OK, let’s deal with some questions on Point of View today:
Sell your Honda Civic – why? Don’t you know those things run on wishes for centuries? I just hope it wasn’t a hatchback. There’s a black market on them.
So, how many miles did you bury the thing at?
Randy sez: That’s the most “interesting” question on POV I’ve ever had. The old Honda ran for 185,199 miles. We were sorry to let it go. We brought my younger two daughters home from the hospital in that car after they were born, and they are now 17 and 13, so it’s been in the family a long time. But it was time.
I’ve heard people talk about close third person POV. I was wondering what the different kinds of POV were in terms of “closeness”. I didn’t see this discussed anywhere so far, not even in Sol Stein’s book. Also, are there certain POV things one should never ever do? (pitfalls so to speak)
Randy sez: I don’t know if there are any standard definitions of the various degrees of closeness when writing POV. But you do have choices, at least in third person.
At one extreme, you can put the camera outside your character’s head and watch him without telling us anything of what he’s thinking. At the other extreme, you can get WAY inside and give us a running stream of consciousness.
I like getting well inside the character’s head, but I try to vary the distance from the character to make things interesting. You can control how close you are to the character by the intelligent use of interior monologue.
With interior monologue, you have several options:
1) You can do what I call shallow interior monologue, in which you paraphrase what the character is thinking, but without working hard to make it sound like the character’s actual thoughts.
2) You can get a bit closer and paraphrase the character’s thoughts, but now using words and thought patterns that are very much the way the character thinks.
3) You can go all the way in and show us the character’s verbatim thoughts (usually in italics, but for longer stretches, it’s better to do this in a normal font.)
Let me give some absurd examples of this with a character we’ll call Jim-Bob, a car thief who is right outside in my driveway trying to figure out if he can steal my new car. In each of these examples, I’ll do SOME interior monologue, interspersed with other stuff.
1) Shallow interior monologue:
Jim-Bob crouched behind a tree in the famous author’s front yard. The Honda sat in a pool of darkness, waiting to be stolen. Only an idiot would park a brand new car out in the driveway with the keys in the ignition. Jim-Bob crawled toward the car.
[Sentence #3 is shallow interior monologue.]
2) A bit deeper interior monologue:
Jim-Bob crouched behind a tree in that dad-gum author’s front yard. The Honda was just beggin’ to be took, layin’ there in the shadows. It took some kind of fool to park a hoity-toity new car right out in the driveway with the keys just janglin’ in the ignition. Jim-Bob crawled toward the car.
[Sentences #1, 2, and 3 all use words taken from Jim-Bob's vocabulary. Sentences #2 and 3 qualify as interior monologue. They are close to Jim-Bob's verbatim thoughts, but we can't know for sure if they are.]
3) Deep interior monologue:
Jim-Bob crouched behind a tree in that dad-gum author’s front yard. That Honda is hollerin’ my name. Best go git it before it decides to holler fer somebody else. Jim-Bob crawled toward the car.
[Sentences #2 and 3 have now been sharpened up so they are definitely Jim-Bob's verbatim thoughts, and we show this by using italics.]
Interior monologue is a powerful tool for varying the degree of closeness to your character.