Point of View: Deepen Your Scene as You Employ It

image by geralt
image by geralt

Through two examples, I’ll show how employing point of view can enrich a scene as readers experience the setting, characterization, plot, and story theme.

I’ll use the same elements for each example.

   Character: Clara Hill, a twenty-three-year-old woman.

   Theme: A first-time teacher learns to reach and help her students.

   Setting: Classroom.

   Scene Plot: How Clara handles her first day of class.

Example 1 

Principal Edwards introduced Clara to the class then headed for the door.

He was leaving her so soon—with the black boy wearing unlaced combat boots and sitting in the last row, tying knots in the blind cord? And with the white pregnant girl, sitting in front chewing gum? Or was that tobacco?

Clara scurried to the teacher’s desk, putting the bulwark between her and the class. Seven columns and six rows of one-armed student desks. And all of them filled with lounging teens. Eighty-four eyes bearing down on her, sizing her up, following her every movement.

image by PublicDomainPictures
image by PublicDomainPictures

She grasped the English textbook with both hands. Anything to steady her trembling fingers. As she opened the book, her number-two pencil fell from its pages, rolled off the desk to the filthy terrazzo floor, and stopped at the mud-encrusted wader of the boy with one lazy eye.

She glanced at the boy. Wasn’t he going to pick it up?

“You dropped your pencil,” he said, one eye on her and the other on the pencil.

What happened to raising one’s hand to speak? And since when was a teacher expected to handle a class of forty-two miscreants? [Scene continues.]

Example 2

Principal Edwards introduced Clara to the class then headed for the door.

Clara ran her gaze over the students as she waited until the metal door clicked shut. A motley bunch, but they’d do.

image by tdfugere
image by tdfugere

She strode to the wooden desk, plopped her rump onto the spot where a lovelorn teen had engraved, ‘LILY LUVS AL,’ and crossed her legs.

“My name is Clara Hill. Ms. Hill to you.” She nodded at the teen in the back. “You who can’t decide whether to open or shut the blinds, what’s your name?”

Sniggers rippled through the students.

The boy released the blind cord. “Emmett Crowe.”

“Thanks, Emmett.” Clara’s clog nearly touched the knee of the rosy-cheeked young lady on the first row. She smiled at the girl. “What’s your name?”

“Annabel Grubbs.”

“How far along are you, Annabel?” Maybe Clara should have taken a birthing class instead of CPR.

More sniggers.

Annabel giggled, displaying brown teeth. “Thirty-four weeks.”

“My guess is you’ll miss the first unit test.” [Scene continues.]

 

Through point of view:

  1.  Clara is fearful and judgmental

OR

    is bold and direct.

2.   Clara sees 42 occupied chairs, skin color, filth, and miscreants

OR

     sees individual students, fidgeting, pregnant, and infatuated with “AL.”

3.   The way Clara handles her first day drives what needs to happen to satisfy the novel’s theme that Clara will reach and help her students (plot).

Perhaps, Clara changes her outlook and relationships with her students

OR

fights the community for the students’ good.

Put point of view to work for characterization, setting, theme, and plot. Click to tweet.

How have you put point of view to work in a scene?

What 5 Experts Say About Writing Story Settings

“Many early-career authors treat setting as merely an element of the background – an incidental necessity, maybe, but a tertiary craft concern when compared to plot or character development or dialogue.”
—Jacob M. Appel “Know Your Place” Writer’s Digest November/December 2013

image by KreativeHexenkueche
image by KreativeHexenkueche

Let’s get started:

  1. Jacob M. Appel – “Know Your Place” (Writer’s Digest November/December 2013).

Appel holds:

  • Stories should reveal the setting by the second sentence unless there’s a convincing reason not to.
  • Stories should be set in places the writer understands well. The slightest errant details jar readers. He reminds writers that what’s familiar to them may be exotic to readers.
  • image by Unsplash
    image by Unsplash

    Authors must do three things:

º Orient the reader – don’t waste the reader’s energy in his trying to figure out where he is. (See this post on grounding the reader.)

º Awe the reader – with knowledge of accurate plants, animals, architecture, furniture, and “distinctive diction and syntax.” Appel says, “The magic lies in the subtle details, not the strange environs.” 

º Trap the reader – Appel suggests that a passage describing a setting is an easy way to slow the pace to build suspense, or anticipation of a surprise.

  1. Dwight V. Swain – Techniques of the Selling Writer.

Swain instructs writers to remember these key points about setting.

  • The reader has not been there. So, Swain says to paint the setting in full color and enough pertinent details to bring the setting alive for the reader.
  • image myMarionF
    image myMarionF
    The world is sensory. Swain says to build the setting through what’s seen, heard, smelled, touched, and tasted. He says analogies are particularly important – perceived likenesses between two things using metaphors or similes.

 

  • The world is subjective. Depending on the characters’ objectives, attitudes, and pasts, they’ll react to their surroundings in unique ways.

3. Renni Browne and Dave King. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

Browne and King suggest that, because most of today’s readers prefer more concise literature, writers should give readers only enough detail to assist them in imagining the setting for themselves

lion-171311_1280

I don’t think this’s necessarily contrary to what Appel and Swain have said. I interpret Browne and King to say setting is important, but don’t bore the reader with details they can already picture.

 

 

  1. James Scott Bell – Plot & Structure.

Bell asks, in the reader’s behalf, if the writer can take him some place he’s never been before, to bring life to the plot. Bell says the place doesn’t have to be far from home.

Bell advocates parting from the predictable to some place fresh. He mentions the overdone example of lovers-to-be talking in a restaurant.

  1. Debra Dixon – GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict.

tomb-333659_1280Dixon says the setting is important to heighten conflict. If the setting is at odds with the tone of a story, she suggests the writer will have hard work ahead to develop a mood of tension.

She gives examples of good and bad settings for dark suspense. Good: the rainy Northwest or New Orleans with its swamps, graveyards, and secrets. Bad: Disney World, and for a romantic comedy, Ethiopia.

Consider these experts perspectives when writing your story settings. Click to tweet.

As a reader, what’s important to you about setting?

Make a Splash in Your Story With These “Little” Things

“If you can take a little slice of the world and a little piece of dirt and really focus on details, you can drive large, seemingly spectacular movements.” —David Baldacci (Writer’s Digest November/December 2015)

image by inspired images
image by inspired images

Note the quote from David Baldacci above. It’s from his interview, “Absolute Writer,” by Jessica Strawser.

Baldacci’s quote from the interview says I can do four things:

  • “take a little slice of the world and ”
  • “a little piece of dirt and”
  • “really focus on details”
  • and “drive … spectacular movements”

I think this could work on novels, scenes, or short stories.

As an exploratory example, I’ll apply Baldacci’s advice, as I perceive it, to the short story, I’m working on, a Christmas romance.

My slice of the world is the road to marriage. I see these subparts:

  1. the dreams of the perfect love,
  2. the cute-meet (movie term),
  3. the getting-to-know-you,
  4. the wariness of less than perfect,
  5. the acceptance of less than perfect,
  6. the embracing of less than perfect,
  7. the desire to become one, and
  8. the commitment to the union.
image by zulubo
image by zulubo

My story needs to be a “little slice.” So my slice will cover the hero and heroine’s amusing meeting to their realization they prefer the less perfect person more than the perfect one of their dreams (subparts 2-5).

 

My “little piece of dirt” is:

  • A neighborhood,
  • where movement is limited by a dumping of snow,
  • where most scenes happen in the hero’s and the heroine’s houses,
  • where only three other characters make brief appearances (two by phone) to move the story along.

 

image by srose
image by srose

Keeping their story in the neighborhood and limiting the number of characters, allows me to concentrate on the play between the hero and heroine.

 

 

 

 

The details I’ll “really focus on” are in:

  • hitting home the theme,
  • creating believable and unique characters, and
  • writing unpredictable plot points.

Baldacci says that while we’re showing the details, we need to trick, distract, and deflect the reader’s attention to keep the story unpredictable and to move the action forward. This will be my challenge.

Driving my “spectacular movements.”

  • I interpret that as: at the end, the reader needs to feel like cheering and/or changing.

Focus on details & limit world, setting, characters to write an amazing story. Click to tweet.

How have you used the idea, “little,” to make a splash in your story?