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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday Tip: POV

Point of view is more than just whether you use third person or first.  Authors - rightly so - spend loads of time agonizing over which POV to use in their manuscripts.  While first person is more intimate, third person gives you more freedom because you can describe things/events your MC might not otherwise know.  But once you've made that important decision, there's still more about point of view to consider as you're writing.
Point of view is also about describing the world from the unique perspective of your characters.  For example, how a child sees an oak tree likely will be very different from how an old man sees it.  (This, in fact, is a writing exercise given at SCBWI - Miami by Jen Rofe.)  Try this sometime.  While the child might think a knot in the trunk looks like a wrinkly elephant knee, the only man might see an arthritic joint.

Author Kathleen Duey advises to incorporate description through point of view.  But remember, you can only describe what your MC knows (or doesn't know) about the world.  For example, in Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty, she wouldn't even need to start the first chapter with the date and place.  It's all evident from the word choice and descriptions.
"Please tell me that's not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening."

I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra. A surprisingly pink tongue slithers in and out of a cruel mouth while an Indian man whose eyes are the blue of blindness inclines his head toward my mother and explains in Hindi that cobras make very good eating.

Mother reaches out a white-gloved finger to stroke the snake's back. "What do you think, Gemma? Now that you're sixteen, will you be dining on cobra?"

The slithery thing makes me shudder. "I think not, thank you."

So did you guess the date and place?  1895, Bombay, India.  The date is obvious not only from the clues like "white-gloved hand" but also from the language.  Gemma doesn't say "gross" or "disgusting."  She responds in a centuries-gone clip.

Jill Santopolo said at that same SCBWI conference, "every word should world build and give context." Take a look back at some of your favorite novels.  How do the authors infuse their worlds with context just through word choice?  Who do you think does this best?

8 comments:

cannonwrites said...

Great post, Jessie. Thanks for the tips! My MSS is in third person, and it switches POV between two characters: one in 2008 and 1944. I definitely have to keep context in mind!

salarsenッ said...

OMGosh Jessie, I just bought that book. ";-)

Jessie said...

Liz - glad you liked the post. Sounds like your book is the perfect place to really utilize context and make it work for you.

Sheri - let me know how you like the book. I actually have only read the intro pages and want to read the whole thing, but just haven't gotten to it yet. Jill Santopolo referred to it in her talk, that's how I knew it had such great contextual clues in the writing.

Liz said...

Saw you stopped by on the hop and wanted to come visit. Great blog, I"m your newest follower!

Jessie said...

thanks, Liz. Welcome!

Ezmirelda said...

Great post! I'm always debating whether to use 1st or 3rd. I usually choose based on whether the story is following just the main character or many characters.

cannonwrites said...

Hey, Jessie! We linked to your post in our YA Know entry for today. :)

Lisa

Jessie said...

Very cool Lisa! Thanks!

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