Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Perceptions, perspective and POV

As people prepare for NaNoWriMo, the writing challenge that encourages you to write 50,000 words in a month, I have been engaged in an unusally high volume of writing discussions. Despite the fact that I am neither published nor taking part in NaNoWriMo.

The recurring theme has been point-of-view. How to be a POV purist, head-hopping and how to know the best POV to be in for each scene. We even discussed what POV is. POV in movies, books, scenes; POV from the hero, the heroine, the villain, the antagonist and the dog. I even dreamed in someone else's POV the other night.

So you would think that I'd be a little more cognizant of the fact that not everyone shares my POV. But I don't think that's the problem. The issue is that not everyone has my life experiences, nor I theirs. It's a good thing because it helps us to learn more about life than we possibly could all on our own.

My perception of events is coloured by my previous experiences. Like Pavlov's dogs, I expect certain things to happen when I slam the door on my hand. Screaming, swearing, discoloration; stuff like that. I don't necessarily have to have experienced that previously to know it's going to hurt but it helps me be more cautious if the pain has been mine, not observed.

If I'm standing off to the side and watching someone slam the door on their hand, I'm naturally going to relay that experience somewhat differently than if it is my hand turning purple. I might even be able to forget about it as the day goes on. it was a minor incident that had little or no impact on me, other than to extract a moment of sympathy. It's not my hand throbbing and turning a kaleidiscope of colour, constantly reminding me every time I try to execute a simple task that I slammed the appendage in the door.

Both perspectives are valid. Whichever one you choose to write from will reflect that character's perception of what happened. The observor may view the experience as an unfortunate incident, forget about it and move on. Or they perceive the whole thing to be the fault of the person who wasn't paying enough attention to the way the door swung. How does the other character react? Was it the door's fault? Were they too distracted to notice the door? Are they grateful this now gets them out of a week's worth of chores? Is it preventing them from something they really wanted to do?

Did you notice how I shifted from first person to third? Did it jar you? POV shifts are important. When they're done well, you never notice. When they're done poorly, it can make you seasick from all the head-hopping.

Good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo. It's a great challenge. I'm sure you're up to it. That's my perception and I'm sticking with it.


  1. I didn't notice when you shifted POV. Very smooth. Have a great week.

  2. i didn't notice. very good stuff. must read you more.