Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Sage Advice from Last Week

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How do you see things?

Last week we tackled point of view for our lesson. We weren’t the only ones! Theresa Stevens from Edittorrent wrote about point of view as a sliding scale over at Romance University. You can’t even imagine how quickly I read this post (and reread) because it gets straight everything I’ve been uncertain on.

A professor of mine recently told me that I was writing too objective for what I was trying to do. He wanted more than what my characters were doing, he wanted to know what they were thinking. I thought being subjective meant that everything was merely colored by my main character’s perception.

Guess not.

It’s a bit more than that. Readers won’t know if it’s through your main character’s viewpoint if you never make it explicit from the start. They’ll likely think your narrator is jumping out and making some kind of comment. So here’s a few things I’ve learned to get your point of view straight:

  1. Start objectively. This allows you to describe what your main character looks like. A lot of books do this! And it’s okay to!
  2. Slide into subjective by showing your main character’s thoughts.

    You can do it in single quotations. ‘Hmm,’ she thought, ‘that’s not right.’ Or perhaps you’re better acquainted with italics: Hmm, that’s not right, she thought. Or you can be sneaky and perhaps slip completely into the brain of your main character, almost as if you’re slipping into first person entirely (She dropped her fork with a gasp. I can’t believe what I’m seeing).

  3. Slide in and out of objectivity and subjectivity. Be conscious of what you’re writing.

    You need to equally show actions (objective) and thoughts (subjective) throughout your book. Some scenes will require more objectivity and less subjectivity, or vice versa. No one wants too many thoughts, it slows down the pace–but when you want to slow things down, throwing in thoughts (even stream-of-consciousness can be fair play depending on your writing) can help you.

  4. Never, ever switch viewpoints. You can’t be in one person’s head and then another person’s head when you’re writing subjective. That’s omniscient. (Tricky, isn’t it!)
  5. Once you’ve gone into someone’s head, you can’t come out of it. If you’ve given us a taste of their thoughts, you have to let us take nibbles the entire book. We’ll remember what it tasted like, we’ll never forget it, and we won’t forgive you from withholding it from us.

Point of view is a tricky subject. I hope this post can bring another round of clarity!


Written by Jessica Lei

October 18, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Advice, Point of View

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