For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about POV at The Write Nook, but in case you are just joining us, I thought I’d better start out with the absolute most basic thing you need to know. POV in the writing world stands for Point of View. I tell you this because I’m an army wife, and the army has an acronym for everything including POV. It stands for Personally Operated Vehicle…in other words, your car. When I first started writing, I didn’t understand all the writing acronyms but was familiar with the army ones, so you can imagine my confusion when Kim wrote “POV violation” in one of my stories. I couldn’t figure out how my car had violated my writing.
I tell you that as an illustration of one way you can make writing Point of View real. If your hero is a military man, he’s going to think and speak in military terms. He’ll use 0700 and 1900 to designate 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. He’ll think of his work clothes as ACU’s (every day uniforms) or ASU’s (dress uniform). And he will attack every problem head on, consulting with specialists who will be able to help him in areas where he lacks expertise. Most soldiers aren’t dreamers; they are hands-on, here and now kind of people.
Contrast that with an artist who spends much of his time painting ideas inside his head before he ever put brush to canvas. He’ll think and speak in aesthetic terms. He won’t care about specific times of day as much as how the light will affect the scenery, so he’ll think of morning as “dawn” and evening as “dusk” or “full dark.” He’ll think of his clothes in terms of what they’re used for—a painting shirt and work jeans. When he’s presented with a problem, he’ll withdraw and try to work out a solution on his own. He is a “what if” person who doesn’t necessarily see the world as it is but as it could be.
Now let’s give each of these men the same problem: they’ve been arrested for trespassing on private property.
The military man is going to gather facts. He’ll go back to the scene of the crime and look for “No Trespassing” signs. He’ll talk with trusted friends and maybe even a lawyer. He’ll weigh the evidence against him and determine his best course of action prior to a trial. If he concludes he bears some blame, it’s very likely he will settle out of court.
Our artist will practice passionate arguments inside his own mind. He’ll reason that, even if he was somewhat to blame, he didn’t really hurt anyone so this entire case against him will be dismissed because the judge will see the intentions of his heart. He’ll resist settling out of court and act as his own lawyer, certain he can persuade others to see the matter as he does.
For the fun of it, think about what would happen if our artist trespassed on the military man’s property.
Making a POV real comes down to immersing yourself inside a character, constantly keeping in mind his motivation and describing the things he sees and feels in terms which are consistent with his personality, experience, and/or occupation. When Kim and Kayla wrote No Safe Haven, Kayla wrote a character with HSAN, a medical condition Kayla herself has. Medical doctors read the story just to hear her descriptions of how HSAN affects someone.
Writers can’t always write themselves as Kayla did, but you can always tap into some part of you and then extrapolate. In Darcie’s Spin, she writes Kisrie as the awkward, unpopular high school girl as well as her nemesis, Wendy, the queen of the popular crowd. Darcie does a great job of immersing you in each girl’s world even though they seem to be polar opposites. In The Promise Bride which I co-wrote with Gina Welborn, I wrote all the male POV’s. The hero, Mac, shared my same personality type (more on that in a moment), but I had to make sure I didn’t get to flowery in my descriptions or use long sentences.
In his book Plot vs. Character, Jeff Gerke suggests writers thoroughly study the Myers-Briggs personality types. According to Myers-Briggs, people are Introverts or Extroverts, iNtuitive or Sensory, Thinking or Feeling, and Perceiving or Judging. The four possibilities combine to create sixteen personality types. I’m an INFJ. Recently, I was trying to write an ESTP and simply couldn’t get a handle on my character. Fortunately, that’s Gina’s personality type, so she edited like crazy until this character came alive. There are a number of books on these personality types—some scholarly and some more “user friendly”—so find one that makes sense to you and keep studying until you have a firm grasp on the various types.
The goal is to make imaginary people real. I’ve heard some author’s describe their process of character development as “method writing.” In other words, the author immerses herself inside the character the way a method actor becomes the person they are portraying. Brandilyn Collins’s Getting Into Character takes you through this process by using acting lessons from the great method actor Stanislavsky and translating them into lessons for writers.
To achieve a POV that feels real to readers, always remember what your character wants, his personality type, and how his experiences and/or occupation shape his vocabulary.
With pen to paper,