Jump to content

We Are All Heroes: Playing With POV

Recommended Posts

A silhouette of a superhero man and woman couple in capes standing strong and powerful against a sunset sky background.

When you walk into a room, whether you are at a conference hoping to win a big award, picking up a pizza, or on a first date – you are the star of the show playing out in your mind.

You see the world from your own unique perspective and are acting in accordance with your own desires.

The same can be said about the main character in that scene you are struggling to get right. Experimenting with the point of view might help you get unstuck.

When I get frustrated with a scene I’m working on, if it’s feeling flat or lacking tension or spark, I allow myself to break out of the point of view in which I’ve chosen to write.

Let’s try a thought experiment. Imagine you are in that ballroom filled with your peers, other writers. You have been nominated for a big award and the winners are about to be announced.

Your ambition got you in that room. Your desires govern what you hope will happen. Your fears dictate how you act (or don’t act.) You are the center of the action, the one under the spotlight. Everything you see, think, and feel is influenced by everything that has ever happened to you leading up to this moment.

Are you flashing back to high school when you were a runner-up, but not the winner, for an academic prize? Are you privately grumbling because you are up against your nemesis who always edges you out? Are you afraid you will cry if you don’t win? Are you worried you will trip on the way to the podium if you do win? Are you hoping to win because you want to rub it in the face of your ex, who also happens to be nominated for this award?

Now freeze the frame.

Look around the imaginary table where you are sitting.

Every single person in that scene believes they are the center of the story. And their internal dramas have nothing to do with yours. The waiter might be concerned about being late getting home for the babysitter – again. They can’t risk losing this sitter, but their boss doesn’t give a crap. The smiling author at the table next to you is bereft because it’s been three years since she has been nominated for anything. Her husband next to her is bored out of his mind and is secretly listening to a horse race, which he bet a lot of money on. Maybe this one will pay off and he won’t have to tell his famous author wife he took out a second mortgage to pay off his gambling debts.

Everyone in the room is experiencing that same scene – the awards ceremony – through a different filter colored by their individual circumstances and experiences. Every person in that room wants something. And, for the most part, none of their desires have anything to do with you.

This thought experiment – recognizing that everyone in the room thinks they are the center of the story – makes for a helpful writing exercise, especially for those pesky scenes that just feel off, where the tension falls flat.

Step One: Make a map. Just as you did in that imaginary awards ceremony, I want you to enter the scene you are struggling with. Look around the room or the space. Notice the furniture, the weather, the trees, and the things hiding under tables or park benches. Where is each person standing or sitting? Where are they in relation to each other? Sketch the scene. You don’t need to be an artist. Stick figures will work just fine.

Step Two: List every person in the scene, even the unnamed minor characters, the waitress, and the guy walking his dog in the background. Next to each person’s name answer the following questions:

  • What are they looking at? What draws their attention?
  • What are they thinking about?
  • Why are they in this scene?
  • What are they hoping will happen in this scene?
  • What is at stake for that character?
  • What obstacles stand in their way?
  • Now repeat this line of questions for every person in the scene.

Step Three: Now shift the lens. After the main character, who is the next most important character? Get inside that person’s head, and write the same scene from this character’s point of view. Keep in mind the notes you took about that character.

  • What do they observe, think, and feel in the scene?
  • Are their goals and desires aligned with the main character’s, or in conflict?
  • Do they experience the scene differently based on their job, past trauma, family situation, race, nationality, socioeconomic status, or personal ambition?
  • How does this character’s version of the scene impact your original point of view character?
  • Does it help the main character or hinder them?
  • Repeat this step with as many characters in the scene as you can.

Step Four: Read over all the different versions of this scene. Is your main character aware of the desires of the other characters? If so, how does it influence your main character in this scene?

  • Notice how the other characters’ goals function in relation to the main character’s goals.
  • Where do they rub against each other? Where is the friction? Where is the heat?
  • How does the MC use what she knows about the other people to move toward achieving her goal?
  • What does the MC not know about the other characters?
  • What does she misconstrue?
  • What does she not see?
  • What things does the MC disregard that the other characters value or fear?

Step Five: Go back and rewrite the scene from the original point of view character. Keep in mind all that you know about the other characters, even the things your MC might not know. You now better understand their motivations better and can amplify the points of tension or synergy.

When characters in a scene have differing goals – as enormous as whether or not they want to launch a nuclear weapon, or as small as whether they want the window or aisle seat – seize the opportunity to amplify the points of friction and deepen the scene, keeping in mind that each of us is the hero of our own story.

I find this strategy immensely helpful and I hope you will too.

Have you tried shifting to a different POV to help you find the tension in an otherwise flat scene? What other strategies have you experimented with to shake up a lackluster scene?


[url={url}]View the full article[/url]

AC Admin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 0
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Days

Top Posters In This Topic

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.



WTF is Wrong With Stephen King?

  • Create New...