Friday, July 24, 2015

Whose Point Of View am I in - Mine Or My Character's

A subject I haven't posted about came to my attention while working with one of my student writers. And it's a good one to discuss - Author Intrusion.

I can understand where there would be confusion as to when you're in your character's POV or when you're in your own. But there is a difference.

Author intrusion is when you are in your own POV instead of your character's experience. There are a few ways to prevent this. I will share them here and hope they help you.

1. Author intrusion can be subtle or very noticable 

     When the character's know more than they should. For example, types of plants, flowers, the description of a place they've never seen. If your character grew up in New York City, what would they know about life in India if they've never been there? Or if they are suddenly in a strange place, how would they know the types of foliage an environment they've never experienced? Are they a botanist? Did they research this before going there? This is not only author intrusion, it doesn't ring true to your reader.

      Do all your character's have the same belief systems and politics as you? If so, you've intruded into the story.

2. Author word choices

     In other words, does your character fit the language you are using for them. What I mean is, if they always use big words, or fancy words, then by all means continue to use those in their dialog. But if they speak in common, normal and everyday speech and you decide to have them speak as though they are a diplomat or professor, then the author has intruded. This can throw the reader off and maybe even cause them to close the book.

3. Narration and Research

     When your character is coming into an area they've never been to, you need to describe the scene as they see it, not two paragraphs of description before the character even gets there.

      Example : The city of light brightened the eerie forest that surrounded its outskirts. It's diplomatically run government gave the people a sense of community and purpose. Life here was everyone lending a hand and taking care of the city's beauty as well as each other.

      Apprehensive, Trey entered and saw the white washed buildings with colorful flowers on the sills. People ran from one store to the next taking care of what needed to be done. He hoped he would be welcome and wondered whom he would speak to about setting up a place of his own.

How would Trey know about the government or their people? He's never been there. Describing a scene or place first without it being in the character's POV is author intrusion. 

You need to begin the scene with knowledge of which character's POV you're in and what they're experiencing along the way. Otherwise you have given information ahead of the character's experience. Yes, you as the writer may have researched the information, but unless you have the character research it, then you've given the info before it's time.

The best way to know whether or not you're intruding into your story, is to keep within the character's POV and remember to know your character's and make sure they each have their own personalities and voices. 

Study your character outlines and try to stay within their voice. Also how you portray a character and then suddenly they have all this knowledge is changing their personalities. 

This can be a tough skill to learn, but if you want your characters  and story to be rich and clean, it is a must to accomplish.

Have you been told your intruding into your story? Did you decide to fix it and learn from it, or figured the reader will never know?

Leave me a comment and let me know your experiences with author intrusion.

Have a great weekend all!

Love, Lisa

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