Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Caroline Clemmons says she  wanted to be a writer since reading her first Nancy Drew novel. But it was not until she discovered Nora Roberts that she turned her energy to writing historical romances, contemporary romantic suspense, mysteries, and paranormals.  She says her path to publication was a bit longer than Nora's but the journey was worth the effort. 
She currently lives on a small acreage in the ranching and horse country of North Central Texas.
She has joined us today to discuss method POV writing. If you find this post useful, don't forget to leave Caroline a comment.


Okay, here’s the magic key to writing great characters and handling POV. This is the writer’s version of the secret handshake. Ready?
My advice for achieving good characters is that you practice method POV writing.

What,” you ask? “Method POV writing? I thought the term was method acting.”
Those of you who’ve had theater classes know how important it is to become the character one portrays on stage. I maintain it’s just as important for authors to become a method writer. 

Become the character in whose point of view you’re writing! 
This is important no matter whether the viewpoint is hero, heroine, villain, or a secondary character. You’re not merely a secretary or reporter recording notes of a meeting going on inside your head. You must BECOME one of the participants of that meeting, recording all you see and feel during the events of the scene.

Even though you are a creator goddess, you are not looking down on a scene unfolding beneath your lofty perch. Using your goddess-like power, you have become the POV character. You are IN the scene and whatever happens is happening to you.  
How would you feel if these words were spoken to you? If these actions were taken toward you? What do you smell and hear? Is the air cool or sultry, is there a light breeze or a storm? Are you hopeful or distraught?

Method POV is how you eliminate head hopping. Method POV is also how you inbed emotion into your story.

If you become the character, you won’t switch back and forth because you’ll be immersed in one character’s experiences. Some successful writers don’t adhere to this policy. Nora Roberts constantly switches POV. I love her books, and that’s the only thing she does that annoys me. At (I think this is the year—where does time go?) the 1996 RWA conference in Dallas, Nora said, “I like to know what all the people in the room are thinking.”

Fine, but we don’t have her fan base or star status. We must stick to one or two POV’s per scene? We love all our characters, so which one do you choose for the POV? A good choice is to pick the character who has the most to lose in the scene and use his/her POV. 
Emotions pull in readers!
Let the reader know exactly what you as POV character feel. Make your experiences alive, real to the reader. Pull the reader into the scene so he or she shares your POV character’s experiences and emotions through your writing. If you become the character, you will show events in the scene as they appear to you instead of telling the reader how others in the scene react. Instead of hopping to the other characters’ heads to record their thoughts, you will tell us how you as the POV character perceive what the other character feels or what he’s thinking. You won't say, though, things like this:

John stared at Mary, and she knew he thought she was crazy.

Mary can't know what John thinks unless he tells her. Otherwise, she can only guess. She can think:

John stared at Mary, and she wondered if he thought she was crazy.

Emotions experienced by the POV character create a similar response from the reader. Reel in the reader with credible, realistically expressed emotions. Remember what Charles Dickens said, “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em wait.”
Sometimes what the POV character perceives is different than the actual reaction of the other character, but you don’t care. As the POV character, all that matters at that moment is how you perceive your surroundings. This applies to each character who has a POV in your book.
John held up a handkerchief, “This looks like yours and I found it near Higgins’ body. Did you see Higgins die?”
“No, of course not.” Mary appeared flustered and wouldn’t meet his gaze. “Why would you ask that of me?”
She’s lying, John thought. Perhaps Higgins attacked her and she killed him in self defense. 
John thinks Mary is guilty, but in fact she is only protecting her brother, the one she thinks is the murderer. The misconception drives a wedge between hero John and heroine Mary, and at this point the reader doesn’t know why she’s lying. Situations like this can be used as plot devices to further the story. 
By the way, I don’t mean misconceptions that could be solved by the h/h sitting down and talking over the situation. I mean secrets or misconceptions that create a problem, but their existence can’t be talked through because neither character knows they’re there or one character cannot reveal the truth. My favorite illustration of this is a movie, "The Scarlet Pimpernel," the version starring Jane Seymour.
You probably know to limit the number of viewpoints. In a single title, I would have no more than four or five. In category, fewer viewpoints can be given—usually only two, those of the hero and heroine. 
I once had someone ask me how she could imagine herself to be one of her characters? It surprised me, coming from a writer. That’s not one of my problems, so I had supposed all writers could play make believe. Author Rebecca Russell suggests that if your imagination needs a jolt to visualize yourself as a deadly killer, for instance, try writing a few paragraphs of the character’s backstory as if you were telling it to someone else. 
Example: When I was three, my mother died. My father told me I reminded him of my cheating mother, so he abandoned me to my grandparents when I was five. They were repressed evangelicals who believed beating a child taught obedience. When that failed, they locked me in a closet without food.

They died in a fire when I was eighteen. Some believed I killed them. Maybe so, but they deserved it. Since then, I’ve been alone. Sometimes alone is better. I’ve always been alone, never hoped for more. 
Then I met Mary, lovely Mary with her beautiful smile and kind heart. If I could force Mary to love me, then I know I could be happy at last. Mary says she loves John, but I know she really wants to be with me. John is keeping her from me, I know he is, so he has to die. Then Mary will love only me because I saved her from John’s control. She’ll see she belongs to me then. Forever.
Oooh, I creeped myself out, but you get the idea.
In order to know how you would respond to any event, you first have to understand the character. For instance, a savvy streetwise woman will respond to a threat differently than a shy, sheltered woman. If you're in the character's head, you will automatically react correctly.

Don’t you love being you? A god or goddess builds a world and its inhabitants to fit your requirements?  Do you have a crown or tiara to wear while you write?
For a peek at Caroline's newest book go to her website at .

Two million dollars? What a fortune to inherit! Courtney Madison has battled poverty her entire twenty-five years but is determined to make a safe and happy home for her teenaged brother after the death of their mom. Her inheritance in West Texas looks like the answer to her prayers. Once she arrives in Sweet Springs, Texas and moves in across the road from a handsome rancher, she soon learns her problems are just beginning.
Derek Corrigan, who co-owns some of Ms. Madison’s properties, suspects the worst of his new neighbor and vows to fight his growing attraction. He knows what women do to him--they always leave and take away chunks of his heart. He's been there, done that, had the vaccination long ago and is cured. Or is he?

Caroline's newest book may be purchased as an e-book at Amazon and from The Wild Rose Press.

If you have a question don't forget to go to comments and ask.


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Ruby Johnson said...

Thanks for a great post. Are you sure you don't write thrillers? I mean getting into the mind of a serial killer is really hard and you did it with ease making the killer really creepy. I read a book about 10 years ago by Brandilyn Collins on Getting into Character and it was about how an author can use the tricks actors do to get into character. Not sure I understood it that well at the time, but your post clears up some questions I had.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Ruby, thanks to you and the Keller-Fort Worth Writers for hosting me here today. I love this beautiful blog site and am honored to be included wirh somee of the great writers you host.

Maria Connor said...

Caroline, this is a great technique for writers to use to strengthen POV. Many new writers, especially, struggle with the concept of POV, but if you put yourself in your character's shoes and write from that perspective, it helps to define what can and cannot be expressed in that person's POV. It can be hard to explain, so your example of method POV to method acting is very helpful. Thanks!

George said...

It's easy enough to remember (and even employ) your 'magic key.' You're a wonderful writing mentor. Thank you for coming to the blog.

Jeff Turner said...

"Become the character in whose point of view you’re writing!".

Writing non-fiction from a first person POV you still have to become the character and infuse feeling and emotion into what you write to make your story come alive.

Diane Kelly said...

You're right, Caroline. POV is critical to a story. It's fun to play with, too! I love getting into the various character's minds and seeing what's going on in there.

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