Monday, June 25, 2012

A matter of point of view

How many times have you been in a situation where something happened and everyone who witnessed the event told a slightly different version of events?

Ground zero, or the incident itself, is at a physical location. Witnesses range from nearby to further away. They also may or may not have a personal relationship with one of the individuals involved.

Both proximity and "insider knowledge" greatly affect how someone sees an event. For instance, if you observe a person running through the grocery store that knocks displays over and makes a mess of the store, you're upset with that person. But if you know his dog jumped out of the car and is dying in the parking lot, you're less likely to  paint his action in the grocery store in such a negative light.

That point of view, or how you see the world, is greatly influenced by what you know and what you see. One problem with this is that what we know may not be the entire truth. In most cases, knowing something new about a person changes our opinion of that person, shading it anywhere from less favorable to more favorable.

And let's not forget perspective. If you stand on a deserted road, the margins of the road at the horizon will converge to a vanishing point, making the road wider looking where you're standing and narrower the further away you look. The road doesn't change shape, but your point of view does.

In the same way, different characters in a book will rarely have the same perspective. The issue of what's at stake will be different for each person. Each person will have goals, dreams, agendas, flaws, and personal vendettas. That's the nature of humanity.

Pouring all of this into a character infuses life into a story. Point of view is a craft element that's more than one entity narrating the story. POV brings us into the mindset of the character on center stage. It grants us access to his/her knowledge, physical location, and personal history with the other characters in the scene.

Take the instance of two sisters. Molly has the family that Clarice wants. Molly has a handsome, successful husband who adores her. When Clarice can't obtain those things for herself, she goes after what Molly has.

Not such a nice sister, is she? But these situations happen in real life. This particular rivalry of Molly and Clarice is played out in my murder mystery, Murder in the Buff.

By making the stakes matter, readers empathize with Molly and despise Clarice for her interference. I write mysteries in first person POV, which makes Molly my only POV character, but through actions and dialogue, the perspective of the other characters come through.

This marriage-wrecking scheme of Clarice's affects more than the three people involved; it includes the whole family - from Molly and Hadley's son, to their parents and grandparents, to Molly's workplace. A ripple in the pond is more than a ripple when the stakes are high.

Point of view.
It makes us care.
It makes us want to know what happens next.
It makes us demand justice.

Maggie Toussaint
www.maggietoussaint.com

Murder in the Buff is available now.
Buy links:


27 comments:

  1. Great post, Maggie--and love the photos! Murder in the Buff is nearing the top of my TBR pile. Looking forward to the read! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Susan. I'm an image person. I understand things better if I can see them. But it's interesting to point out that what we see isn't always the way things are. It's all about our perspective...

      Delete
  2. Great post, Maggie. I especially liked your example of the road lookiing more narrow, the farther away. The eye of the beholder is not always accurate, is it? I wish you much success with this new book. Linda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Linda,
      It's amazing how often we believe things because we have seen it happen before our eyes. Most of the time we have good reason to believe. Other times, our perspective is skewed and gives us a false impression. In Murder in the Buff, Molly and Clarice have vastly different perspectives and boy does that cause trouble. Thanks for the visit!

      Delete
  3. Great post. I so agree that POV makes the reader care. We see and feel through that person.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Helen,

      I'm so happy to have you visit Mudpies. I decided to write this post because of a contest I'm judging. Many of the entries have significant POV errors. I think many people take this craft element for granted.

      Please, come again!

      Delete
  4. Point of view, perspective, can be used very effectively in all types of fiction. I agree with you, Maggie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Jacquie,
      I'm delighted to have you stop by for a visit. You always have such good things to say. Point of view is a writing element that often gets superficial treatment. New authors will be well served to study this in depth.

      Delete
  5. Excellent post on POV. Looking forward to reading Murder in the Buff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Joanne,
      Thanks for your kind words, and I hope you enjoy Murder in the Buff. Molly and Hadley are certainly in for a rough ride in the story. Please let me know what you think of the book.

      Delete
  6. Hi Maggie, I really admire authors who can write in first POV. I find it extremely difficult. Of course different people will give you diffrent answers for the same question. Some hear better, some see better, and some may be easier to scare or reach. I experience this when we talk politics in a group. I get so many opinions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so brave to talk politics in a group, Mona. I always picture a scene of being thrown to the lions when politics come up.

      First person POV feels natural for me now. I've written enough mysteries that it flows and helps me feel as if I'm walking around in the storyscape.

      When I get in trouble is when I'm editing a mystery (first person POV) and one of my romantic suspense novels (I write those in third person POV). I have to really edit closely when I'm switching back and forth.

      Thanks for your visit!

      Delete
  7. Nice post, Maggie. I agree that POV is important, and that people see things differently. Witnesses often give different accounts of a crime, depending on their backgrounds and on what kinds of things they notice. People tend to fill in parts they missed, based on what their experience tells them must have happened. There is an old movie about this subject, and it turns out that no one really saw the most vital piece of evidence--that the wife, not the husband on trial, was driving the car!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucinda,
      That movie you cited is the perfect illustration of this. We all fill in the gaps of what we saw. Happens every time.
      Thank you for visiting. I hope you'll stop in again.

      Delete
  8. Great post, Maggie. The deeper we sink into the POV of our characters, the better we get to know them and more importantly, the better a reader gets to know them. It helps us to see why their goals are so important. It really shines a light on motivation.

    DebraStJohn

    ReplyDelete
  9. Interesting post. I write in third person and thus am able to bring in the point of view of more than one character. I'm more comfortable with that than first person, although I have written a short story in first person and enjoyed writing that, too.

    The only place I'm comfortable talking politics, Mona, is with my siblings and family, but then we all have the same viewpoint so nobody leaves upset with anyone else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Gloria,

      Whether you write in first or third person, the key is to feel comfortable in doing it. That confidence shines through the writing.

      Like you, Gloria, I tend to shy away from politics. But to each his/her own!

      Thanks for stopping in!

      Delete
  10. Very interesting. Great points Maggie. Your book sounds good too. I love a good mystery. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Calisa,

      Thanks for your kind words. I'm so happy to have you visit the blog. Please come again.

      Delete
  11. Great post about POV. I think you did a great job letting the other characters feelings and emotions come across in Murder in the Buff. Molly was a great character and I could really connect with her. You're great with 1st person.

    Smiles
    Steph

    ReplyDelete
  12. Good post! POV - a struggle for me sometimes. Murder in the Bluff sounds like it will go on my TBR list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi PL,

      POV can be complex to understand. My elementary understanding of POV got me launched in writing, but it was only through digging deeper into POV that I was able to share on the screen and page exactly how my POV characters were moving and thinking in their world.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  13. This is a terrific post, Maggie. People often don't realize that POV is so much more than who has that scene or who is telling the story. Those nuances you outlined are so important.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey MaryAnn,

      Nuances is such a good word to describe POV. Some people get that POV is a camera lens, but they don't know how to operate the lens to best effect.

      Not that I'm perfect at it by any means. I'm still learning and experimenting with things with every book I write. I'd love to have a solid handle on all writing elements at the same time, but my brain would probably explode.

      I'm so glad you stopped in, Maryann.

      Delete
  14. I've never written in first person, mainly because I always have more than one storyline and need other POVs to carry them through. So for me first person is restrictive, but I admire those who do it well and avoid the "I" syndrome. One of the best things about first is you have less chance of head hopping. You're in one head, that's it.

    Great post, Maggie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the visit, Polly. I enjoy writing in both 1st and 3rd person POV. I like the restrictions and freedoms of both styles, and varying them between books certainly keeps writing fresh and interesting for me.

      Catch you later!

      Delete

Thank you for visiting Mudpies.