Sunday, May 31, 2009

Using Characterization to Deepen POV

I'm reading Love Inspired author Cheryl Wyatt's novel Ready-Made Family. This is a sweet romance with an interesting plot and likeable characters. I'm really enjoying it. If you'd like to read a longer, more creative review, check out Jaime's blog.

One of the things I noticed about the characterization in this book is how the hero, a pararescue jumper, constantly thinks of things in military terms. Here are a few examples:

While they talked, questions popped through his mind like automatic weapon fire.

As if Harker's words hauled a heavy rucksack off Amelia's shoulders, they lifted.

The girl could scramble his brain faster than a missile lock scrambled fighter jet signals.

So, anyone here know the sound of automatic weapon fire? (Maybe Kristen does, lol) Held a heavy rucksack? Seen fighter jet signals get scrambled?

Nope. This is all in the hero's internal narrative, distinctly his POV.

How do you like to show characterization? Have you ever used this technique?

***I forgot to tell you that all commenters will be entered to win this book in a drawing, as well as a cool Cheryl Wyatt pen. :-)***

40 comments:

Marybeth Poppins said...

Although it MIGHT come as a surprise...my character is very sarcastic. There are many moments where she thinks up witty retorts to herself. I did my best to keep it going throughout the entire story, although it was very hard. Being someone with minimal sarcasm and all :D

The sound of automatic weapon fire? I'll talk to the hubby about that, he likes those kind of awful video games!

Jody Hedlund said...

I just love that technique. I wish I could be more intentional with it! I think it helps when we really get into our characters' heads and try to think the way they would.

Jessica said...

LOL MaryBeth.
Sarcastic people crack me up, as long as it's not mean. Lucky you to be able to write a snippy character. They're fun to read, I think. :-)

Jessica said...

I agree Jody. I wish I used it more too. Will work on it.
Have a great Sunday!

Lady Glamis said...

I love this post! After reading Tess Hilmo's novel (that is out on submission right now, so yay for her!), I realized that this is a great tecnique to get into a more in-depth POV. Her novel takes place in the 50's, and her accurate usues of similes and metaphors pertaining to those things in that time period was supberb. I need to figure out how to do this better. It's such a great technique!

T. Anne said...

I've held a heavy baby does that count? ;)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hmm, I need to experiment more with this technique. Thanks for the tip.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Terri Tiffany said...

That's interesting that you picked up on that and that is it so intentional like that. Hmmm--need to consider things like that:)

Cindy said...

This is a wonderful technique! I've not used it before but can see much of an impact it might have.

Jessica said...

Hi Lady G.
I agree. I have a historical during WWI and I think it would come so much more alive if there was some timely slang in it (revisions needed, yeah).
Thanks for popping by! It's a great technique and I should use it more too.

Jessica said...

T. Anne,

Let's see:

"The burden of his transgression fell heavy against her chest, much like the weight of a toddler in a baby carrier."

LOL!

Jessica said...

Me too Susan. :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Terri,
I do think it's intentional. Possibly, overused, it could be distracting. Like most things there's a certain level of balance to create that living, breathing character without going overboard. I think Wyatt did a great job with this.

Jessica said...

Thanks for stopping by, Cindy! I've heard of it before too, but in the midst of all the other cool writer stuff, I forgot to implement it. :-)

Deb Shucka said...

Since I write memoir, my challenge is to be in character at the right age. This is an interesting technique that I'm looking forward to trying.

Jessica said...

Somehow I missed that you write memoir. That's fascinating and such a challenge, I think.

Pen Pen said...

:) I think it's a great idea to uses similes and other literary devices that draw from your character's upbringing or experience like the military ones you mentioned. If you can use those devices to expose more of the "world" ur characters are in, that is a HUGE boost to the characterization.
Example:
My main character of my WIP is from the South, and so she compares some tears moving down her father's face to the drips of condensation moving down the outside of a glass of iced tea.

Jessica said...

Hi Pen Pen,
What a great example! That's very nice and sheesh, I can see it so well. Really nice imagery.
Literary devices, aren't they lovely? :-)

Angie Ledbetter said...

To make the POV really convincing, I think the writer has to really stay in the "head" of the characters and never wander. Seems like the author did just that.

Jeannie Campbell said...

awesome analogies. just awesome! i would have known the POV character was a military guy even if you hadn't identified it first. what a great exercise to try with all our characters.

i've heard a lot about this book, so that would be WAY cool to win it. :)

quixotic said...

This is a great technique, and what an awesome way to really deepen POV. Thanks for sharing. I will have to be more conscious of this as I write.

Jessica said...

Hi Angie,
I think she did too. I've heard she's excellent at characterization and this seems to confirm it.

Jessica said...

Well, you're entered Jeannie. :-) Great point about knowing he's military just by his thoughts.

Jessica said...

Me too, Katie. As I'm revising I've already been thinking about this.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Jessie;
I've noticed that technique in several novels i've read lately. Camy Tang, Patti Lacy, and Ginger Kolbaba all use it.

I think it ties the story together nicely, as well as teaching you some new things.

Camy even has a glossary at the end of her first book (I haven't read the others; perhaps it's in all of them), which is a fun touch.
Jen

Anonymous said...

Hi Jessica,

This is one of my favorite techniques. Although I don't use it myself - much, I enjoy it immensly as a reader.

The one thing I find that you have to be careful with however, is setting up your technigued sentences so that if someone doesn't know what a certain item is, the sentence will qaulify it somehow in a readers head.

Like the rucksack. In general converstaion, not everyone would know what a rucksack is. But the way she worded it with the mental image of a sack being hauled off her shoulders, leads the reader to understand without actually having to write:
"As if Harker's words hauled a heavy imaginary duffle bag used for carrying military supplies...

This technique can backfire if you over-write the sent, or if you leave it without any supporting structure so the reader can't 'imagine' it right along with the writing.

Those three examples you used are stellar. Kudos to Cheryl Wyatt!

Candi

Jessica said...

Hi Jen,
I first noticed it in Camy's books awhile back too. Really a neat way to do things. I think she and Cheryl may be crit buds, but I'm not positive. The glossary is fun, I agree.

Jessica said...

Hey Candi,
Thanks for stopping by. You're so right about it backfiring if misused. I would even think, if overused, it could become distracting to the reader.

Danyelle said...

This is pretty much how I do it--through their internal thought process, along with their dialogue and reactions to things. Characterization can be so much fun!

Jessica said...

Good for you Danyelle! I can tell you have fun with it, just because of your Carpe Musa(or something like that) Blog. :-)

Amy De Trempe said...

I love character's internal thoughts. They can be so much fun to read and write, but it is a technique I am still working on. Someday I hope to produce something as good as your examples.

KLo said...

This might sound weird, but I try really hard to be "in touch" with my characters. I'll think about what music they might like, what their favorite foods are, how they'd prefer to spend a Saturday night, and so on and so forth. My hope is that this seeps through into my novel in a natural way. It's hard for me to be objective, of course, but it'd probably be even stranger to say to a reader, "So which does Roy like better, cheeseburgers or lobster?"

I'm kind of weird : ) ...

Jessica said...

I hope to do something that good too, Amy. I believe we can, and you probably have and didn't even realize it.

Jessica said...

LOL KLo,
That's not weird at all. I think a lot of writers do that. A lady in my crit group wrote some diary pages for her characters, which I thought was pretty cool.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Cheryl does a great job of characterizing through deep POV. I've learned a lot just from reading her books.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Wow all! So sorry for not coming by sooner! We had two weeks of power outage from the inland hurricane which meant no Internet (Waaaaa!!!) and no power for two weeks.

Then I went to NY to sign at BEA and just made it home.

Jessica, you have a wonderful blog and a great blog following. Excellent!

Thanks to each and every one of you for stopping by and for your kind comments.

I sense there's a LOT of great talent among you and many of you will be outstanding in your craft. What impressed me so about each of you is your eager willingness to learn and to grow.

I see a few old friends here too! Waving to Eileen.

Hope to see some of you in September at ACFW!

Hugs to Jessica for hosting me on your wonderful blog. It was truly an honor.

And yep...Camy and I are not only CPs but best buds.

God's best to each of you and your writing!

Warmly,
Cheryl

Jessica said...

Hi Cheryl,
Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm sure you have a hectic schedule so it's such an honor that you bothered to even post a comment! :-)
Yeah, we're all impressed with your super cool characterization. :-)
I'm blessed to "know" all these blogger buddies. They're great, and kind, and I truly believe they'll succeed in their dreams too, because of their eagerness to learn (like you said.) (and hopefully I'm a good learner too, lol)
Thanks again for stopping by!

Warren Baldwin said...

Good question about who can relate to this author's POV. If the readers can't relate, has the author really accomplished anything with these descriptions? And by POV do you mean how the character in the story views life?

Warren Baldwin said...

To explain my questions ... I am not a fiction writer, so I have a lot to learn in this area!

Also, thanks for your good comments on the post about "Parenting Extremes." wb

Jessica said...

Hi Warren,
POV is actually point of view. We don't necessarily have to relate as long as the pov remains true to the character. Like some people are strong-minded, so they should have willful thoughts. Others are shy, and in their pov, that should come across. And that's very, very basic. LOL POV is much more in-depth than that. If you're ever interested in writing fiction, there are all sorts of wonderful articles and books about it. It's basically staying in character while writing a character's scene.
I'll stop now before I keep rambling on. LOL
Questions are great! They make me think, which is a good thing. Don't want my brain to atrophy. Heehee.