1. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Writing the internal landscape

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mrieder79, Apr 2, 2016.

    If writing is my religion, then Steven King is the high priest, and his volumes my Bible. One thing that I admire about his writing is the deep sense of reality he conveys in his characters and settings. While reading King, I notice that he spends as much or more time describing the internal landscape of the characters as the external landscape of the story.

    He creates a vivid thought-world and tells the story in terms of the character's perceptions, interjecting a fair amount of commentary on behalf of the character regarding the events, locations, and other characters in the story.

    I have tried very hard to emulate this--to focus on the thought life of my characters and cultivate it as a lens through which the reader will experience the story I am trying to communicate. In this way, I hope to achieve some of the realism displayed in King's characters.

    I am happy to report it is working, as much as I can tell. I feel that my current WIP is much more or an experience viewed through the characters than my previous work, which at times, felt somewhat like a pedestrian catalog of events.

    The frustrating thing is that actually articulating this property of writing is very difficult. I can feel the concept in my mind and see the result when I actually get it right, but a concrete description to render the technique reproducible is elusive. Part of the purpose of this post is for me to get my thoughts out there in hopes that I can better understand what I am trying to accomplish and how to achieve it.
     
  2. PBNJDraftNumbA
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    PBNJDraftNumbA Member

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    I like the thought process in this. Keep vividizing! :)
     
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  3. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @PBNJDraftNumbA Great word. Vividizing. :superidea:
     
  4. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    I've only read a bit of King, but my impression is that he tends towards informality in a way that reflects his characters. I remember one book where aliens gestate inside people and then violently escape via the anus. A lot of writers would give them a fancy capitalized name to make them sound cool and threatening. King's narration calls them shit-weasels, because his characters are the kind of folks who would refer to them as shit-weasels.
     
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  5. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Yeah! Dreamcatcher! I'm reading that right now. This book is a great example of what I'm trying to do.
     
  6. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I am not familiar with King's work in a general sense. But from what you wrote in your first post it sounds a bit like deep POV. True?
     
  7. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I am not well-read enough or knowledgeable enough to say whether he is deep POV. I'm not really sure what deep POV is. I guess what I'm trying to say is that King's use of POV creates very textured and involving characters. If that is deep POV, then yes. I guess he is.
     
  8. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Deep POV is when you really slip into the skin of your MC. You only see what he sees, what he notices. No other words. And no trick. You ARE your MC, with his body. And nothing else.

    In that it is a bit similar to 1st POV.
     
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  9. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    In that case I would say King is pretty close to deep POV. He will throw in a little bit of foreshadowing here and there to heighten tension with great effect, and from time to time he switches to a 'narrative voice' to move the story along, but generally he is pretty much as you described.
     
  10. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I love writing from a character's perspective of my universe. It's especially fun when you can portray a character that is thinking a scenario is one thing while another character has a completely different perspective of the same thing.
    I think I have more trouble with descriptions of the outside world and descriptive beats. I keep having to go back through dialogue and add action to the characters so it's not all he said-- she said -- back and forth
     
  11. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. I just peeked into one of his new books with preview at amazon. It is not true 'deep', but not far from it either. On a count from 0-10 I'd give him a 7 or 8.

    Deep POV is where you
    • avoid using Filter words (considered, regarded, wondered, saw, heard, hoped, realized, smelled, watched, touched, felt and so on) as possible
    • avoid using Dialogue tags (screamed, whispered, wondered, thought, cried, said, shouted, whispered) as possible either
    • Use active voice rather than passive
     
  12. Alejandro89
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    Alejandro89 Member

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    I like King, a lot, probably more someone from latin america should, he is not hated and plenty of people like him, but until very recently the academy saw him as, he called himself once, Mcliterature(also the ugly heads of imperialsm and colonialism tend to rise their heads). I get their idea in the sense that we also have wonderful writers, and they dont have the reach american or european writers have, but I think denying his talents is dishonest, or at least it shows you are getting behind the times. Saying that, I love his writing, he has such a wonderful imagination and is great at being "honest", in the sense that he writes like he likes without being stopped by outside considerations. Of course, there are a lot of "honest" writers that suck, but he has the talent and the connection to the times(the abstract "spirit" of an era, not the magazine lol) to back it up. And I gotta admit, "On Writting" is one of the most important books in my life.

    Mental landscape description is a very interesting topic, I can think, right now, two ways to do it: using the lenguage of psicology(yeah, i know i butchered the word), or creating a system of analogys between what we think the mind operates and the outside world. The clasic example representing the mind as a room where you have pictures and boxes and furniture. In this system, pictures would represent memories of someone, boxes, minor memories and furniture important ones, specially if they are locked.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that there's a strong chance that what you have in mind here isn't really passive voice. I could be wrong, but usually when people refer to passive voice in this sort of context they mean something else.
     
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  14. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry @ChickenFreak you have lost me. I meant that in deep any kind of distance is to be avoided whenever possible. And talking passively certainly is accomplishing that. But I am not an expert on grammar certainly ;)

    And disclaimer, I am also not an expert in deep POV either, if anyone else has a more refined opinion I would be happy to stand aside..
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Passive voice has a specific grammatical definition. And a sentence using passive voice is not particularly likely to be "passive" in the usual everyday definition of that word. That's why I wanted to quibble. People are terrified of passive voice, and do things to avoid it (like twisting their sentences into knots to eliminate the word "was") that don't eliminate passive voice or improve their prose.

    I realize that you probably feel that I'm nitpicking, but if a term has a specific meaning, then using it to mean something entirely different is likely to cause confusion. If I said that "deep pov" meant that the characters were in a basement or cave and that when they climb out they're in "shallow pov" that would similarly confuse.
     
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  16. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    No, nitpicking is fine! How would I learn else?

    But I confess to still being confused. I am non-native, so that probably has something to do with it and I am only now starting to review grammar closely. Could you elaborate? Please? :)
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It occurs to me that maybe we need a sticky for passive voice, because it comes up fairly often. And your lack of understanding has nothing to do with being non-native--a huge percentage of native English speakers don't understand what it is either.

    In this post from a while ago, I offered some examples:

    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/passive-voice.141971/#post-1379871
     
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  18. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Just checked out this other thread.. and that was what I meant all along! Sorry for the confusion here, we were of one mind after all :)
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah! Well, in that case I will go on the record as disagreeing with the idea that passive voice is incompatible with a deep POV.
     
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  20. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Let's not disagree too hard, I never said 'at all costs' ;)
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, but I'm curious. Maybe the discussion belongs on another thread, but I'm curious about why the two would seem incompatible at all.
     
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  22. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm with @ChickenFreak - I really don't see any connection between passive voice and depth of POV.

    To be honest, I'm not sure I agree with the dialogue tag idea either. I think there are definitely stylistic reasons to avoid over-tagging, but I'm not sure I see how they would contribute to or interfere with deep POV.
     
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  23. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Mind you two, I have never had the opportunity to discuss this matter with anyone else so I don't claim to be 'the book'! I just follow instinct in my own writing and instinct tells me that these three bullet points are a guideline to be followed.

    In deep, I try to avoid any kind of distancing between reader and MC. How often do I think of another person 'He said xxx'? I don't. I hear words, see body language. So in deep I try to do the same. Complete avoidance is impossible of course, but I can pare it down and that I do.
    Regarding the question of passive versus active, it is in essence the same issue. I don't want distance, and passive voice creates distance.

    Whenever I edit a scene and follow these guidelines as much as possible the scene is stronger afterwards. And if it works who am I to argue? ;)
     
  24. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    But you probably don't think of another person "he lifted his hand to his mouth," either, do you? When we talk to people, we don't translate all of their actions into words and transcribe them...

    Do you have examples of this? You're saying "passive voice creates distance" as if it's a known fact, and I don't think it is.

    Like: "In the course of one day I was spit on, sworn at, pushed around, and tripped. Everyone had clearly decided I was the bad guy, and by the end of it all I was starting to believe them."

    That would be less distant if the first sentence was rewritten in active voice? Like: "In the course of one day several people spit on me, swore at me, pushed me around, and tripped me."

    That doesn't feel closer, to me.

    Passive voice is useful when you want readers to focus on the recipient of the action rather than the performer of the action. If the performer in the case above is just crabby townsfolk, I don't want my readers to focus on them.

    If your first drafts overuse passive voice and dialogue tags, then I absolutely agree that your next drafts will be more effective after you've corrected that glitch. I'm just not sure it's a good idea to expand that experience into a larger overall rule.
     
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  25. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    guideline, guideline, guideline! I didn't say 'overall rule'! Please don't step down hard! *shrug*

    Could be that in first draft I write too passive and use too many dialogue tags. Could be that I am not making sense because I don't know the theory. And I have not started writing that long ago. I am still learning. So .. what is for you 'deep'? How would you define it?

    I will now go and write some more :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016

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