Runére’s Point of View on POV
By Jeff Salter
It’s my delight to welcome Runére McLain to the Hound’s Thursday column as my Guest Fox for May. I won’t repeat any of the info in her bio blurb, but let me tell you how she and I first ‘met.’
I was the guest blogger at Southern Sizzle Romance and my hostess (who shall remain nameless, since she bugged out on me — ha) had promised to hang around most of the day to ‘hold my hand.’ Well, that Saturday came and my absent hostess left me an e-mail saying, basically: “Oops, I forgot, I’ve got an all day meeting … see ‘ya.”
So, I festered that it would be a loooonnnggg day with no interaction because nobody else on the blog knew me and none of the regular visitors would give a crap about some guy drifting in. Imagine my surprise to have Runére McLain come to my rescue! She touched base with me all day long and kept me in stitches. That girl is a major HOOT.
You can imagine my further surprise to learn Runére lives near some of my old stomping ground along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Anyway, without further ado (whatever that is), HEERRREEE’s Runére!
Point of View . . . It’s All How You See It
By Runére McLain
Point of view has caused more author/editor/contest judge conflict than a grandchild and I looking down at the same shards of broken lamp on the living room floor. Where I’m formulating a forceful safety lecture, you can bet he’s composing a passionate defense based on how he was not running. Just walking ‘kinda fast’.
POV is critical as to who is telling what.
Layering from multiple perspectives
Some believe POV is simply the story told in first-person or third-person. Or that a single character is all you should ever use to tell a story. But the layering found in a story told by multiple characters adds tactile and emotional depth, carries much more insight, and lets the truth poke out at odd – but memorable – angles.
Example: Grandchild comes in dripping wet from head to toe. If you write his version: he fell in the pond. But if you allow other voices to chime in you learn they were floating on the pond. What do you mean in the horse’s water trough? WHO found red spray paint and wrote SS Titanic on the side? What splinters? What boards for oars? The original voice pipes up, aggrieved so much more detail was provided than he was comfortable with, and you finally learn the truth. He was tossed out to swim to the iceberg! It’s still all about the original character, but which do you think would make a more interesting read? (For those concerned about the horse; I made them put the trough back and refill it.)
Think of writing as conversation
A more adult way of explaining the same thing is to think of your writing as you would conversation. A good one has exchange, balance and flow. While a principal character’s voice is essential, switching between characters is okay. Just give them a paragraph or two between changes. (Unless they’re conversing, then dialogue tags make distinction between them easy.)
The way different characters experience the same incident strengthens your story. Use a motor vehicle accident for example. A crash occurs, a car starts to smolder with a woman trapped inside. The woman’s character provides necessary immediacy to involve the reader. She sees and feels the shattered glass, chokes on smoke, suffers the threat of flames so much more intensely – and personally – than bystanders.
Yet one of those bystanders is in emotional throes of his own. When he bolts forward, focused solely on how to grab hold of the door and move the damn thing, your reader experiences a moment of moral self-definition with him as fear is overcome by concern for his fellow man. Two characters can mesh, providing tactile and emotional depth as well as cohesion in your story. Just don’t jumble them indeterminately in the same paragraph; that’s head-hopping.
Linear vs. non-linear
POV is also a linear or non-linear story line.
Linear is chronological, things in natural order. As in waiting for screams. A 12 year old grandson just went out the door armed with a flyswatter and a can of Hotshot Hornet Spray. You know it can’t end well.
Non-linear is this grandchild’s father reminiscing with child’s uncle, and you learn years after the fact all those steel pellets you had to dig out of backsides while they were growing up was because they took turns being the ‘deer’ as the others practiced shooting a moving target with their BB guns.
Your personal narrative voice
So I guess the truth, beyond the basics, is there’s really no concrete definition for POV. It’s a combination of many things, plus a very special unknown ingredient. That ingredient? Your unique combination of all the above. It’s what makes you distinct as a writer and results in your personal narrative voice.
Thanks for letting me visit with the foxes and that rascally hound. I enjoyed it!
Runére-Land (as Jeff calls it) is its own little ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ island. If you ever get bored you’re welcome to visit.
Runére McLain, a paranormal romance author living and loving in south Mississippi, spends her time indulging her love of writing and torments her children by siding with the grandkids on everything. A florist, musician, shrimper, oil field vessel captain, and casino worker (from dealer to pit bull – oops! – pit boss), she incorporates experiences from every field to share with her readers. Runére has published non-fiction and articles, and has a fiction anthology entry coming out later this year. To find out what she’s up to visit her at www.RunereMcLain.com, where ghosts whisper and wolves howl. Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain.