Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The more I learn, the less I know...

I'm taking an online course through From the Heart Romance Writers on deep pov (Point of View). Point of view--three words that are driving me crazy. 'Course, as my son, Mike, used to say--bless his smart-allecky heart--"Mom, if I'm driving you crazy, relax. It'll be a short ride." How I allowed that kid to live to see manhood, I haven't a clue.

Personally I'd prefer writing in the omniscient POV, where I can tell you what everyone is thinking. I could describe how angry Tammy becomes when Tom tells her that, yes, that dress does make her hips look big. I could show you how clueless Tom is as he wonders why she'd ask a question if she didn't want to hear the answer. Then jerk you into Tillie's head, a neighbor overhearing the exchange, who thinks Tammy and Tom are both idiots.

But, alas, this is not how we write romance. We only show you the pov of the heroine and hero of the story. And what is pov exactly? It is what the character can see, hear, smell, taste, think and touch. As writers we seek to draw the reader into the mind of the character. We want our readers to feel what the character feels, think what the character is thinking. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Then why am I struggling with it like a woman trying to tuck a size-twenty butt into a size-two pair of spandex pants?

Okay, I understand the part about roadblocks to drawing the reader in. By using phrases like "she heard", "she felt", or "she thought," I am distancing the reader from my character. For example, if I'm writing about Dora arguing with her husband 
over where they will go on vacation and I'm writing it from her viewpoint, I could write something like this:

Why couldn't she make him understand that sleeping in a tent with a pointy rock stabbing her in the back was no way to relax? Dora thought of spiders getting into her sleeping bag. She knew she'd hear strange noises in the night that would scare her. She wanted satin sheets and room service.

Now, notice the improvement when I remove those roadblocks. We know we are in Dora's head because that's how the chapter has been written.

Why couldn't she make him understand that sleeping in a tent with a pointy rock stabbing her in the back was no way to relax? Spiders would crawl into her sleeping bag. Strange noises in the darkness of the night would scare her. Now, satin sheets and room service, that was the way to go.

Can you see the difference? Feel the difference?

I also think I understand how to include historical elements into the character's pov. Let's look at a scene I might write for a western historical:

Annie Mae rode her horse to the top of the next rise and stopped. She heard her horse nicker, saw him nod his head as if he recognized home. She stood in the saddle to get a better view and heard the creaking of leather. She felt tears gather in her eyes. In the little valley below she saw her parents' ranch and wondered how they would react at her arrival.

Now with changes, we have -- Anna Mae rode her horse to the top of the next rise and stopped. Her horse nickered and nodded as if he recognized home. Leather creaked when she stood in the saddle to get a better view. Her eyes filled with tears. In the little valley below sat her parents' ranch. How would they react when they saw her?

Now Carrie, our instructor, is telling us that pov's differ between a man and a woman. That men and women deliver information differently. Men use less adjectives. They describe less. Well, yes, I've noticed that in real life, but this is my story I'm writing. How can I get the information across if I don't have my male character see, hear, smell, taste and feel things in a descriptive manner? Someone, anyone, tell me!

Carrie says men don't speak in complete sentences. She hasn't lived with my husband, the retired English teacher, who still uses "I shall" instead of I will. The first time he answered me with "I shan't," he stopped me dead in my tracks. But then Calvin is exceptional on so many levels.

So according to Carrie, my female character would think her husband looks delicious in his pale blue, button-down oxford shirt. The husband merely thinks he's wearing a blue shirt. Okay, I get that. Men don't live by details the way we women do.

My mind goes back to a remark one of the men in Hillcity Writers made about my male character reacting to the female's floral perfume. "Men don't notice stuff like that," he said. What? Then why do we women wear perfume? I discounted his remark as rubbage. Now I'm wondering how accurate his statement was.

So, my question remains: how do I convey information when I'm in a man's pov?

And I thought writing was sharing a well thought out story, with interesting characters, using proper grammar and descriptive words. Silly me!


Leah St. James said...

Hi, Vonnie - Interesting stuff and great examples! I have to admit, I never remember the terms and definitions. I just figure, it is what it is. :-)

Denise said...

First, I LOVE your son's quip. And as one of my crit group members says - Schmack!

And it IS very interesting to write a Male POV. I'm told the same things as you've listed - less flowery descriptives, more about action/reaction, less introspection. However, I've had a couple of male writers "beg to differ" when I made a similar comment.

We want our hero's to be a "man's man" and yet be a bit of a Metro (term?) who feels/thinks, only not TOO much. Sheesh, it can feel like dancing along the top of the fence.

Well, good luck with the class. Sounds like a good one and I'm thinking 'bout that book (like I NEED another book in my poor suffering bookcases).