Thursday, September 18, 2014

Deep POV: A quick explanation for Rhoda



POV

1st person-I, I, I
2nd’ person-you, you, you
3rd person, he/she/they

3rd person omniscient is hard, because you can switch between characters in a scene. The person telling the story is God, and can see or feel everything every character does, plus has knowledge of stuff they don’t. It’s tricky, though.
3rd person limited. This is your bread and butter. Usually God-like dumps of data are forbidden, instead opting for a movie-camera like approach to focus in on one character at a time. If you do move to a different character in the same scene, you have to transition. IE, you can’t just jump from one character to another’s head. You have to do it slowly, smoothly. This is what DFW busted me for, which is why I practiced so much.

Now, the levels of POV, or the difference between regular POV and deep POV, is just how deep are you into the person’s head.

"He looked out the window. The clown, dressed in vibrant blue and red face-paint, looked back across the narrow stretch of lawn. He noticed the clown’s hands, curled and twisted talons, long claws that could slash a boy’s throat or tear out his innards. The toothy smile wasn’t warm and inviting, but terrifying with a bone-white intensity he’d seen only in the skeleton of long-dead things. He felt his stomach clench in terror and he resisted the urge to urinate, because what looked back across the lawn wasn’t a thing of childhood wonder and amusement. It was a thing of death and despair, and the clothes and makeup were only a disguise."

Now, that’s one way to do it, but there’s a certain amount of depth into the POV character’s head. Take this line.

"He felt his stomach clench in terror and he resisted the urge to urinate, because what looked back across the lawn wasn’t a thing of childhood wonder and amusement."

"He felt his stomach clench in terror" isn’t deep POV. Deep POV would be something like, "His stomach clenched in terror." It’s deeper into the narrator’s head. Redoing the line would be something like this.

"His stomach clenched in terror and he almost pissed himself. That…thing…looking back across the lawn wasn’t a thing of childhood wonder and amusement."

See how “because what looked back across the lawn” is kind of detached, but  “That…thing…looking back across the lawn” is deeper, more in tune with the panic a boy would feel?

Now, redo the whole paragraph.

"He looked out the window. The clown, dressed in vibrant blue and red face-paint, looked back across the narrow stretch of lawn. The clown’s hands were curled and twisted talons, long claws that could slash his throat or tear out his innards. The toothy smile was a terrifying white, like he’d seen in the skeleton of long-dead things. His stomach clenched in terror and he almost pissed himself. That…thing…looking back across the lawn wasn’t a thing of wonder and amusement. It was a thing of death and despair, and the clothes and makeup were its disguise."

So, when I revised it, I also took out the “He noticed the clown’s hands” and changed it the just “The clown’s hands” because since it’s HIS POV, of course HE noticed it. He implies a certain psychic distance, just “The clown’s hands” implies you’re getting his thoughts straight from his head. Instead of "a boy’s throat" it’s "HIS throat." I also took out the part about "warm and inviting" because it sounds kinda pretentious, but a terrifying white and the reference to skeletons and dead things should invoke some dread. In fact, it may be too much, but for a first pass, I’d leave it in. Then, the part about his stomach clenching in terror is almost redundant. Of course it’s terror, what other emotions causes a stomach to clench? I'm leaving it in there for a first pass. It can always come out later.

See how I’m tightening up the level of POV, making it deeper, more inside the head of the boy?

Whether it makes it better or not is debatable. Henry James would love the original, and I love me some Henry James. Or, O. Henry. Or, Faulkner. Nowadays, deeper POV is considered more exciting, more dynamic, and pulls the reader in. But, having said that, it’s entirely subjective. Sometimes you don’t want a deep POV.