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

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Rarely does one start out as a good writer. I wince as I read over my earlier efforts. Gee, and I thought they were so great at the time. Writers improve by writing. Write in your genre. Write in another genre for growth. The more you write, the better you will become. It’s just that simple.

Or so I tell myself as I aim for continual improvement. Just as I get one bad habit conquered, I'm told about two more.

My first problem to conquer was point of view issues. If I had six people in a scene, by golly you knew what all six people were thinking. I had no clue I was displaying weak writing. Boy, did I have a lot to learn. So I began studying point of view (pov) through books and online classes.

Allow me to share some things I've learned. Then maybe you can add what tips you've picked up about point of view in your comments. We can learn from each other. How cool is that?

Years ago, books were written in omniscient pov, with the writer as the literary god who knew everything, saw everything, heard everything. By and large, that pov has gone out of style like teased hair and polyester leisure suits. Enter the singular pov. Many mysteries are written in first person pov (I suspected he was a liar.). Novels are usually written in the third person pov of the main character (Molly Brown hated liars.). Romances mainly include the third person pov of the hero and heroine (Fabio had to admit the woman fascinated him).

Remember, pov is the vehicle your reader uses to travel through your story. And you want your reader to ride in style from the words "Chapter One" to "The End." We don't want them riding on the front bumper as we tell them the story. No. We want them settled into the cushiony leather seats of our vehicle while we show them the characters, action, emotions and conflict of our story.

To quote Alicia Rasley in her The Power of Point of View (Writers Digest Books, 2008), “we see and hear and feel a particular event from the perspective of one person. We might not consciously think that we are in Johnny’s head and body during a battle scene, but we know that Johnny’s ears are ringing from the artillery fire, his vision is blurring, and he’s seriously considering dropping his weapon and heading for the woods. We get the vicarious experience of exhaustion, despair, and pain without actually having to fight the battle.”

Our goals, as a writer, are twofold. First, we want to tell a good story. Second, we want to draw the reader into the head and body of our pov character. We want our reader to experience everything our character is seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, thinking, smelling and feeling. In effect, we want the reader to become the pov character. We do this by becoming the pov character while we write.

Of course that's not always easy to do, is it? I have no clue what's its like being chased by a werewolf, for example, but I do know what it's like to be chased by a swarm of bees. I know the effects of the "flight or fight" syndrome: heart pounding in my ears, rapid breathing, trembling, dry mouth, clenched stomach and so on. So, if I were to write a scene about being chased by a werewolf, I'd draw on those feelings to show readers what my pov character is experiencing. 

Avoid using “she heard” or “she saw” or “she thought.” These phrases distance the reader from the character and are not needed. If we are in Sally’s pov, for example, the reader already knows you, the writer, are writing about what Sally experiences. Let me show you—

Sally stood on the corner waiting for the bus and heard the church bell chime eight times. It was so cold outside this morning she felt a shiver raise goose bumps on her arms. Instinctively, she covered the bruise on her cheek when she saw Mr. George walking toward her. Behind her, she heard Toby, her husband, call her name and turned. Just as she thought, he was still angry. Oh, how she wished she were already on the bus, far away from here.

 Now, without the distancers (sorry, I know that’s not a word): 

Sally stood on the corner waiting for the bus. The church bell chimed eight times, adding an echo to the crisp coldness of the morning air. She shivered and huddled into the fleecy lining of her jacket, blowing warm breath into her cupped, chilled hands. Footsteps crunched on the snow-covered sidewalk as Mr. George approached. Instinctively she covered the bruise on her cheek, her touch making it throb. She nodded a silent greeting to her neighbor, which he returned. Had he noticed the bruises? Toby called her name, and she tensed. When she glanced back over her shoulder, her husband was running toward her, unshaven, disheveled and clearly angry. Oh, how she wished she were already on the bus, far away from here.

Which scene did you feel more a part of? Since we knew we were in Sally’s pov, the distancers “she heard”, “she saw” and “she felt” were unnecessary. 

Now, we’re going to talk about deep pov. In deep pov, we show the reader why. Why does our pov character behave this way? React this way? Think this way? Why does a woman tense when she’s alone with a man? Why does our male character distrust women? Why does a teenager hate family social functions? Why does a man turn to alcohol every day after work?

We all have a history. Our history helps shape our behavior and thoughts.

Readers will also understand and accept a character’s bad behavior if they understand the pain or history behind it. This becomes our job as writers to show—not tell—why our characters behave the way they do. We draw them into the character’s head, into their psyche, if you will.

POV is more than knowing whose head we are in. As writers, we seek to draw our readers into the character’s body. By incorporating the senses, we can show them how scratchy wool feels against the skin, how a whisper at the ear can feather the hair, how yucky it feels when water gets into the character’s shoes or how a loud heavy-metal song jangles the nerves. As writers, we help the reader live the experience. We also make the reader privy to the emotional secrets and pains the character carries within. And don't we all carry around pain from a past experience?

By using deep pov, we add texture, emotion and strength to our writing. Use the power of pov to make your stories memorable. Make the power work for you, your way, your style, your voice.

Here's an excerpt from Those Violet Eyes set to release from The Wild Rose Press on Wednesday.

He had no right. No right to reawaken a dream long ago snuffed out by the force of her family’s demands. She’d be lucky to move off the ranch into a place of her own, much less go back to college.

Her mare raced up a gentle hill toward high grass and shrubs. A pond came into view on the other side of the rise. She reined in her horse, slowing her to a walk. The mount stepped to the water’s edge and took a drink. After a minute, Evie urged her on. “Let’s walk around the pond, Molly Mae.”

Butterflies flitted from bush to bush.

Grosbeaks chirped pretty songs.

Gnats buzzed.

Evie fumed.

College was out of the question. As it was, her employment at the Lonesome Steer depended on how long Win kept on cooking there. Once Win quit, Gus’s need for a waitress would quickly decline. How would she pay rent and tuition then? She’d have to endure the pain and disappointment once more of having her dream snatched away. She could not, would not go through that again.

A movement caught her eye. Win sat on Blaze at the top of the rise, watching her. Waiting.

Damn him and his waiting. She hiked her chin and glared at him. He can wait until his hair turns gray. I’m not going to him.

Win evidently saw her determined features. He shook his head a couple times and clicked his tongue for Blaze to approach her. When his horse stopped beside hers, he glanced across the pond, watching the birds—or waiting. Damn him.

Well, she could wait, too.

She slipped a foot out of her stirrup and slung it across her saddle. Leather creaked. A bullfrog plopped into the water. Silent minutes clanged by, growing louder with each tick of some unseen clock.

“Never took you for a coward, kitten. Not with all that attitude you’ve got.” Win slid his gaze to her, his hazel eyes growing hard. “Or was that all bluster to hide a scared little girl.”

Before she thought it through, Evie slid off Molly Mae. “You come down here and say that to my face, Win Fairchild, you overbearing, pushy bastard. I’ll slap your ears so hard, they’ll make a jam sandwich. Two floppy ears jammed together, you no-brained idiot. What gives you the right to push at me like this?”

Win slipped off Blaze, all ease and grace. In a flurry of movement, he grabbed her arms and hauled her to him. “What do you want out of life, Evie? Do you want to rot away on the Double-Bar working for Dooley? Or do you want to go after your dreams?”

“Some dreams are just that—dreams.” Didn’t he understand?

Did you feel a part of the scene? Did I take you deep into Evie's point of view? What tips have you learned about the power of deep point of view? Please share...


AM Bishop said...

Thanks Vonnie,

I need this POV refresher. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Great post :D

Vonnie Davis said...

You're more than welcome. I go over my pov notes before I begin every project. It's so easy to forget, itsn't it?

Christie Lawrence said...

Thanks for this blog. I am really struggling with "showing" and not "telling." It makes me realize I'm not alone and it's all part of the growing process as a writer. I will work on this, but you have no idea how your blog has helped me! Thanks again!

Maeve said...

Hi Vonnie! Queen of the head-hoppers here. I was once accused of making a reader quite dizzy with my kangaroo POV. I've finally managed to get it under control and your post should help all of us whenever the wicked toad of head-hopping tries to rear its warty head. *ribbet*


Joanne Stewart said...

An excellent post, Vonnie, one that's sure to be invaluable to new writers. I don't recall doing the head hopping thing, but I'm sure I did it. Great article. And fabulous snippet. :)

Vonnie Davis said...

Christie, we all have our weak areas within the craft of writing. I have several I'm struggling with. If you ever need a little help with the showing versus the telling, don't ever be afraid to ask. I'll glady give you some pointers.

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks, Maeve. As my agent told me one time, if your pov character doesn't know about it, you can't tell the reader about it either. Well, darn...

Vonnie Davis said...

Glad you liked the snippet, Joanne. We all have our weak areas. POV was mine until I made a conscious effort to tame it.

Lynne Marshall said...

Thank you for this public service. IMHO - you should get paid! :)

However, I'm okay with occasionally moving the camera in and out on the scene - i.e. going from deep to more shallow POV. Especially when making a shift to another character's POV. But like with cooking, good spices should be used sparinging not to overcome the dish.

Hmm - I must be hungry.

Mackenzie Crowne said...

I remember writing a scene once in an early WIP. I was exhausted once I'd delved into deep POV for each of the four characters. Thank God I never tossed my poor readers into that mess! LOL Live and learn, they say. Excellent post, as usual, Yoda ... I mean, Vonnie.

Vonnie Davis said...

Hi Lynne! You're so right, all literary tropes should be used sparingly. Thanks for stopping by.

Vonnie Davis said...

Yoda? **clasps hands over ears** I resemble that remark. LOL Hope you're having a great Sunday, Mac.

Calisa Rhose said...

Lovely scene Vonnie! I can't wait to buy your book next week...two days? Whoooo hoooo!

Great post on deep POV too. One thing we need to keep in mind, and I struggle with this...publishers want us to pick one and run with it. 3rd PPOV? Stay in that, DPOV? Stay with that. Do not mix third and deep POVs. *sigh* But they work so well together! Don't do it.

Vonnie Davis said...

Really? Oh, dear **slaps forehead** don't tell me something new. Why would they say that? Let me at 'em. LOL

Rolynn Anderson said...

Nicely explained Vonnie. The tough part is to go deep in the dark recesses of the villain's being. Cherry Adair starts planning out her books from the POV of the villain...who is he/she...what does she/he want and why...what are the villain's triggerpoints. I'm using this method for my newest book.

By the way, Vonnie, your links to blogs, etc., aren't working on your digest. Thought you'd like to know. Your bud, Rolynn

Vonnie Davis said...

The links aren't working? Oh no. How do I fix that? LOL Thanks for commenting. I enjoyed what you said about going into the deep recesses of a character's mind. I'm betting you can do it.