Friday, February 16, 2007

POV a Powerful Tool

The manipulation and control of POV is a writer’s most powerful tool. The character that shows the reader the story (or scene) comes with his own biases and limitations.

In one WIP, Recovered Flotsam, I have a demented twisted character. This story, I have already been warned by two publishers and one editor, runs a strong risk of being too dark for publication.

Me write something too dark? Gee, who’da thunk it.

But one of the ways I’m telling the story that I want to tell while tempering the darkness, is to limit how much I tell from the antagonist’s perspective. My hands are tied in one scene where his prey has been rendered unconscious, but that stands to reason. Jeremy has a very warped sense of reality and giving the reader too much of that might be difficult to take.

However, it’s a balancing act. I like stories with teeth and authors use the most powerful POV to tell the scene. Which is more dark? A predator toying with his pet or the pet’s agony? Hmm…I may have to rethink my logic on some of these scenes.

Authors can also “cheat” or “fudge” a little via POV manipulation—you can’t do this too much or the reader will want to slap you. With About to Sin, I have a priest and a doctor. I’m neither a doctor nor a Catholic so I’ve had to do a lot of research for this short series. I don’t want to risk errors in my work so I handle things carefully. I show Anand between patients and he’s a bit cynical and jaded. This allows me to skirt some medical stuff that he’d know and I can’t possibly fully grasp. Due to his snarky personality, I can get away with him thinking about his patients by ailment—“Mr. Broken Arm” and such. Most importantly, I avoid having him in hardcore medical situations where I, as an author, do not command the medical knowledge to properly write the scene.

But, that’s not the real cheating.

The real cheating is the Catholic stuff. Anand isn’t Catholic. Oh, he’s been attending mass for six months, but that was to ogle the priest not for worship. He knows less about Catholicism than I do and I can use his ignorance to fudge what I don’t know. I spent hours looking up the names of the different vestments that priests wear and then it hit me. Anand wouldn’t know those names. He’d just think of them as robes or smocks maybe even “things.” One chapter will contain the start of mass, I dove into the internet looking for the order of mass and what was done when (Actually, I should attend a few masses, but I’m not that motivated on Sunday mornings.) Then I realized that Anand wouldn’t know the fine points of the jargon. He’d know the big stuff like communion and things, but he wouldn’t know the word “homily.” He’d call that a lecture or a sermon. LOL!

POV can also change the “reality” of the scene. It’s entirely possible for an outsider to view a consensual sex scene and pick up on certain things that might question the consensual nature of the sex. Think about the role-play that lovers enjoy and how all that grabbing, biting and thrusting can seem violent when it’s just heated passion.

Remember, there are tricks and ways around things. Yes, every story will require research some more than others and most more than expected, but you can use POV to help you figure out what you really need to know and what you don’t. Can’t figure out what that little part is called on the machine your repair guy is fixing? Use the customer’s POV.

Readers want good stories. They want accurate and believable stories, but if the reader gets hung up on one tiny detail, you never had them. Use your research skills. Talk to those in the know. Go forth and face the sea of information (some accurate and some not) that’s on the net, but don’t ditch a story because you can’t verify a few facts. Keep it in character. Know your characters. Create them to be good characters as well as writing tools and you’ll be just fine.

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