Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by glorybee » Sat Feb 28, 2015 1:15 am

Previous lessons here have been about POV—choosing to write in 1st or 3rd person (or more rarely, in 2nd person). This lesson also covers POV, but it’s about choosing a unique POV character. We’re always talking about making our Challenge entries (or any writing) out-of-the-box, and one way to do that is to write from a unique POV.

In this lesson, I’d really like some brainstorming from you all. Go ahead and read through my thoughts, which admittedly are largely colored by my own opinion. Then jump in with some of your own.

When writing biblical fiction, here are some options:

1. Rather than write from the POV of the well-known biblical character, write from a minor or “sidelines” character from a biblical story.

2. Write from the POV of someone acquainted with the well-known Bible character: their spouse, child, parent, best friend

3. Write from the POV of the well-known person, but as a child, or as a much older person, or immediately before or after the story in the Bible.

4. Make up a character who might also have been there.

I’m aware that writers have varying degrees of comfort with different types of biblical fiction, and with making up extra-biblical characters. Don’t do something you’re uncomfortable with, but if one of the above seems appealing to you, I’d encourage you to give it a try.

Here’s an example from the Writing Challenge: Two in a Tree

Question 1: Are there any other ways that you’ve illuminated Scripture by writing from a unique POV?

Moving away from biblical fiction—there are some interesting POVs you can experiment with for any type of fiction. Consider the following:

1. a neutral observer of a very dramatic story
2. a famous or historical person (with this suggestion, you can also use any of the above variants listed for biblical fiction)
3. a child. If you choose to write from a child’s POV, you need to decide about your child’s voice. Is she going to tell the story as if a seven-year-old would really tell it, for example? Or as an adult, relating an incident from childhood, with an adult’s insights? It’s especially challenging to write a story for an adult audience, but in a child’s voice.
4. a person who is somehow impaired: developmentally disabled, mentally ill, suffering from Alzheimer’s. Again, getting the voice right is tricky. Do you write as well as the person can actually communicate, or do you write as if they were somehow unimpaired and looking over their own shoulder, as it were? I wish I remember who wrote a wonderful story here several years ago—it was from the POV of a girl with Down’s Syndrome, and the narrative was extremely literary and articulate, but whenever the girl actually spoke, it was with the speech difficulties typical of Down’s Syndrome.
5. a person who is sleeping, unconscious, dying—or even dead. I’ll let you figure out the difficulties of that POV. I’ve seen them all done very well, and also…not so very well.

Here’s an example from the Writing Challenge: Stolen

Question 2: What other unique human POVs can you think of?

Moving on…consider writing from the POV of a supernatural being. I’ve read lots and lots of devil/demon stories, and probably as many angel ones. I’ve read a few from the POV of God or Jesus (but I don’t believe I’ve ever read one from the POV of the Holy Spirit). I always admire supernatural POVs—I only attempted it once, and it was hard.

Of course, if you’re a fantasy or allegory writer, you can make up all sorts of supernatural people or not-quite-human people and creatures.

And there are always sci-fi POVs—a person from the future, an alien, a robot…

Here’s an example from the Writing Challenge: Perkin Loses His Purple

Question 3: What other unique supernatural POVs can you think of? Tips for writing in that POV?

Okay, there’s no more avoiding this…you can write from the POV of an animal. I’m not a huge fan of this POV, but I know that lots and lots of people love to write animal POV stories, and lots and lots of people like to read them. So I’m going to be objective here, (or at least I’ll try), and give some thoughts on writing this way. You animal-POV-writers, jump in any time.

1. Animal stories do not have to be children’s stories. If you’ve got a talking animal anyway, why not make him intelligent, articulate, witty, wry, wise?
2. Consider having the animal’s voice reflect the animal’s natural characteristics.
3. Have a reason for writing from an animal’s POV. If you’re teaching a lesson, and the lesson could be taught just as well with human characters, reconsider. (Oops, my bias is showing through. I’ll admit to a few animal POV pieces of my own…but I still don’t care much for them, unless they’re done exceptionally well).

Here’s an example from the Writing Challenge: The True Story of the Three Blind Mice

Question 4: What are some reasons why you might use an animal POV in an adult story? What pointers would you give to someone writing from an animal’s POV?

Finally—and this one REALLY makes me wince, but again, I realize that some people love it—you can write from the POV of an inanimate object. I’ve read stories from the POV of pulpits, Christmas cards, rocks, trees, dust bunnies, and fingernail clippings. Well, most of those, anyway, and some of them have been done VERY well.

Here’s an example from the Writing Challenge: The Rocks Still Wait

Question 5: Why or when would you choose to write from the POV of an object? What are the problems with such a POV?

Homework: Respond to one or more of the questions I’ve posed throughout this lesson. Leave a link (just one, please) if you wish, but please tell us about the story you linked. What unique POV did you use? Why?
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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by itsjoanne » Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:38 am

GREAT lesson. I HAVE written stories for the challenge from the POV of an inanimate object (Malus Domestica and If Corn Had Ears), animals (many of my children's books/stories, and a few others), an omnipotent being (Akiva's Assignment), "sidelines" characters (almost all my Biblical fiction - Rivka, a made-up handmaiden for Michal - King David's first wife - is featured in several of my challenge entries), and probably tons of others. I LOVE switching up point of view - getting into the heads of unique and unexpected characters and seeing the world through their eyes.

And, to me, that is the key. You HAVE TO get in their heads. And the story has to MATTER to them. Don't just pick a character because it would be fun to write from that POV. I have often heard it said that the POV character should be the one who has the most to lose. Absolutely keep that in mind. If you are writing a story about, say, Paul the apostle, and you choose to tell it from another character's point of view, be sure the character isn't just an observer with nothing to gain from the action. Tell it from his nephew who helped get him out of prison. The Philippian jailer who was saved. Make sure the stakes are high for the POV character.

A link? Gotta leave at least one (cuz that's me). How about this one - definitely a unique point of view (and TOTALLY fun to write!) http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=17986
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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by glorybee » Sat Feb 28, 2015 11:00 am

itsjoanne wrote:
And, to me, that is the key. You HAVE TO get in their heads. And the story has to MATTER to them. Don't just pick a character because it would be fun to write from that POV. I have often heard it said that the POV character should be the one who has the most to lose. Absolutely keep that in mind. If you are writing a story about, say, Paul the apostle, and you choose to tell it from another character's point of view, be sure the character isn't just an observer with nothing to gain from the action. Tell it from his nephew who helped get him out of prison. The Philippian jailer who was saved. Make sure the stakes are high for the POV character.
Awesome addition to the lesson, Joanne--thanks so much! And yes, your POVs are among the most creative of anyone on this site.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by HISsparrow » Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:04 pm

glorybee wrote:Question 5: Why or when would you choose to write from the POV of an object? What are the problems with such a POV?

Homework: Respond to one or more of the questions I’ve posed throughout this lesson. Leave a link (just one, please) if you wish, but please tell us about the story you linked. What unique POV did you use? Why?


I'm not very experienced, so I'm not sure how much I can contribute to the homework sections. I do want to participate, though.....here goes.

I may be able a little short-sighted, but I think it might be better to write from the POV of an object in a short story or poem where the object was very central similar to what Joanne said about unique POVs (maybe something from the POV of the cross that Jesus was crucified upon). You may have some problems with anything longer because it might get a little old unless you used Third Person Omniscient, but writing from an object's POV seems like it would be odd to me in a novel (from a reader's perspective).

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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by Laurie » Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:13 pm

I had fun experimenting with this when I used to enter the challenge.

One time I wrote a poem from the perspective of a child. He was telling about how lucky he was to have his Sunday school teacher. He told about a couple of Bible stories, but I made sure he didn't get the details quite right so it would seem more authentic and believable.

In one poem, I wrote from a drop's point of view - one drop of water in the river. He felt so insignificant until he splashed up onto a little girl's cheek (who was in a canoe), and he could feel her giggling. That made him feel useful. I think a unique POV can convey a lesson that will stay with a person.

I wrote from a mouse's perspective once. He was tooling around the house, minding his own business, and he couldn't figure out why there was so much commotion around him. The challenge topic was personal peace. This poem was unexpected for a topic like that.

I've written about Jesus on the cross from his perspective, but once I did it from the perspective of a nail. The topic was the cross of Christ.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=10567

I think it's fun to write from the point of view of an animal or inanimate object. It's fun to try to imagine what an animal or object would think. I also like that it can be unpredictable. It isn't always, of course, but I think it's most fun when it's unexpected.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by Allison » Sat Feb 28, 2015 1:44 pm

Well, I am one who uses animals somewhat frequently. I have also used inanimate objects as my POV at least twice. I was going to to my "pebbles" story, but Jan already posted one she wrote from the exact same POV. So perhaps it's not as unique as I thought. I also did one from the POV of the wall(s) of an apartment/flat, as the owner was moving out. But since I also enjoy Biblical fiction, I"m going to link to one of those.

I did Saul's conversion story from the POV of those waiting for him to return from his mission to persecute Christians. I also brought it into modern day. It was for the "fame" topic, and so I wanted to do the story of someone "famous" but from a different POV. I knew lots of people would do famous Bible characters, so I wanted to put a bit of a twist on that.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by glorybee » Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:43 pm

Ashley, Laurie, Allison--thanks for your contributions. I have my active granddaughter with me this weekend and won't have time to read your linked stories until Monday, but I wanted to let you know that you are appreciated.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by glorybee » Sun Mar 01, 2015 4:24 pm

HISsparrow wrote: You may have some problems with anything longer because it might get a little old unless you used Third Person Omniscient, but writing from an object's POV seems like it would be odd to me in a novel (from a reader's perspective).

Ashley
Absolutely agree with this. The POV of an object may work well for a poem of a short story, but not for a novel.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by glorybee » Sun Mar 01, 2015 4:26 pm

Laurie wrote:
I've written about Jesus on the cross from his perspective, but once I did it from the perspective of a nail. The topic was the cross of Christ.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=10567

I think it's fun to write from the point of view of an animal or inanimate object. It's fun to try to imagine what an animal or object would think. I also like that it can be unpredictable. It isn't always, of course, but I think it's most fun when it's unexpected.
Laurie, your "Who Am I?" poem was moving, and I appreciate your insights into when you've used uniquie POV characters. Thanks so much!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by glorybee » Sun Mar 01, 2015 4:28 pm

Allison wrote: I did Saul's conversion story from the POV of those waiting for him to return from his mission to persecute Christians. I also brought it into modern day. It was for the "fame" topic, and so I wanted to do the story of someone "famous" but from a different POV. I knew lots of people would do famous Bible characters, so I wanted to put a bit of a twist on that.

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Clever story, Allison! I loved the modern-sounding conversation, and your original characters.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by WriterFearNot » Mon Mar 02, 2015 1:13 am

Regarding question #5... what problems could arise from writing from the POV of an inanimate object. I once wrote about a candelabra named Fernando and as I wrote from his POV, I kept thinking of Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast. I also included God, like, God Himself, in the story and I think that bothered a lot of my readers.

One of the most interesting POV-writing experiences I've had, was taking an actual experience I had (when I was irritated with the woman's obnoxious and uncontrolled children behind me in the checkout line), and I turned it into a fiction piece by imagining that same scene from the other woman's POV. Oh, and I another fun thing about this story is that I got to make myself tall (even if I was despicable): http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=37716

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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by Shann » Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:16 am

I love unique POV. Invariably, each week in the challenge, there will be one story that is the same basic story, yet the one that wins is one that is tackled from a different POV. For example, in envy, there were tons of similar story, mainly two people being jealous of each other only to find out one didn't have nearly as good of a life. (I may go count, but I'd guess about 75% of the stories had this theme, and yes, I read all of them.) However, the ones that won had unique POVs. The two that stand out, may have made you cringe Jan, but boy were they good. One was of a fountain, a cow, and hair. I loved them all and they were different, yet on topic.

I love the ideas of writing from an object. I don't think it would even get old in a novel, if done correctly. Personally, I think the omniscient POV would feel old quite quickly (unless done right), and by that kind of old, I mean old-fashioned. I could see an object say told from Harry Potter's wand. He always has it with him and since it's magical, it would help it work better.

My favorite challenge stories came from a wave (in the ocean) and two birds talking. Neither one was meant to be a children's story, but the wave one could have been. They didn't do well. I think part of it was because I made it a twist and waited to the end to do so. I also did two stories where the friend turned out to be a pet. Funny enough, one was said to be unrealistic (The roommate which turned out to be a cat, batted a bottle of pills out of a depressed MC's grasp, was loosely based on a true story. My cat did headbutt my bottle of pills that I was taking in my sleep. I had just taken the meds and had a huge handful when the knocking of the pills woke me up.) The message in them all were definitely for an adult. I used the cat because the depressed roommate had no friends except for the roommate who saved her life. Though a depressed person with cats could be cliché, I think it worked. The wave was about questioning God's purpose for you and how to come to terms with bullying (kids picked on wave because his father was a tsunami and little wave didn't want to hurt people and wondered why God allowed such characters to exist.)

I'm not a big Bible story teller, but when I do, I do tend to take it from an unexpected person. Again, one of my favorites was done that way. I've seen this done several times, but never quite this way. I did it to make people think beyond what they've been taught. It's fiction, of course, but I could have seen it happening like this: This is a Biblical story around the time of Christ's crucifixion.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=42668
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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by glorybee » Mon Mar 02, 2015 8:40 am

WriterFearNot wrote: One of the most interesting POV-writing experiences I've had, was taking an actual experience I had (when I was irritated with the woman's obnoxious and uncontrolled children behind me in the checkout line), and I turned it into a fiction piece by imagining that same scene from the other woman's POV. Oh, and I another fun thing about this story is that I got to make myself tall (even if I was despicable): http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=37716

Theresa
This is a great example of putting yourself into the head of another person. A good skill not only in writing, but in life!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by glorybee » Mon Mar 02, 2015 8:47 am

Shann wrote:I love unique POV. Invariably, each week in the challenge, there will be one story that is the same basic story, yet the one that wins is one that is tackled from a different POV.
This is definitely the best reason for choosing a unique POV for the Writing Challenge.
Shann wrote:I'm not a big Bible story teller, but when I do, I do tend to take it from an unexpected person. Again, one of my favorites was done that way. I've seen this done several times, but never quite this way. I did it to make people think beyond what they've been taught. It's fiction, of course, but I could have seen it happening like this: This is a Biblical story around the time of Christ's crucifixion.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=42668
And the added emphasis highlights another great reason to think of unique POV characters when writing biblical fiction.

Thanks for your additions to the lesson!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--CHOOSING A POV CHARACTER

Post by judi » Mon Mar 02, 2015 9:52 pm

Hi all! Love all these comments and responses. Learning lots. Thank all you for teaching me so much! Especially Shann and Jan - I follow your comments to the Beginners through Masters. and I am happily inspired. :superhappy

I have a link to a story I wrote several years ago for The Writing Challenge - almost brand new to the Challenge and full of verbiage and exclamation points. The topic was "Hide and Seek", and I was moved to tell Moses' story from the pov of the Egyptian princess who had Moses pulled from the reeds. I hope it is not seen as plagiarism, as one of the comments suggest. Enjoy!

http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=24794 :thankssign
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Congratulations to all for your incredibly beautiful entries, who feel His Holy Spirit move within us as we write to honor Him through these wondrous heartbeats of praise to YHWH! I love you all.

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