It’s been a while since I’ve written a post on an aspect of writing craft, but as I’m beginning to do more editing for my new job as a book coach, I’m coming across writing that could have done with a little more craft.
The piece I’m working on right now is a really neat and timely story about a botanist’s fight against a big agricultural seed company. The story has paranormal elements that add to the fun and suspense. It would have been a really fun story but for one major failing — we aren’t let in on how the characters are feeling.
There is no deep POV in this story. There are very few emotions. It reads like a dry text and it frustrates me to no end because this has the potential to be an amazing story — and it still can be! I’ve yet to write to the author telling them of what I’ve found in the manuscript, but I’m sure as soon as I do they’re going to “get it” and make the appropriate changes. When they do, and when they publish it, I’ll tell you about it here so you can run out and buy it because it has the potential to be a really fun and thrilling story!
But the lack of deep POV really brings home the point — we need to be allowed into not only the minds of our characters on the page — what they’re thinking — but into their hearts as well — what they’re feeling. Without that, stories become dry as burnt toast.
A strict recounting of a tale won’t do it for readers. Even great dialogue won’t save a book that doesn’t have any emotion in it. We are human beings, we feel. And we want — no, need — to know what others are feeling too. It allows us to empathize, it allows us to become the characters we are reading about. It brings us into the fantasy, which is really the whole point of reading a novel.
So, how do we do that?
By you, the author, becoming the character. You need to remove yourself from this world as much as you are asking your reader to do the same. You need to engage in Method Writing (writing from deep down inside of you, from your own feelings and emotions as you become the character you are writing. It’s the same as Method Acting, only you’re writing instead of acting on a stage).
In order to write this way, you need to know your character inside and out. You need to know who they are, where they come from and how they view the world. Be aware of what’s important to your character and what they need. Through their eyes and their values, you can see the world of the story and react as your character would to the events happening around them. Be that active protagonist: do things, see things, feel things, and show us, the reader, all that you are doing, saying and feeling.
When you bring us into your world, into the character’s experiences and how they live them, you are writing in deep POV. Usually, writing in the first person (even if you change it later into third) will help make it more real, more immediate. It’s much easier to write “I stopped cold as the whirlwind blew up around me and Timothy walked through, lightning flashing from his eyes. My heart froze with fear even as my blood pounded in my ears. All my muscles tensed but my soul cried out for this man who I’d once thought of as my brother.” A little too far into purple prose? Yeah, but it gets my point across. And you’ve got to admit that it’s better than: “A whirlwind suddenly sprung up around her. Timothy appeared, his eyes flashing like lightning. Clare stood her ground, ready for a fight.” Same concept, same scene, but a completely different feeling, a completely different emotion.
So bring it in. Bring those emotions into your story, into your characters, into your writing. Bring your reader into that story and make them feel it as if they were that character.