Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Effect of POV on Detail in Description and Narration

It's funny, really. When I first sat down to write a manuscript, I didn't realise the process I was entering in to. I mean, I was 13? What 13 year old realises all the effort, the multiple drafts, the world building....

It was a wonderful, innocent time.

Regardless, I'm writing a new peice again, and it's the same as it was the first time. I feel like I'm dancing on the edge of a cliff, making up new bits of the land as I go.

But it's getting easier. The characters, plot and world are gradually coming to me. It's good. And because I know that there's a long process in front of me, I'm thinking about the next step. Which is the addition of detail.

But where do details come from? I think this has a lot to do with POV, myself. Each character is going to notice something different. When you're writing in first person, you can only describe what the characters see and what the characters think about them. So when you're narrating from the POV of a character who is used to the world you're in, you can't explain things that they already know about.

This presents many problems, which I think I'll talk about later (a post of first person will be forthcoming, me thinks :) ) But I think that it's interesting that you have something similar going on in third person limited. You can explain slightly more outside of the characters head, but I think the third person limited works best when you think about the world of the story from inside the characters head and embellish it with what they notice.

So what's the different when it comes to detail? Well, IMHO, it is that in third person limited the narrator can inject. They can tell you things about the world and story that the character couldn't. This can become overused and badly done, but it can also be done well. When it is, it lends itself to both easy description (you can explain things that need to be explained that the narrator wouldn't explain) and you can make your writing come alive (as in you can describe things in a way unique to the MC.) The best of both worlds. :)

Third person omniscient, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish. You can dive into characters heads, describe what they're seeing, describe things in their POV... but the way things are explained, exposed and described is in a different voice entirely. The voice of the narrator, the teller that sees all drives the story and the descriptions.

I experimented with this in a short, and it was amazing. I still had to think about how the characters would describe things, but... it was me describing it. I didn't have to immerse myself for every single word (would they use but, or would they say however?) in the characters minds, it wasn't as exhausting.

Because that's what POV writing can be. Exhausting. Utterly so. I once started a story (Varrick, actually, for those who have been following along) and it was told from the perspective of a forty year old man who had seen way too much and had way too much death on his hands. I remember coming out of a chapter and falling asleep for the next two hours, irrespective of the coffee consumed before hand. It was draining in a way I never thought a book could be.

I think it warrants thought before you start. How intense it this POV? Is it going to be able to tell the story I want it to tell? Am I ready for the investment that 1st person requires?

Anyway, I'm off to get ready for work. It's going to be another late night - I have at least 5k to write, and now that I've been called in for work, it's going to be interesting trying to fit it in.

Enjoy creating~


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