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Bob Nailor

POV - Part 1

Exactly what is POV? Well, I looked it up and found a whole mess of definitions for the acronym.

When I started my research I didn't realize exactly how much information was going to assail me. To make things clearer, I revisited the search engine and looked for "POV writing" and was still amazed at the return but at least this time it was what I wanted.

Writing POV comes in several options. Today's tip will start the discussion of First Person POV. This is represented by the easiest pronoun known to man -- "I" and if not properly executed, can become an ugly mess.

The best way to describe First Person POV is to understand FOV (Field of View) and AOE (Area of Expertise) of your character. Using FOV -- imagine yourself sitting at a window looking out, that is your field of view. You can only see a small segment of the world. Unless you lean out the window, only with some stretching and bending will be you be able to see a very large area. You can only see and relate to what you see in your small FOV. If your window looks out on the back yard, you have no knowledge of what is happening in the front or side yards.

There is a loophole. You can't see what is happening but you can hear. There are people in a pool in the side yard and the sound of the mower running in the front yard. BUT, you have no idea if the young lady is wearing a skimpy black bikini or if the lawn mower is 0-turn radius type.

Now add Area of Expertise. Remember that pool? Of course you do, you blew the stupid thing up by yourself. It was a yellow and purple plastic thing. And that mower? Hearing the engine backfire assures you it is Cub Cadet rider and the mower blades whine when going up and down inclines.

BUT! You need to let your reader know this information before you reveal it. See example...

Example 1 I sat at the open window looking out on the garden. In the distance I could hear kids splashing about in the new yellow and purple plastic pool. My neighbor mowed his front yard with the old Cub Cadet.

Example 2 I sat at the open window looking out on the garden. In the distance I could hear my kids playing in their new pool. I just hoped they didn't break the inflated tubes since it took me almost 3 hours to blow it up. The yellow tube was small and filled quickly but the purple tube was much bigger and took a long time. I also could hear my neighbor labor up and down the hilly front yard with the old Cub Cadet blades whining. No matter how much we worked on it, the mower continued to backfire and the blades whined.

The first example is a poor demonstration of First Person POV. The character is giving us information that s/he can only guess about. S/he can't see the pool and therefore can't really know it is yellow and purple. Hearing the mower could be the neighbor's but it could also be the spouse or a child using the mower. S/he can't see the action and therefore can't describe it.

In First Person POV -- if the character can't touch, taste or see the item, the character can't describe it. Yes, First Person POV is extremely restrictive, yet, at the same time, allows the reader to become very personal with the character. They meld as one.

Remember that pronoun I mentioned? I? Okay, by using "me, myself, and I" as the character, you are no longer leading the reader, you ARE the reader. So I am seeing this, I am doing that, things are happening to me! In First Person POV, you can't get any more personal and intimate with your reader.

There is no "Goose bumps rippled his arms, sending chills down his back." Now it is "Goose bumps rippled my arms, sending chills down my back." Suddenly the reader realizes, yes, indeed, there are goose bumps and feels those chills. He shudders. By using First Person POV you can really scare the be-Jesus out of your readers and make them squirm. They are no longer standing outside the action, watching. They are in the action and it is happening to them.

If properly written and executed, using First Person POV can leave your reader breathless, heart-pumping excited and turning pages very quickly.

Next time we will continue with First Person POV.

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