Monday, September 27, 2010

Deep POV and Introspection: A writer's friends or frenemies?

A Week of Writing Tips

I once had a crit partner who wrote pages and pages of introspection. Her heroine was constantly thinking....about EVERYTHING. Shoot, she'd think about what she was thinking about.

At the time I was in a writing group with HQN author Shirley Jump. Being the quasi-bold person I am, I petitioned Shirley for help with a topic I myself couldn't really explain.

Here's her answer:

A good book is like an onion :-) And a good character is like an onion. None of us have that many thoughts running through our head and heck, if we did, we'd be in Bellevue. If you dump too much on your reader too much, you are exposing too much, risk boring your reader and leaving nothing for the reader to discover.

Yes, deep third person does delve into the character's POV. However, regardless of the POV you use, a GOOD book moves forward, with rising stakes and an active character. You can't have that if you have too many thoughts dragging, as you said, the pacing down.

You know how readers make their decision on what book to buy? Besides the cover, they look at the white space inside. Too little of that and they think, OMG, it's another Charles Dickens (and we all remember the horror stories of ninth grade English and reading Great Expectations). And they put it back. Editors think the same thing. Too little white space, they groan and move on to the fast-paced one.

When you dump too much of your character on the page, you are flooding the reader and overloading her senses. She's going to back away. When you peel a layer back scene by scene, chapter by chapter, you are INTRIGUING the reader and asking her to read more. You can do this with Deep POV (Suz Brockmann does it marvelously).

Another trick I learned from the late Cheryl Anne Porter was to act out the scene. She had us all get up in a room one time during a gunfight and had a character doing this long thinking thing. The characters are shooting and then one guy starts thinking "Oh, back on the farm, he had once loved Rose, but she hadn't returned his affections..." and goes on and on.

What's happening to all those gunfighters? They are FROZEN. No action is happening and the whole book is frozen because poor old Clevis is reminiscing about Rose, who's toting a .22 beside him. Same thing happens with the pizza guy example. This guy is standing there, looking at the woman who is mooning over him and running through all these thoughts (time it by standing there to see what I mean) and thinking "this lady's nuts!"

It freezes everything and makes everyone look crazy.

So that's my advice...I do the acting out thing ALL the time to see how long I'm tying up the action with thoughts. Nine times out of ten, the thoughts get cut back and the action propels my story forward instead.

That's, of course, the old axiom of showing. Not telling :-) It's not about voice or style (heck, I do deep 3rd person myself), it's about creating a GOOD BOOK that readers will love.

Does your writing then to be introspection heavy or light? Why? Do you have any tips to help a writer learn to balance narration and introspection?
Happy Writing!


Cheryl Klarich said...


Gina Welborn said...

Thanks, Cheryl!

Shirley is an excellent craft-of-writing teacher. And she has a genuine heart for helping other writers.