Friday, September 17, 2010

POV Issues

During the editing process for Bring On The Night I had to clean up a lot of point of view problems. Basically I was head-hopping like a meth-addled bunny rabbit. At least, that's what I felt like during edits. It led to a lot of thoughts of "why did they even offer a contract for this story, it's so terrible" and "OMG I have no idea what I'm doing!" As I worked through the edits I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong - I don't mean the end result of head-hopping, I mean what mistakes in my writing process was leading to that - and what could I do to change.

My biggest problem was a general ignorance of point of view. Beyond the basic definitions of first, second, and third, I had no idea what POV was really all about. There's a lot more going on than just your choice of pronouns. I learned from the edits but I also did some internet searching. One of the most useful links I came across was a series of posts on deep POV by Jordan McCollum. You can read the series on her blog or download the free PDF. The most important takeaway from this or any other article on deep POV is this: you have to restrict yourself to a single character in each scene. And you have to realize that character's not walking around with a mirror in front of them all day.

Think of it this way: instead of method acting, you must become a method writer, and put yourself inside a character's head in order to write deep point of view. In Bring On The Night the main character is Jessie, a vampire. This week I wrote a fifteen hundred word short about one of her earliest days as a vampire and how she got the name Jessamine. It's one scene basically, in third person all from her point of view. In writing it I put myself in her head, discovering her thoughts and feelings. What she was experiencing via her senses - her hunger for and reaction to blood was especially important, being a new vampire.

What I can't do is write as if there's a mirror in front of her all the time. She doesn't know what she looks like during all this. It's also very important to stay away from other character's thoughts and perceptions. Actions and dialogue, of course, but what they're thinking and feeling? No. Save that for a scene change, then you can switch your point of view to another character.

So have I been successful in improving my deep POV writing? Well, I think so, but I won't know for sure until I submit another story in third person deep POV. My release slated for next year, Mojo Queen, is in first person. I don't want to write everything in first person, though, and I hated that I had such a problem with head-hopping. I'll keep practicing and hopefully the next time I submit a story in third person there won't be any editing comments about head-hopping. That meth-addled bunny will have been to rehab and had a full recovery.


Melissa Walker said...

Great advice, Sonya! One thing I find awesome about vampires is their vanity. Even in their own POV, they can wonder what someone else is seeing in them, especially humans. Comes in handy when you need a character description and that character doesn't have a mirror handy, heh!

Nerine Dorman said...


Erm, ja... You were kinda hopping around but the reason I wanted to work on Bring on the Night in the first place was because I could see that beyond the head-hopping there's a brilliant author jus' a-waitin' to be shined up.

And you've exceeded my expectations with Mojo Queen.


**warm fuzzies**

But my advice for authors struggling with head-hopping: Pretend you ARE the character. You only know as much as your senses tell you. Resist the temptation of telling the readers EVERYTHING. Much as the modernist architects were onto something with the Bauhaus movement, same goes for writing: LESS IS MORE.

Don't tell everything but show your world through your characters. One at a bloody time.

Unless your name is Terry Pratchett and you write the meanest, leanest third-person omnisicent point of view.

Anonymous said...

Nerine, you've left me speechless. All I can say is - thank you. I can't wait until Mojo Queen is released!

But you know I had to write in third person again. I. Will. Not. Be. Defeated! By my own lame head-hopping. ;-)