Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Head and Heart of Your Character

In the last Gut Wrenching Deep POV post, we learned a technic of adding deep point of view by cutting dialogue tags and showing the story through the protagonist's senses. One commenter wrote: "... You have to lose yourself in the writing so that you BECOME the character." 

That's it. Show the story through the head and heart of your character.

But how do you do that exactly?

Here's a few simple technics. Give them a try. Nobody will ever know.

In Word, hunt down said, replied, asked, answeredand any other dialogue tags you're fond of. Replace them with action.

BEFORE:
She asked, "How are you?"
He snapped, "Stop being a witch, bitch."
"Bitch? she asked. "I'm being nice."
"Really?" he snarled. "Define nice."

AFTER:
"How are you?" Without an invitation, she reached up to straighten his tie.
He pushed her hands away. The last time she'd clawed him, he had to buy antibiotic cream. "Stop being a witch, bitch."
"Bitch?" Tears welled up in her eyes. She dropped her arms to her sides. "I'm being nice."
"Really? Define nice."

Slightly exaggerated, but what do we know that we didn't know in the BEFORE? He's afraid she's going to claw him. We have visual. And thoughts. Tags aren't needed because we know who's speaking. If it wasn't clear, we'd add a tag; particularly, in scenes where there are more than two speakers.

Another technic: write the scene in 1st person, then change to 3rd.

Here's an excerpt from my manuscript Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries:

     Blood. So much blood. Pooling on the slate tiles around his head.
     Leland—dead?
     I assumed he'd outlive me. Mean people are lucky that way. But maybe that's what's wrong. He used to be mean. After our sons died, he changed.
     With my palm firmly pressed to my chest, I still these erratic thoughts. Giddiness overwhelms me. I drop my purse and grip the edge of the countertop. Tears blur my vision. An uncomfortable heat descends upon me; similar to those hot flashes I suffered for ten years. Ohmigosh, now I'm blubbering like a fool.

Changed to 3rd person, it becomes Deep POV:
     Blood. So much blood. Pooling on the slate tiles around his head.
     Leland—dead?
     Sally assumed he'd outlive her. Mean people were lucky that way. But maybe that was what was wrong. He used to be mean. After their sons died, he changed.
     With her palm firmly pressed to her chest, she stilled her erratic thoughts. Giddiness overwhelmed her. She dropped her purse and gripped the edge of the countertop. Tears blurred her vision. An uncomfortable heat descended upon her; similar to those hot flashes she suffered for ten years. Ohmigosh, now she was blubbering like a fool.

Once you've tried these simple technics, you'll find phrases like: he thought, he saw, he came, he conquered ... unnecessary because you no longer have to tell the reader something they know.

When you write from deep inside a character, there is no author accidentally pulling the reader from the story. Every thought, description, and feeling comes from the character, making the prose richer, the scenes more compelling, the reader experience deeper.

23 comments:

Shadow said...

How very clever. And not hard to do. Thank you *smiles*

Patricia Lynne said...

One thing I've noticed with Deep POV is how helpful the examples are. They really help me see the difference and make it easier to apply to my own writing.

Juneta Key said...

Great post. Yes very helpful examples. I have done the 1st person pov switch before, but dialogue tags replaced with action I had thought of that way before. I did it sort of hit and miss, but did not think about the effect to do all of them.

Thanks Jolene

Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Blogoratti said...

That's a great post, and very helpful indeed. It offers more clarity into the concept of dialogue. Nice of you to share, greetings!

Leandra Wallace said...

Thanks for tips and examples!

Pat Hatt said...

Good tips indeed. I need to get away from the whole he said, he stated, thing a bit more I think.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Very excellent examples. I look for ways to get rid of those tags on my second draft. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to not write it that way in the first place.

Rosemary Morris said...

Getting rid of speech tags and showing instead of telling is something I do my best to apply in my writing. Nevertheless, I miss opportunities to show instead of telling, and am grateful to my contents editor who always points that out.

diedre Knight said...

I can't think of more perfect examples! Terrific post ;-)

cleemckenzie said...

In my last manuscript, I worked like the proverbial devil to get rid of tags. My editor put most of them back. I think I'm fighting a losing battle.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

These are powerful examples of how much is revealed through even small gestures. Thanks for this post, Joylene, and thanks for dropping by recently, Michelle.
A great week to all.

L.G. Keltner said...

Thanks for the tips! I have been trying to replace dialogue tags with action lately, because I feel like it adds a lot more to the story. I'll have to give some of the others a try!

Christine Rains said...

Excellent examples. You're pulling on the strengths of showing not telling.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thanks, everyone!

Michelle Wallace said...

Great examples. I've been practising deep POV. Still a long way to go. I'm also working hard on replacing dialogue tags with action. It's all about striking a balance. I think.

Lexa Cain said...

I love the excerpt of your ms The Omatiwak -- it had me riveted! Your techniques are working well for you, and great advice for others, so keep it up! :)

Sherry Ellis said...

You've given some really good ideas to think about. I certainly need to work on replacing dialog tags with more action. Thanks for the examples!

Robyn Campbell said...

I love that you give the tips WITH examples. So often people forget to give examples. Thank you. I appreciate this more than you could know. Bookmarking.

Heather M. Gardner said...

Examples help so much!

Thank you!

Heather

Lux G. said...

Niiice. I've never tried losing myself in writing a character. It scares me, but in a good way.

s/v La Vita said...

As I new writer with a steep learning curve, I love your excellent tips and outstanding examples. I'm building a reference document, Writing With Color. Thank you.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Very glad to hear the post was helpful. Thanks for letting me know.

J Q Rose said...

The examples illustrate what you mean by Deep POV. Really helps me figure it out. Thanks!