4 Exercises To “Go Deeper” With Deep Point Of View by Lisa Hall-Wilson - Canada
Hearing “go deeper” from crit partners and editors? Here are my 4 favorite tricks for digging deeper emotionally into a scene.
Deep point of view is a powerful writing technique, but it’s a strategy and like any technique or strategy you need to know what effect you want to create so you understand where and when to break the rules. What you have to decide for yourself (once you know the “rules”) is where and when you’re going to employ or break those rules in any given scene to create a specific effect for readers. There does need to be consistency, but there’s a lot of flexibility here.
Deep point of view applied too rigidly causes writing on the nose, navel gazing, slow pacing, and other problems.
In my Method Acting for Writers Masterclass (and moreso in my Deep Dive Author Club Membership) I help point out places where the writer could “go deeper” with their writing. It’s been my observation that these writers instinctively know what the scene needed, but hold back because they fear being melodramatic or of baring too much of themselves emotionally. Step into the uncomfortable and messy bits!
My students are always asking me how I know where to take the writing deeper. Part of it is simply having some emotional distance from the story. It’s easier to pick it out in a story I haven’t written lol. That aside, here are some things I look for when critiquing student work to help them go deeper.
What does your character want RIGHT NOW?
This is easy to miss and can absolutely swing a scene from blah to bang! Identify what your character desperately needs in the scene you’re working on. What they want will prioritize and filter everything they see, what they think, and how they interpret the body language of others.
A teenage boy gets home from school at 4PM and hasn’t had lunch yet. He’ll blow into the house and not notice if the walls have been painted or if anyone else is home, his goal is to get to the fridge to see what he can eat. He’ll notice if there are grocery bags on the counter. His nose will be attuned to any cooking smells. He opens the fridge and immediately searches the space where he last saw a leftover slice of pizza.
A husband returns home to his wife after a late-night meetup with his lover. What his wife notices or takes in will be a reflection of her priorities, experiences, etc. If she’s neck-deep in work, maybe she’ll give him a kiss on the cheek and apologize that she’ll be up late again. She won’t notice the lipstick on his collar or the perfume on his shirt.
If she’s spent the day wrangling preschoolers and is exhausted and feeling frumpy, she might just sag with relief when he says he’s going for a shower and then bed after being out late because please-don’t-want-sex-tonight. She’ll overlook the red flags, maybe even justify or dismiss clues because she trusts him and her priority at that moment is some peace and quiet.
In either situation, she’s not stupid for missing the clues and it isn’t that she hasn’t registered or taken in the red flags, but her conclusions are filtered through her priorities. It’s human nature to miss what you’re not looking for. If she was suspicious, or less distracted, or angry that he was late, she’d put more importance on or be more attuned to his body language or behavior.
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