Monday, August 12, 2013

Don't Tell Me Anything!

by James Duckett

When telling a story, there is one thing to always keep in mind: you aren't the one telling the story, your point of view (POV) character is. Why does this matter? Because I want to know the story from his or her eyes, not yours.

Letting the POV tell the story allows me to really get to know who your POV is. For instance, if I were to walk in a hotel elevator, I might take notice of the advertisement they have for the food they serve in the lobby/dining room. Why? Because I eat too much. That tells you something about me... but the story isn't about me.

If the story is about an anorexic girl, those advertisements might be the last things she'd notice. She'd probably notice the people in the elevator glancing her direction. She knows what they are doing... judging her, mentally calling her fat, and wondering how somebody could lose control and weight more than 85 pounds. She might feel claustrophobic in the elevator, causing her to think she is taking too much space and she needs to lose more weight. She might even remember the closet she was thrown in to by the bullies three years prior as they taunted her with words like, "Fatty" and "Melinda More Mass." Sure, she's lost 30 pounds since then and grown five inches, but she still has so much more to lose before she will feel accepted by her peers.

If she did notice the food advertisement, it would be in a negative connotation. *I* would describe the steak they as juicy looking, covered in seasoning, and with just the right amount of pink in the middle. *She* would look at it and wonder how she could ever eat so much food, or how it might hurt her throat when she throws up something so thick, or she might be disgusted with the look of food anyway.

I'm sure you are an interesting person, but the story you're writing isn't about you--unless you are writing a memoir then, never mind, full steam ahead, Captain! Otherwise, please kindly butt out of the story and let your character tell us what is going on.

3 comments:

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great post, James. Yes, we have to bear this in mind because that mental state and experiences of the POV will totally color what get's attention. It's so easy to forget that.

J. A. Bennett said...

I agree with this. Your character is going to notice different things from you. However, I have to beg to differ with your anorexic example. An anorexic would notice the food flyer and feel all kinds of guilt about it. Whereas, you'd just want to know what's on the menu, she would be debating about calories and how much she's worked out and so forth. Great post!

James Duckett said...

Good point, Jen. If I were writing an anorexic character, I would need to research these types of things. :)