Thursday, December 23

Real Life Diagnostics: Deepen Point of View

Okies, one more new post, because I forgot that someone just sent me a Real Life Diagnostic.
The writer asked: I'm attempting a deep pov, how can I improve it? 
Original text
Vincent and Moses crept up behind the Ford Explorer parked in the driveway and huddled at the rear bumper.

“Wait here,” Vincent whispered, “let me check out the front of the house first”.

Moses nodded his big old head, and then slumped down next to the rear tyre.

Vincent stepped out onto the lawn. He was out in the open, so he moved quickly across the grass towards a light near the front room of the house - a lamp or some shit. As he got closer, he could see the window had the curtains drawn, but a gap in the middle allowed some light to spill out onto the porch and lawn.Careful to remain in the darkness, he slowed, and then crouched down beside the porch.

Coming from inside was the muffled sound of a women’s voice, along with a television blaring. He nodded his head, and smiled. She’s home, perfect.

He looked back at Moses, waiting beside the truck, his rifle, resting across his knees. He motioned with his hand for Moses to move up behind him and take up a position next to the front door. Moses got to his feet, and then hauled his heavy-ass frame across the lawn. He reached the steps of the porch, climbed up, and stood beside the front door.

With Moses now in position, it was time for Vincent to move, but his feet felt anchored to the ground. Don’t lose it now, you can’t afford to. He took a deep breath, and buried his fear. Then with his free hand, he pulled the balaclava over his face, stood, composed himself, and then set off across the lawn.
My comments in purple:
Vincent and Moses crept up behind the Ford Explorer parked in the driveway and huddled at the rear bumper. There's nothing in this sentence that says which of these men is the POV, so you could deepen POV by adding a word or two that makes it clear whose head we're in. Like, "Vincent crept up behind the Ford Explore, Moses close behind him, and huddled..."

“Wait here,” Vincent whispered, “let me check out the front of the house first”.
Same here. A little internalization would add depth. Like,  This didn't look good. "Wait here," Vincent whispered.

Moses nodded his big old head, and then slumped down next to the rear tyre.
"big old head" is a great POV detail, because this is clearly Vincent's opinion. This is the first detail that shows whose POV this is.

Vincent stepped out onto the lawn. He was out in the open, so he moved quickly across the grass towards a light near the front room of the house - a lamp or some shit. As he got closer, he could see the window had the curtains drawn, but a gap in the middle allowed some light to spill out onto the porch and lawn.Careful to remain in the darkness, he slowed, and then crouched down beside the porch.
the bold text are all spots where you're pulling away from the POV and explaining something the POV wouldn't explain. "He was out in the open, so he..." tells motive. Odds are he'd just feel nervous and act on that. Switching that to a bit of internalization that shows his worry about being in the open would put it more in his head. "He could see" pulls away to describe that he sees something instead of just saying the windows were draw and light spilled out. If he points it out, we know he saw it. "Careful to remain in the darkness" explains motive again. Also, these phrases feel like the author, not Vincent, which also pulls the POV away. The "a lamp or some shit" is a great detail that's very Vincent. I can't see a guy who would say this also say "remain in the shadows" or "allowed some light to spill out."  He'd be more colorful. 

Coming from inside was the muffled sound of a women’s voice, along with a television blaring. He nodded his head, and smiled. She’s home, perfect.
The "she's home, perfect" is good since that's his thought, but the description of the noise in the house could be anyone, including the author. With just the few words you've used so far I have a sense of the kind of person Vincent is (right or wrong) and I think he'd describe the noise in a different way. More like the "big old head" or "lamp or some shit" way.

He looked back at Moses, waiting beside the truck, his rifle, resting across his knees. He motioned with his hand for Moses to move up behind him and take up a position next to the front door. Moses got to his feet, and then hauled his heavy-ass frame across the lawn. He reached the steps of the porch, climbed up, and stood beside the front door.
"heavy-ass frame" is good and another Vincent phrase, and that enforces my earlier sense of who he is. "move up behind and take position by the door" doesn't feel like Vincent. The phrase also is explaining motive again, and Vincent would probably just motion and Moses would act. 

With Moses now in position, it was time for Vincent to move, but his feet felt anchored to the ground. Don’t lose it now, you can’t afford to. He took a deep breath, and buried his fear. Then with his free hand, he pulled the balaclava over his face, stood, composed himself, and then set off across the lawn.
The bold phrases explain motive again, when Vincent would just think and act. His internal thought is good, and shows him trying to compose himself, so you don't need to say he did it. 
A deep POV relies heavily on voice. If you hear the author explaining things, then it pulls away from the POV. So one way to deepen this POV overall is to look for all the types of explanation phrase like I bolded, and change them to Vincent's voice, or just show the action and let the reader figure out the why from what's said and done by the characters. Some more internalization would also put you deeper in his head, which is a great way to revise those explained parts. 
An overly simplified way of showing this is to say, "Bob walked into the dark room. He couldn't see so he turned on the lights."  

I obviously don't know your story or your characters, but based on this snippet, here are some suggestions on the types of things you can do to achieve a deeper POV:

Vincent crept up behind the Ford Explorer parked in the driveway and huddled at the rear bumper. Seconds later, Moses dropped in beside him. The house looked quiet, but it was always the quiet ones that got you killed.

“Wait here,” he whispered, “let me check out the front of the house first”.

Moses nodded his big old head, and then slumped down next to the rear tyre.

Vincent stepped out onto the lawn, staying low. He darted across the grass towards a light near the front room of the house - a lamp or some shit. Curtains covered the window, but a gap in the middle let out enough light to let someone inside spot him. He stuck to the shadows all the way to the house and crouched beside the porch.

A television blared, one of those cheesy game shows, and a woman talking. He smiled. She’s home, perfect.

He looked back at Moses, waiting beside the truck, his rifle, resting across his knees, and signaled. Moses got to his feet and hauled his heavy-ass frame across the lawn. He took position by the front door. "Let's do this," he whispered.

Vincent nodded, but his feet wouldn't budge. Moses tipped his head and shot him a "move your ass" look. Vincent took a deep breath. Don’t lose it now, you can’t afford to. He pulled the balaclava over his face, stood, and set off across the lawn.
Naturally you'll do it better, but hopefully these suggestions show the kinds of things you can do to deepen your POV. 
Thanks to our brave volunteer for allowing me to pick at their work

5 comments:

  1. Janice: This break down was extremely helpful to help me understand voice development in the 3rd person perspective. Thank you so much!

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  2. I agee with Stephanie. Thanks for the helpful commentary in the text.

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  3. This was so useful. Thank you for posting the text with your comments.

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  4. Thanks for that Janice, as always you are the Go-to woman on POV.

    I tried to cut back on the filtering, but I guess I have to try and present the stimulus and reactions more in the POV characters voice. keep it more consistent.

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  5. Stephine: Most welcome, glad it was helpful.

    Natalie: Anytime! I do enjoy the RLDs. Real problems from real manuscripts.

    Tracey: You're welcome!

    Sam: Thanks for submitting it. It really depends on how close you want your POV to be. If you want a more distant narrator you can do more filtering. The closer you get, the less you filter.

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