Monday, February 22, 2010

Enhance Your POV

In the latest edition of Writer's Digest, Alicia Rasley (whose workshop I once had the pleasure of attending a few years ago) has a wonderful article on how you can use your characters' perception to enhance your POV.

Alicia says, "In order to create an authentic narrative voice, begin by asking yourself some key questions about your POV character: How does this person perceive the world? How does she come to understand her environment? What does she choose to notice and to ignore, and why? What does she want to do with what she learns?"

The way your character takes in and uses information is key to enhancing their POV. For example, if they are a visual person instead of an auditory person, then they will pick up on things they see much more than on things they hear. Their dominant senses will help you to narrate their scenes. Alicia's example for a visual person is, "She was so intent on that garbage truck backing up that she missed what Judy said." Someone who is tactile, or uses the sense of touch, might tend to use this trait in their narrative more. For example: "Betty grabbed the door-knob. The brass was cool and smooth under her hand, and it wouldn't turn."

Alicia warns, however, that a little can go a long way and instead to use "a few focused sensory references" to "convey how this character takes in the world around her."

But you can also use other modes of perception besides the senses. Alicia says, "There's also temperament (optimist/pessimist, emotional/rational) and personality style (problem solver, logician, competitor, etc.)."

Think about that for a moment. How does your character's temperment affect how he views the world? A great deal, I should think. An optimist will look at a particular situation differently than a pessimist. By showing this in your POV, you can greatly improve the reader's impression of your character.

But be careful not to imbue your views of the world, your temperment, and your dominant senses into your characters. This will require you to stretch a bit and dig deeper into your characters. Instead of using visual cues all the time since you yourself might be dominant in this area, choose instead to look at the scene differently, as your character would.

It's a fascinating exercise and one that can really add to your characters, not to mention the overall scope of your novel.

For more, check out Alicia's book, The Power of Point of View. She also has a great blog on editing at editorrent!


  1. Great points! I've heard of editorrent, but I haven't checked it out yet. I think I will!

  2. What great advice! Thanks for sharing!

  3. It's one of the things I love about writing. Training ourselves to use different senses, different viewpoints, in our characters opens up the world differently for us as writers. It has a way of expanding our worlds.

  4. It's such an excellent issue! There are a few things I hope to share in the next week or two, as well.

    Thanks, Melissa!

  5. This is especially true in writing 1st person POV, since every word in the narrative is coming directly from the character. It's like an immersion experience in someone else's mind!

    The protagonist in my current WIP is an artist, and it's been fun filtering the fictional world through her eyes. I'm finding that color is HUGE.

    Thanks for sharing this, Melissa!

  6. Great stuff. far too many writers downplay the importance of POV.

  7. I follow edittorrent! Great post, Melissa!

  8. There's so much to creating an authentic character, isn't there?
    This is great advice!


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