I had the privilege of teleconferencing with a group of writers with disabilities the other night. They have recently published their first book Behind Our Eyes available through Amazon. It’s an anthology of short stories, essays and poems, many of them based on their own experiences of living with disabilities. (Yep, that was indeed a shameless plug.)

It was a wonderful conversation and we spoke about several aspects of writing. But the one thing that we spent a lot of time on was point of view (POV). This sometimes can be a difficult concept to master as a writer.

POV is the person experiencing your scene. The one who holds the video camera showing the reader what is happening. The question arose as to how a blind character would “see” the world. The fact is… they probably wouldn’t.

This character wouldn’t be describing someone’s clothes or how the puffy clouds floated across the cerulean sky as they sat in the outdoor cafe. A blind character would hear and smell, perhaps touch and experience the world around them from those senses. A writer needs to be mindful of whose head they are in.

An engineer isn’t going to notice his girlfriend’s house is filled with various species of potted plants. However, he would notice that her computer is old and needs to be updated. But a landscaper would surely notice how she hadn’t taken care of her flowerbeds and that they’d gone to seed.

Another thing you can’t do is jump out of your POV person and tell the reader something another person is thinking. This is called head-hopping. How would your character know what someone else was thinking? They can however “see” that the person they’re talking to is pissed. How? Show your reader how the person is crossing their arms, or how their brow is furrowed. Your POV character can interpret body language. You do it all the time.

I like to think of writing as an actor would think of portraying a role. I crawl into the head of my character and experience and react to everything through their eyes. 

  

0 Responses to Behind Our Eyes

  • Sometimes I like to rewrite a scene several times to see what it looks like from different characters’ perspectives. It’s an interesting exercise, especially when a scene feels it’s lacking something. Just like real people, each character sees things differently and what one might miss, another will hone in on.

  • POV is my favorite part – and my favorite is first person. Some folks hate the limitations of it, others think it’s elementary. Either way, there is nothing quite like putting myself directly into the shoes of another person and seeing the entire world through their whatever-colored glasses.

  • You’ve summed it up beautifully. I know when I wrote a character who had a fetish for “Sensory Deprivation” I had to write about what she felt from touch and smell only. No sound. No sight. It was one of the most challenging pieces I’ve written.
    I love the part about the engineer not noticing the flowers. I often forget that a male character isn’t going to note her “creme colored couch” now, is he? He’s going to notice her CD collection or maybe her art work.
    Great post Nina.

  • You ladies have all made some great points. Before I get to a scene I’ve usually made the decision about what it’s going to accomplish and I write from the POV with the person who knows the details I want given to the reader. But when I’m stuck, I’ll certainly try another POV. My stories usually have 7-10 character POVs. Not your typical romance.

    Cessie, I find first person incredibly challenging. My first novel (still unpublished) was in first person and trying to get all the information to the reader was a real challenge.

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