Book Review: Writing Deep Point Of View - Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors (Writer's Craft Book 13) by Rayne Hall
|5 stars, 1 review|
Rayne Hallabout this book: This is book #13 in the acclaimed Writer's Craft series by Rayne Hall.
Here's an excerpt. (Please note: This is Chapter 4. The book uses British English, and alternates between male and female pronouns.)
CHAPTER 4: FILTER THROUGH CHARACTER'S INTERESTS
Hundreds of stimuli bombard us every second, and our mind filters them, sorts them and presents us with the most interesting ones. When we observe something new, our subconscious mind compares this with previous experiences, and either ignores it or flags it up as noteworthy.
Your fiction characters' minds work this way, too. To create a deep PoV experience, you need to know which observations reach his conscious mind.
Inexperienced authors apply the wrong filter—their own interests and experiences. You need to make the mental switch and apply the character's filter instead.
HOW TO FILTER
Let's say your character enters a neighbour's kitchen, and you want to describe it in a couple of sentences. In your first draft, you probably describe it the way you would experience it, showing and emphasising whatever you find noteworthy.
But your character's attention goes to different things than yours. Here are some factors to consider.
Job and Training
Because of his job, what is he accustomed to noticing?
If he's a butcher by profession, his eyes will immediately go to the block of knives, and he'll note their brand and quality.
A cleaner, however, will see the linoleum floor, the grime on the cupboard handles, the big grease stain on the run, the unwashed cups in the sink, the type of vacuum cleaner and brand of bottled bleach.
A health and safety inspector, even off-duty, will notice hazards such as the cable trailing across the floor, the grime on the cupboard handle, the positioning of the smoke alarm, the unevenly lying rug, the brand and capacity of the extractor fan, and the fact that the bleach bottle is on a low shelf next to a child's teddy bear.
A chef entering the same kitchen will see the block of knives, the type of hob, the three kinds of herb vinegar, and the bunch of bananas which need to be used today because their peels have brown spots.
If an interior designer sees the same kitchen, she'll immediately take the flaking paint on the window frame, the 1980s wallpaper pattern, and the orange-coloured crockery clashing with the pink tiles.
An estate agent can't help but notice the size and layout of the room, the peeling paint on the window frames, the modern oven, the outdated sink, the extractor fan and the smoke alarm.
They notice these details even when they're not on the job. It's so ingrained in them to see those things, they can't help it.
Here's a quick exercise. Look around the room in which you are now. What would the following people notice?
1. A secretary
2. A health and safety inspector
3. A cleaner
4. A painter and decorator
5. A florist
6. An interior designer specialising in textiles
Make a list of at least three things for each.
Our minds joyfully latch on to anything related to our favourite pastimes. What are your PoV character's hobbies? They affect what he sees.
Does he enjoy cooking? Then he'll notice the hob, the oven, the block of knives, and the collection of Asian cookery books on the shelf.
Is she passionate about gardening? She'll notice the bunch of daffodils in the vase, and the neglected spider plant on the window sill.
Is he a DIY enthusiast? He'll see how the floating shelf is attached to the wall and where a cupboard door doesn't quite fit.
A hobby artist will see the framed sketches on the wall—a townscape, a portrait and a tabby cat.
A cat lover will see the sketch of the tabby cat—and then her attention moves right to the cat feeding bowl and water dish in the corner.
Now look around the room again, this time from the perspective of these hobbyists:
1. An amateur photographer
2. A gardener
3. An animal lover
4. A DIY enthusiast
5. A computer geek
6. A needlecraft hobbyist
Childhood and Education
Past experiences create filters, too. Our upbringing and education have a big influence on what we see.
If the character grew up in a household with the motto 'Cleanliness is next to godliness' he'll notice the dirty cups in the sink, whether or not cleanliness is of importance to him now.
If she spent most her youth in Thailand, she'll see the framed sketch of the townscape and recognise it as Bangkok, and the portrait sketch to her is clearly a depiction of an elderly Thai man. She'll also observe the collection of Asian cookery books.
Did he study French at school? Then he'll see the book titles 'Recettes Asiatiques du Sud-Est' and 'La Cuisine Chinoise Pour Les Débutants'.
This technique applies to anything the PoV character experiences - not just places, situations, objects and people.
Take a scene you've written and want to revise, or one you plan to write soon. Who is the PoV character? Based on his job, training, hobbies, childhood and education, what filters might his mind apply?
preview: read a sample from this book
what to read next: if you read and liked this book...
Other books by Rayne Hall (more)
Writing Deep Point of ViewExcellent instruction that is both easy to understand and meaningful. Deep point of view makes your writing more likely to sell. It immerses the reader into your story in a way that no other point of view can. We're talking scents, sights, sounds and action. Rayne Hall gives you all the techniques and examples you need to do this. This is a must have book. Be sure to check out her other offerings. I haven't come across a dud yet. [by Laura Mccue]
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