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Writing in the Now

by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

When teaching the techniques of Deep Point of View that will virtually squash issues with show/don’t tell, I emphasize the importance of writing lively, linear prose. In other words, every sentence must remain in the Now-not darting ahead or lagging behind in the sequence of events.

This does not mean our characters can’t consider past or future events. However, handling reminiscence or anticipation requires a separate technique that is covered in my book on Deep Point of View, but not in this blog post.

Effective Deep POV demands that we take our reader through the experiences of our Point of View Character (POVC), step-by-step, as if the reader resides within the character. Don’t run ahead. Don’t lag behind. Remain ever in the now.

Fire That Lazy Sentence Construction!

A common issue is the tendency to try to compress current events through lazy sentence constructions like such and such “made” or “caused” the character to react in such and such a way. If we hold ourselves to the standard of active prose in the now provided by Deep POV, we will avoid slipping into this kind of limp “telling” mode.

Here are a few Shallow and Deep examples to help clarify the difference between lively narrative and dull, telling mode that is signaled by shortcut words like “made” or “caused” or “gave.”

Shallow: Seth let out a sneeze, and the loud noise in my ear made me jump.
Deep: Kerchew! I jumped like Seth had jabbed me with a stick rather than just about sneezed my ear off.

Shallow: The unwashed carrot gave her mouth a tang of dirt.
Deep: She chomped a bite from the carrot. Bitter grit ground between her teeth. Ewww! She glared at the yellow spear in her hand. Who forgot to wash the vegetables?

Shallow: The hot, stuffy air caused my head to spin.
Deep: The heavy air wrapped me in cellophane. A sauna would be less stifling. Every thought wilted in my brain-shriveled like my last hope of a breeze.

See how much more interesting and active are the Deep examples? The event-the sneeze, the bite, the stifling heat-occurs, and then we hear exactly how the POVC reacts and thinks about the event, all in proper order and with a lovely savor of voice.

Notice also that this approach applies equally to First Person as well as Third Person. There is a common misconception that writing in First Person automatically becomes Deep POV. Not so! When I began writing a First Person story, I discovered the need to employ my entire arsenal of Deep POV techniques in order to guarantee that Deep POV experience for my reader. Who knew?!

Award-winning author and writing teacher, Jill Elizabeth Nelson, writes what she likes to read-tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. Her handbook for writers, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, is now available at http://amzn.to/IvQTkj. Visit Jill on the web at www.jillelizabethnelson.com.

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