Lately I’ve been reading a fantastic book from the editors of Writer’s Digest called Crafting Novels & Short Stories. The first two sections, on Characters and Plot & Conflict, were magnificent and exciting. Section three, on Point of View, I was less than excited about beginning. Basically, my thoughts were “Yeah, yeah, first-person, third-person, omniscient, limited, yada yada yada I KNOW all this…”
Which should teach me a lesson. One of the chapters, “Using Perception to Enhance Your POV” by Alicia Rasley absolutely blew my mind. In it, she shows you how to Examine your POV character’s way of seeing the world, and how that can change the arc of the story.
For example, which of the five senses is dominant in your character? Is he visual, auditory, or tactile? What is your character’s temperament? Is she an optimist or a pessimist, emotional or rational? What is your character’s personality style? Their learning style?
She blows wide apart the classic middle school exercise of “using all five senses in a scene.” Think about it: How many of us actually notice things with all five senses? I haven’t met a single one, as far as I know. And what a relief, as I’ve certainly read (and written, to my everlasting chagrin) plenty of scenes that are completely bogged down in too much description. Those are the scenes we all skip, right?
At the end of the chapter, she includes a list of nine questions to ask your POV character, which you answer in their first-person voice, to help you define their perception. I did the exercise with the main character of my struggling little WIP (the first chapter of which I shared in this post), and it really helped me to see how much I already knew about him, as well as highlighting some confusions that he has about himself which will clarify the conflict.
Needless to say, I am completely stoked.