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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Digging Into Deep POV (Part II)

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor 

III. Courting Your Characters
A. Get to Know Your CharactersYou've got to spend some time getting to know your characters. What makes your dark haired, blue-eyed FBI agent different from any other agent? What is his history? Where did he come from? Who is his family? What part of his childhood made him into the man he is today? What are his quirks? His flaws? His favorite foods? Habits? You need to know these things before you can write about them in deep POV.

B. Create a Character Sketch
Do this for all your main characters and any significant secondary characters. This will give you a reference to go back to when months later you are wrapping up the ending. It will also give you a guideline to go by when you're in the editing stage and trying to determine if your critique partner is right about your hero acting out of character in a pivotal scene.

You can't write deep POV if you don't know every intimate detail of your characters. The people in your book are not just some fictional characters you created for the purpose of writing a story to entertain and inspire readers. They are real. Somewhere out there is a lonely FBI agent who has become hard and cold with the ugliness of life. He's built the walls of protection to shut out any pain, and in the process, all the people who could have loved him through the pain.

For every character you create, there is someone in this world who is going to identify with your character's life because they are living it. These characters are real, because real people are out there in a similar situation.

Just as God is our Creator and knew us before we were knit in our mother's womb, and the very hairs on our head are numbered, we have to follow our Creator's example. When we create our characters, we need to know who they are, their goals, what motivates them, how they will react to conflict and overcome it.

B. Speech Patterns
Your characters need to have a certain speech pattern that will distinguish them from the rest of your characters. How a person talks and the way they phrase their words reveals a lot about a person. Take into consideration their geographic location, ethnicity, education, and culture. You can definitely tell a northerner from a southerner by listening to them talk.

Then break down your character's speech even further. If he’s northern, how will his speech differ from other northerners? Is he likely to be considerate of someone's feelings before he speaks, or just blurt out whatever comes to mind? Will he tease people? Tell jokes? Or recite famous quotations or poetry?

C. Thought PatternsA character's thoughts reveal more about them than dialogue or actions. This narrative is where a reader will learn what motivates a character. Some people are day dreamers. Others are analyzers who question everything. Some are pessimistic, while others are optimistic. Choose the most likely thought pattern that matches your character’s personality, speech, and actions.

In Christian fiction, you can show the beginning stages of a character’s spiritual growth through their thoughts. Perhaps your character will ponder a sermon, a prayer they heard, a verse, or something someone said. While there is no outward change in his behavior and speech, the reader will see changes in the heart as he develops a conscience, experiences caring thoughts for others, and feelings he isn’t used to. Before this character can act on his change of heart, you must first give the reader a glimpse of the upcoming change so you don’t jolt your reader out of the story by later having him do something that is out of character for him. Change is a process, and you have to show the process in the story.

IV. Deep POV Techniques

If you can learn to effectively write in deep POV, you will automatically eliminate several writing mistakes that plague a lot of authors, especially new authors. There are so many rules that a writer can’t possibly remember them all. If you master deep POV, you won’t have to.

A. Trim the FatDelete any unnecessary words that only hold space and add no value to your story. This concept not only includes words, but sentences, paragraphs, and scenes. If a scene doesn’t progress the story forward, cut it.

B. Use Action VerbsWhere possible don’t use “was” and an “ing” verb, or a dull verb that is overused in clich├ęs or other works. Writing is supposed to be creative and if you aren’t giving the reader something they’ve never read before, you aren’t giving them your best work.

C. Limit Adjectives
Using words that end in “ly” are not forbidden, but their use should be limited. It’s considered a sign of laziness and stifles creativity. Try to rephrase sentences to avoid this and you’ll see how much of a challenge it can be, but well worth the effort. Replace weak adjectives with strong adjectives. Also, don’t use double adjectives in a sentence to describe the same thing. Choose the stronger adjective and delete the other.

D. Simple is BetterYou don’t need a whole page of narration to describe the layout of a scene. A single paragraph will do, or layer it throughout the action. This will keep the pacing of your book flowing and won’t bore the reader. Also, tight sentences that are directly to the point often leave a lasting impression. Long, wordy sentences are easily forgotten.

E. Limit Prepositional Phrases
Literary fiction uses a lot of prepositional phrases. Commercial fiction does not. Try rephrasing the sentence or simply deleting it if the sentence will still make sense without it. Wordy sentence makes readers tired and puts unnecessary strain on them. It’s frustrating to readers if they have to read over the same paragraph multiple times to understand it. Don’t lose your reader through a maze of beautiful adjectives and flowing adverbs that lead through prepositional phrases and direct objects that link nowhere and go on forever.

F. Avoid Red Flag Key Words
I’ve picked out a few “red flag” key words and phrases to spot during the editing process. These words are not always a problem, you need to pay attention to the context of how it is used in the structure of the sentence. Usually if the author is describing a character’s emotion, trying to show an attitude, or is building sensory in a scene, that is when these words are “red flags”. Therefore, don’t go through a manuscript and highlight every use of these words. There are times when these words should be used.


Lots of good information.

But my dark-haired FBI agent has gray eyes... :D