Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What do my characters know?

One thing Michy's been trying to drum into my naturally blonde head is that you want to describe the scene through your character's eyes. Experience it as they do, feel it like they do. I didn't quite have a handle on this until today.

We were having a discussion on the Accentuate Writers Forum about POV, and when the author is allowed to intrude. Michy mentioned how in third person limited, you need to show the scene through your character.

Melanie made the following post, and at first I thought she had a really good point:

'...I still don't understand why it is wrong to write something like:

"The candle flickered and shards of light flashed across the hall. John shivered, his pulse pounding in his ears. Something scratched and shifted at the end of the hall."

when the whole story is from the POV of the character. Instead of...

"John saw the candle flicker and cast shards of light across the hall. He shivered, his pulse pounding in his ears. He heard something scratch and shift at the end of the hall."

I think that just sounds awful.'

She's right. The second way DID sound awful, and what was wrong with the first way, anyway? Looked pretty good to me, but then I remembered Michy's endless comments about "let's experience this through Leslie's eyes..." etc, etc. How can we experience this through John's eyes? I played around with it for a while, and this is what I came up with:

"The candle flickered and shards of light flashed across the hall, creating shadows that played tricks on John's eyes. He shivered, and through the pulse pounding in his ears he thought he heard something scratching and shifting at the end of the hall."

Once I did this and compared it to the original, I could see the difference. Melanie's sounded good, but (sorry, Melanie) now I realize that it seems a little disjointed...some scary stuff is happening, and also John seems to be worked up about something. In my rewrite, John is experiencing and reacting to the things that are going on in the hall. Hopefully, this speaks more to the reader and draws them in on an emotional level.

What a lightbulb moment that was for me to finally understand! When Michy said, "You've got it!" I just about did a back flip. She can be taught!

1 comment:

Michelle L. Devon said...

(chuckle) you've learned a lot, because you didn't let ego get in your way and actually took the time to make your writing the best it can be.

I think the making of a good writer is someone who can tell a story... and isn't so attached to their work that they can't see the writing part of it improved. The story is most important, and the writer is essential for that, but being able to step back from your work and let someone else help you perfect - that takes someone special.

Lots of great writers will never make it, because they can't set ego aside. You've learned the most important lesson of writing!

(now if I could just set my own ego aside and heed my own advice, huh? I hate the editing process on my own stuff!)

Love and stuff,