deep point of view, the author disappears into the background, and the character owns the page.
Following are a couple of the tips I picked up a few years ago from a blog and adopted into my writing: (The examples are from my work in progress which, of course, will be honed even further.)
1. Make as many of your dialogue tags disappear as possible.
Dialogue tags do clarify a speaker, but they also remind readers that they are reading a story. In deep point of view, tags are often replaced by action, body language, voice description, emotion. How the words are said and the actions behind the words reveal a lot about a character’s emotional state of mind.
Distant point of view: “That’s not something I care to share,” she said.
The reader can’t understand what the character means. Is she naturally a private person? Or maybe she’s just being a bit belligerent.
Deeper: “That’s not something I care to share,” she said, wadding her napkin into a ball.
Her action in the example above gives a clue that what she doesn’t want to share upsets her. The “she said” reminds readers that they’re reading a novel, and it’s also redundant. (If dialog is in the same paragraph as the character’s action, then the action character is also the speaker.) In this sentence, I would have to eliminate the action to make it correct. But I want to give the character some emotional action to develop the persona more fully. So, let’s go deeper still.
Deeper still: “That’s not something I care to share.” She wadded a napkin into as tight a ball as she could get it then started picking it apart with her fingernails, shredding the paper into a pile of confetti.
The character’s body language adds a deeper point of view. The character’s emotional state of mind is revealed…without telling.
2. Make your thought words/sense words disappear
Thought words/sense words are telling words. They put an author on the page and again remind readers they are reading a novel. They are contrary to the “real life experience” of deep point of view.
How often do you personally think, I’m thinking about tomorrow’s party? Or I’m wondering if … whatever?
You don’t. And if you’re writing in deep point of view, your characters don’t either. Oh, they’ll think, wonder, and see, hear, and feel; but they won’t add the filter words. They’ll just do it.
Distant: She felt his hands around her throat and wondered if she was going to die.
The reader doesn’t feel what the character feels. The author has told the reader what the character thinks/feels.
Deep: She tore at the fingers squeezing her throat. This is it. I’m going to die.
(No thinking. No wondering. Just showing what’s happening and pulling in the reader.)
And from my short story “Bad Day at Round Rock” in The Posse anthology:
Deeper: “We ain’t got no guns,” he said, his voice made tinny with fear.
“I heard tell that Swede and Shorty got into a fistfight over that girl that works for Doc.”
Deeper: “I heard tell Swede about knocked Shorty ta hell and back because he bothered that girl that works for Doc.”
By seven a.m., when she stood on tiptoe to twist the key in the wall clock to wind it,
I don’t tell the reader that the character is short, her action does.
She set the plate on the desk with a clunk and whipped off the towel. “Take your look-see.”
The character’s actions reveal her state of mind…anger.
Our views of the world are the result of our own experiences and expectations. These are the same things that make up your characters’ backstories. Ergo: Know your characters so intimately that you automatically know how they will react in every situation
As always, there are many reasons to break the rules. As you study deep point of view from different perspectives, you’ll discover the tips and tricks—use what works for you and your story.
Remember, you’re in charge…you are the captain of your story.
Coming in mid-February 2017—“Bad Day at Round Rock” a short story in The Posse, a Western anthology of tales of action, romance, myth and truth.
#MTW2017, #blogtour, #mysterythrillerweek, #mystery, #thriller, #novel