Thursday, April 15, 2010

Creating Point of View by DL Larson

If it's spring, then it's writing contest time. I've spent several hours in my gardens cleaning things up, but just as much time judging a writers mystery contest. At this point I don't know which is more rewarding. Both have exhausted me in a good way.

I wish writing was as easy as removing dead leaves so new life could shoot up. The common link, I believe, is digging deep. The entries I read in the mystery contest have all held my interest - but character development has been the stumbling block to make the stories feel real. I discovered a common thread - the reluctance or lack of getting to know the characters the writer has created.

When a character is created the writer has to ask tough questions to turn said character into a three dimentional person. Basic elements of age, sex, looks are easy to decide, and background and goals need to be decided as well. But the reader needs more to become involved with a story. Personality flaws and strengths help the reader relate to the character; this is the glue readers need to become invested in the story.

The writer then has to take another step. The step is to stop thinking and start feeling as the character would. Intimate insight from a character is the golden egg every writer searches for. Sharing the characters thoughts brings the reader right into the scene, seeing the action through the characters perspective and point of view. To react as a real person would, to travel the emotional stream of chaos that clogs each persons thoughts makes for great reading. If the writer doesn't feel the emotions of his/her characters, the reader won't feel them either.

If the character doesn't smell the greasy burgers when he walks into the cafe, the reader won't smell a thing. If the character doesn't feel the silkiness of a baby's cheek, the reader won't become involved in the sentiment of such an action. If the character isn't woken by birds chirping out his window, the reader can't relate to the scene. If the character doesn't taste the burnt gravy, the reader won't sympathize with such brave behavior.

Character development is more than skin color, height and job status. It's personality development. I stop thinking of my characters as make-believe. I refer to them by their names. Joe and Annie have marital problems that only true love will mend; Wade is an alien, but Tracy adores him anyway despite the fact he's forgotten who she is; Ruf wants Hattie but doesn't want to admit it to himself or anyone else. He'd be horse-whipped if he touched her, she's only fifteen. My characters are real people; I gave them life; I don't intend on letting them move about as if they were puppets. They're real. They share their darkest and most private thoughts, they react as you or I might in any given situation.

Point of View is about giving each character life. Don't be like Dr. Frankenstein and create a character that can only lumber around stiff legged and not think for itself. A writer is a creator, and the purpose of writing is to connect with others. Using point of view is a great way to accomplish such a task.

Til next time ~

DL Larson


KK Brees said...

True! True! Sitting down to write is one task, but learning as much as possible about the characters comes before. It's such fun to "become" your character and see the world through those eyes.

Morgan Mandel said...

DL, you're absolutely right. It's not always as easy as it seems, mainly because when I become a character I take everything for granted. I need to be inside and outside the character at the same time to make it work.

Morgan Mandel

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Great post, so many authors have trouble with this.


Terry Odell said...

Poorly handled POV can diminish a read, even if the reader is unaware why they're not enjoying the book. It's one of my favorite topics, perhaps because it was my first real writing lesson.