The one piece of writing advice I have run into more than any other is “show, don’t tell”. It wasn’t until I read two books on the subject, Understanding Show Don’t Tell by Janice Hardy and Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson, that I understood that when you immerse your readers in deep POV, you guard against telling and are more likely to show.
I put this into practice for the first time last January when I wrote the rough draft of my short story, “Debt to Pay”, which will appear in the anthology From the Lake to the River. To achieve deep POV, I had to imagine my entire story through the senses of my first person narrator, sixteen-year-old Jay. It was as if my rural setting in Wayne National Forest was a world in Minecraft, and Jay was my avatar.
What amazed me was how thoroughly I experienced Jay’s environment through this technique. I saw the world through his eyes, heard it through his ears. When I finished writing the action sequence at the climax, I was breathing hard, and my heart was racing. Deep POV made my imagination come alive and I hope I have transferred the vividness into words.
The disadvantage with deep POV is that it can confuse your readers. I discovered that when I asked relatives and friends to read my rough draft. In general, they thought the story made sense, but they became confused during the action at the end. I had captured the chaos Jay experiences so well that my readers found it chaotic, too. As fellow writers Cindy Thomson and Michelle Levigne told me, sometimes a writer needs to insert tiny tells to help the reader. Your reader shouldn’t work hard to follow your story. I know when I have to deeply concentrate to figure out a plot, I may just give up.
So I returned to my rough draft and inserted tells to help the readers follow the action. But I had to make the tells seems natural for Jay to think since I was still using deep POV.
How do you get into the mind of your POV characters?