This month my RWA chapter’s program was presented by author Robin Perini on the topic of Deep Point of View. Our members met using the Zoom online meeting app, which meant we could gather together while maintaining safe social distance. I had presented on this topic back in June 2016 (June 19 Deep Point of View https://wp.me/p4NRBj-1m), but new members along with a different teaching perspective meant more learning available to me.
Ms. Perini described what point of view is and what makes a POV deep. Technically called limited third person, it puts the reader inside the character. She experiences the story through the character’s way of thinking (including back story), physical responses, and emotions. Each scene is lived as the character lives it. The words, details, and images belong to the character’s experience. This also creates the character’s voice.
We had an interesting discussion about the meaning of first person. The term turns out to have two similar, yet different, definitions. In grammar, first person means using I or me, the single personal pronoun that refers to myself. Its sentences are based on I am or I was. First person can be past, present, or future tense. In writing point of view, first person means using I or me (the myself person) to tell the story. Same term, even the same sentences, but different usage and meaning.
I have studied point of view for a long time, but this was the first time I’d experienced this definition confusion. An author can always learn something new!
I first became aware of deep point of view many years ago. My unpublished manuscripts did OK in contests, but nobody was clamoring to buy and publish them. Time to study my favorite authors and discover what they did that I wasn’t doing.
When I was in an English class during high school, we did an exercise to understand the different writing styles of authors like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Hemingway. I can’t remember all the authors on whom we did the exercise. I did clearly remember it and decided to repeat it on my five favorite traditional Regency authors.
The examination required you to look at each sentence in a paragraph and then rewrite it for your own scene, replacing an adjective, noun, or verb with your own equivalent word. For example: Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys’ house. (Second sentence of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, after the famous opening line.) I would write: The wedding caused an uproar in the Garcias’ home. Mr. Tolstoy’s paragraph dealt with a wife who’d just discovered her husband had a mistress, while mine talks about the upheaval of an impending marriage ceremony. Two different topics, but the same sentence structure. As students, we did this for several paragraphs.
With my five selected Regency authors, I intended to closely examine the words and sentence structure of the opening scene. The exercise was intended only for learning, not publication. By the third author, I’d learned what I sought.
Although I didn’t know the term deep point of view, my study had shown me how these favorite authors told the story from the single character’s point of view. Internal thought was expressed without using a filter word such as she thought. Since the character was experiencing the story, her thoughts and physical reactions were part of the scene’s narrative. Her emotions were experienced by the reader. Emotion is what connects a reader to a character. Everyone knows what fear, anger, happiness, and love feel like. Once a reader feels with a POV character, she empathizes with that person. The author has hooked the reader.
Deep point of view is an excellent tool for a writer to wield. Thanks to Ms.Perini’s program, I learned another tip about grammar tense and writing craft. I was also reminded of how I first discovered this valuable technique.