1. Eric Byers
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    Eric Byers Member

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    POV vs setting development

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Eric Byers, Dec 7, 2014.

    One of my biggest problems is that I over describe a setting and loose POV in doing so. My question is, Is there a way to set a vivid scene without loosing POV? Obviously there is A way, I just dont know it. Ive been told that I tend to "shopping list" my descriptions. Any advice would be swell ;)
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Generally you want to be sure you're focusing on what your characters would focus on.

    So if they're walking into a familiar space, they're probably only focusing on what they're interacting with. When I come into my house, I don't notice the architecture or the furnishings, unless something is wrong/different. I might notice the view if I was using it as a tool to calm myself down (She leaned her forehead against the cool glass of the tall windows and looked out at the bay and the cliffs beyond. If she could remember how tiny she was in all this, maybe she could shrink her problems down to their proper size as well). Or I might not really notice the counter I laid my keys on, but the author could probably slip in a bit of description there anyway (She dropped her keys onto the polished granite counter and headed for the wine rack in the dining room).

    If your characters are seeing something for the first time, I think you can get away with a fair bit of description, as long as it's mixed in with character reactions and doesn't explain more than they would know. (Her gaze was drawn to the enormous stained glass windows, glowing in the late afternoon sun. She didn't recognize the figures depicted in the art; one window showed a mother and baby, it looked like, with a variety of animals all around them. Another was a gruesome image of a man strapped to a wooden cross. Both images were carefully crafted, but she knew which one she liked better.) (obviously assuming the character wasn't familiar with Christian imagery).

    In general, with a close POV, you are limited in your descriptions. You can cheat a little, but not too much!
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2014
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think if you're using a tight POV and want to keep within it, it makes sense to filter the description through the POV character. That often means cutting out a lot of the description if you're used to writing heavy description (and I don't think there is anything wrong with heavy description, personally). If you filter it all through the POV character, then you have to decide what they would notice and when, and you get a more organic presentation of description as they become relevant. People don't often come upon a scene and notice every little detail, so when you have a tight POV and you provide every little detail it can feel like you're breaking that close POV. Describes those things that would be readily apparent to the POV character at a given time, and filter more description through the character as those other things become relevant. If they never become relevant, maybe you don't need to describe them at all.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm sure there is, because I never found those two goals to be incompatible. I wish that I could ask for an example of one of your descriptions, but I suspect that that would be something that needs to wait for the review room. Can you explain a little more about the problem you're having?
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hi, @Eric Byers - In addition to the excellent advice offered by the other contributors to this thread, I'd like to add appropriateness to the list of things you should be aware of when dealing with this issue of POV and description.

    I think this is tied in with what @BayView said, that you focus on what the POV character is interacting with. That's true, and if the POV characters are relaxed within their surroundings, then they will notice lots of detail that you might work in. If they are in the middle of an action scene, however, they are unlikely to notice environmental details in quite the same way.

    Think of yourself, sitting in a doctor's waiting room. You sit and wait for a half-hour before getting called into the inner sanctum, so you've got lots of time to observe your surroundings. You'll notice the people waiting with you, maybe the kinds of magazines on the tables, the colour and shape of the furniture, whether it's comfy or not, what kind of light is coming in through the windows, whether the wall colour clashes with the carpet, how often the phone rings at the receptionist's desk, what the receptionist says to the callers ...etc etc. In other words, you've got lots of time to observe.

    Contrast this with walking into the same waiting room and being told at the desk to 'go right through, the doctor is waiting for you.' In that scene, you probably won't notice the magazines, you won't know if the chairs are comfy or not. You probably will see the other people in the waiting room as a blur of faces. Unless the carpet colour is pulsing fluorescent orange, you probably won't notice it. What you will notice is the empty corridor, and the number on the appropriate door of the doctor's office. Maybe you'll need to step around a piece of equipment left out in the hallway. There might be a strange smell of disinfectant lingering in the air. Etc.

    I've seen a lot of newbie writing where the POV character is engaged in some fast and furious action, yet manages to describe hair and eye colour, the number of potted plants along the wall, and other details that are actually quite silly in that context.

    A writer should consider the appropriateness of the observations their POV character is making.

    I hope you don't mind me pointing this out, but you are confusing the two words loose and lose. "Loose" (pronounced loos) is something that isn't tight. The jar lid came loose in my hand. I'll give you a loose description now and go into more detail later.

    Loose
    has nothing to do with loss. The word you need to describe that situation is lose (pronounced looz.) If you lose something, you've lost it. In the above example, you "over describe a setting and lose POV in doing so." If you are in the process of doing so, you are losing your POV.

    It's a common mistake, but easily corrected once you're aware of it. "Loose" with two o's ONLY means "not tight." If you mix these up, you're confusing two unrelated words that have totally different meanings. Spelling does matter!
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2014
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  6. Eric Byers
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    Eric Byers Member

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    Thank you all, that helps alot. I still haven't quite wrapped my head around the tight POV yet. It's a complicated concept, but I'm getting it I think. I had a question about thought attribution and how to write inner dialogue, whether the use of quotations are necessary for instance

    "It's no wonder she is top of her class" he thought

    :It's no wonder she is top of her class

    Or if it need be signified at all, though I imagine that could be a bit confusing to the reader. Never knowing when it's inner dialogue or not. Perhaps a new thread is in order? Thank you all for your time.
     

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