Monday, November 21, 2016

Viewpoint as Camera or as Participant

"Keeping the Reader Reading," Part 6

The most common mistake in viewpoint that many new writers make is they become a camera rather than the actor in the scene. In other words, they are sitting in the corner scribbling away as they describe the movie going on in front of them.

As a camera, the writer would write:

Faith struck at him with the edge of her hand, but he caught her wrist and held it.

"Don't," he said harshly.

She clawed at his eyes, but he dodged. Yanking free, she came to her knees but paused.

He took advantage of her slowness by throwing himself on top of her and pinning her to the bed.

She kicked at his groin and missed. Screaming and twisting, she tried again.

The correct place for the writer to be is in the brain and body of the viewpoint character. She should describe what the viewpoint character SEES and FEELS to make the scene come alive. Here's the same scene through the filter of Faith Cody

Faith struck out with the edge of her hand, but the self-defense blow which should have smashed his windpipe was as clumsy and slow as the rest of her drugged body. He caught her wrist in steel fingers.


His hard-voiced command spurred her from her hopelessness, and she raked at his eyes with her free hand. His hand loosening her wrist, he dodged. 

Yanking free, she came to her knees in bed. She wore only a large tee shirt.

Shocked by her vulnerability, she paused before attacking again or fleeing. In that moment, he threw himself at her, pinning her to the bed, his hands manacling her wrists to the sheets.

Her knee seeking his genitals, she twisted, but her knee glanced off his inner thigh. Screaming like an angry jungle cat, she writhed beneath him as she tried to hit him again with her knee.

The trick to being in a character's head rather than watching from the outside is to create a reality for the reader. Use visual language. Make the reader see what the character sees. Make the reader feel what the character feels.

Don't say, "Pamela was afraid." Say, "Shivers ran like cold fingers down her back." In other words, show, don't tell. If a character is angry, don't have him shout dialogue or "say angrily." Use his actions instead. If he's grinding a wadded paper to pulp in his hand while he's talking, you can be darn sure he's mad.

If the reader is in the viewpoint character’s head, you can be guaranteed they will be hooked.

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