Thursday, April 13, 2006


Mmmm, I just ate two corndogs for lunch. Mind, that's probably my corndog quota for the year, but they were goooood.

This is my Yahoo horoscope for today: "Practice paying attention. Pay attention to the things that you normally don't pay attention to. How do you know what you usually don't pay attention to? Exactly! Your project is to start uncovering what you notice and what you don't notice. You can find out a lot about yourself by seeing what it is you don't see. But it might not be easy."

No, I don't live by horoscopes; I understand that they're mostly just made-up, general advice. But I find it an interesting mind-game to look at them regularly and see how accurate or not such advice is. This one struck me as an excellent exercise for writers. Because not only can you find out about yourself by such a project, you can find out about your characters.

A critical part of drawing your readers into the story and keeping them close is how well you do POV. And one of the most vital tips about staying in POV? What different characters notice.

TMT is in 1st-person, so I HAVE to stick in POV. If Katherine doesn't notice it, you're not going to notice it, outside of dialogue. But what does Katherine notice?

--She's an intelligent young woman, aware of her surroundings (and like most 1st-person narrators, she likes to watch people). Because she's a woman she notices the subtlety of people's facial expressions and movements, and applies meaning to them. She notices how people are dressed, and makes judgements based on that. She notices details about men: hands, legs, the prickly stubble at the back of his neck.

--She's a mason's daughter. She notices architectural details, stone, the placement of windows.

--She's educated, so she can read things in her environment.

--She is used to housework, spinning and the like. She'll see if something's dusty, if it needs mending. If the fire is low and needs more wood.

--She is a woman of the 14th century, and is devout. She notices and wonders when someone has pigeon hanging in the kitchen and it's Lent. She sees where the various classes stand in a church service. She can tell someone is wealthy by the quality and rarity of spices, and the type of rushes on the floor. She recognizes the sequence of bells for Vespers, or Terce.

All of these things are specific to this narrator. If I was telling a scene from Thomas's POV--or when I write his dialogue and actions--he would notice and remark on completely different things. It's when I put in things that Katherine would NOT notice that readers, whether aware of it or not, get pulled out of the story, start to question it.

Ah, and one more thing. Katherine's not going to be consistent in what she notices, and I need to pay attention to that. Just like a real person, if she's upset or mad she's not going to be detailing the wonderful architecture of a house; she's going to be looking at the face of the person she's mad at. When the baby is dangerously ill, she sees, hears, nothing but that baby. Again, if I try to stuff in details where they don't fit POV I'm going to lose the reader. And it's all about keeping them in the story, where they belong.

Medieval Word of the Day: skink: To pour out or draw (liquor); to offer, present, serve (drink, etc.).


Anonymous said...


I love this entry. It's thought-provoking and a *great* POV reminder to us writers.

When I get a minute, I'm going to do one of these on my mc. I've written tons of profile notes on him, but I love how you've just whipped up one on Katherine focusing on POV.


Susan Adrian said...

Thanks, Rose! For some reason I love talking about POV...and of course I love Katherine. So it's a natural. {s}

It was pretty interesting writing it out that way!