Harlequin REFRESH: Perk Up Point of View!

by Patience Bloom

If you write anything, you have to deal with point of view (POV). POV is how one shares the opinions, observations, and emotions of a storyteller, instructor, or character. Even in nonfiction, there is a point of view. In a romance novel, you may encounter several points of view: that of your protagonists, a secondary character, a ghost, a dog. To make your readers feel, delving into POV is essential.

When you sit down to write, it may seem easy to jot down what you think your character feels. For some, the writing flows like buttah. For others, the task can be daunting. Here are some exercises and thoughts that will encourage the flood of POV brilliance.

Think of It as Acting:

As a writer fleshes out point of view, she needs to inhabit that character (or let the character talk through her). It’s time to bring out those fantasies of being a famous actor. This is the chance to play a role on paper. Your characters show themselves through point of view, through dialogue, through action—all coming from you.

The perfect time to bust out the acting chops: You’ve started your novel. You think you have your characters figured out. They are good people with flaws. Of course, they are attractive and attracted to each other. You are writing and writing and feeling…blah. Let POV come to the rescue. Spend some time with each character. Listen to her speak inside your head. Who is she? What is she saying to you? What is she just dying to tell the world?

Act out those conversations you have in your head, say them out loud. How is your heroine responding to the strange—and romantic–things happening to her? She must deal with conflict in a certain way, right? Get it down. You have to give this character his/her/their voice. Become that character as you write.

Think of Sense of Urgency:

 There is a time and place for a mundane story. I could watch cooking shows because I love the details. Chop up a carrot. Put it into a bowl. And then, maybe an oven is involved (I don’t cook). There is comfort in learning how to do something in a methodical way. Romance novels need other ingredients. We don’t want every detail of how the heroine came to her position in life, i.e. on the brink of true love. But we do want to know her through her POV. Take her normal life, add mind-spinning romance and you’ve got sweet insanity. Falling in love is an extraordinary event, one which takes place during a set number of words. To make it extraordinary, your characters should act and react as if their worlds are shaken. How do they feel? What are they thinking about this? What do they need RIGHT NOW?

If they continue to chop carrots and make the sauce, why do we care? This is when you need to really amp up the point of view. But make sure that you layer in description, dialogue, and lots of zest (I’m trying to encourage cooking metaphors). Show us how this character is unique and how what they are going through is the most outlandish thing ever. Show us urgency and desperation through POV.

Think of How Can We Relate:

Being relatable is THE word these days (for the last few years). It can have a broader meaning with fiction. You can’t relate to Hannibal Lecter, but his evil is delicious (pun intended and extension of cooking thing) in that he is fascinating. He relates to my curiosity and invigorates my imagination. Clarice Starling is also relatable to me but in a different way. She is hard-working, acts despite her fears, but is not perfect. The second I see her running in the beginning, I love her. I imagine her thinking, “Ugh, I’m not into this running, but I have to do this.” I can relate to that! Think of how you love your character and show us through her thoughts. Think of we can love someone who is far from our reality (if you are like Hannibal, please forget I exist).

Spending time with your characters and getting their thoughts down is worth the effort. You know you’ve done POV well when you feel it. You and your characters are like family. They are precious to you, and you are basically a medium for them in how you develop them through point of view. You’ll find in some ways that the story will start to write itself and YOUR voice will dazzle the reader.

I wish you great success on your POV adventure!