Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Words Come Alive

What’s the Easy Way to Understand POV?

Your character walks through shadows in a narrow alley. But you may feel a distance as you watch him, or you may sense his anxiety. Part of that difference comes from the point of view (POV) of the character.

Most books are written in the third person, and mention the words, “him” or “her”. The first person use of “I” occurs rarely. However, the third person can come close with the first person by using the third person internal POV.

So what’s the difference? Think involvement by being inside the character’s head. Internal POV also means more emotion with each statement. Notice the difference —

Megan walked across the room to confront Sammy who expected her anger.

Megan clenched the note in her hand from Sammy as she walked across the room. “How dare he try that!” she thought. Why was Sammy simply standing there, not even blinking, as though he anticipated her reaction?

Notice the change. In the first example, the reader is aware of both people. Yet in the second, the reader is drawn into Megan’s mind. Sammy’s thinking is only guessed by her because the reader exists in her internal POV.

Using POV avoids the omniscient third person where the narrator knows all. For many writers, the goal helps place the reader as a participating voyeur, sneaking peeks into the heads of others without being in danger of discovery.

Yet it’s more than that. The device helps to set up mysteries. Often a narrator-told omniscient style leads the reader to think some marionette player sits above the plot, moving the characters. For some stories, that might be the approach needed. You might want to have readers see above the fray where a vast assembly of characters loom. However, when you want to let the characters chart their own course, the internal POV is another tool that a writer can use.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fiction's Philosophy

Bauer or Star Trek

As the new Star Trek movie arrives on DVD, I dare to ask the philosophical question from fiction about why communication has been degraded when we deal with enemies. Star Trek introduced the idea that you communicate to find the flaws in your foe. Today’s more representative image of Jack Bauer on the TV show 24 sends the message that you often don’t have time to communicate.

Is there time in a frenzy to communicate? In last year’s version of 24, Bauer told the US President that lack of time was responsible for him needing to torture a traitor to stop an attack on the White House. Trek’s Captain Kirk didn’t have time when a computer system was about to doom a planet to a war with a neighbor if people failed to voluntarily kill themselves. But Kirk took just a few moments to short circuit the system by showing the flaws in the system’s logic.

Bauer had just a few moments to interrogate a traitor in the White House as agents were about to stop him. He chose to intimidate, and threaten the traitor. The result pushed the story deeper into a crisis as the traitor withheld vital intelligence. Agents stopped Bauer, and his goal was thwarted. He could have chosen the path to communicate. The traitor was loyal to a cause that drove him to allow an African General to seize the White House. Bauer could have played on that loyalty. He could have used that info to derail the person’s goal, but he chose the easier, more aggressive route.

Communication doesn’t mean you give in to the enemy. No enemy operates with illogic. The logic might not be that of the protagonist, but there is a system of logic inside the enemy. The better chance the hero has to reach success depends not on force, but communication. Kirk was a product of the Kennedy era. Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Captain Picard lived in the time before 9/11, so we can understand why the fear of lacking time threatens the characters in fiction after 9/11 — the time of Bauer. Maybe the fear from the real world could be changed by the philosophy in fiction. But in this case, the fiction’s philosophy follows that of the real world - maybe it should be leading it in another direction.

"24" image courtesy of tvshowfans.org
"Star Trek" image courtesy of tvmegasite.net

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thought For The Week

Jim Carrey’s A Christmas Carol is currently playing in theaters. The classic tale written by Charles Dickens, tells of a character who reforms his selfish, miserly life because of visits by spirits that show him visions of his past, present and future. Is a person a product of his/her surroundings and does their environment lead he/she under pressure to commit evil?

1) People can be purely evil and even favorable surroundings would lead them to commit evil.

2) People are formed by a combination of their personality traits and their environment.

3) People form their environment so that the environment reflects a person's true nature.

4) Other

List your choice of answer, or an alternative in the Comment section. If you pick answer #4, include an example as to why you picked "Other".

Picture property of Yahoo Movies.