Can You Hear Your Characters Speaking?
by Joanne Troppello
When I first started writing, I was terrible at keeping true to one character’s point of view at a time. I was a head hopper. Yes, I can admit that—now I feel so much better.
All kidding aside, my lack of discipline when it came to POV totally ruined my efforts in creating a smooth flowing storyline. After working with some wonderful editors, I realized my problem. It was not easy to change my bad habits, but once I actually saw what I was doing wrong, it definitely made a difference.
There are so many facets of writing well with regard to POV and as long as you start at the beginning, you’ll keep getting better at it. Don’t allow discouragement to take over. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Although as my Italian husband always likes to joke, it sure fell in a day. Back to POV. It takes time to develop good writing habits. I can say this because I’ve been down the road to recovery when it comes to changing bad habits.
I’m currently working on the edits for my fourth book. I still have to remind myself that I need to get into character, just like an actor when acting out a scene. Get into your character’s head and see what she or he is seeing. Hear what she’s hearing. Smell what he smells. Touch what she touches. Feel what he feels. That is the only way that you’re going to get it right.
You need to jump into the scene with your character and almost imagine that you are that character—at least for the moment, until you finish that scene and get into the head of another character. Don’t just tell us what this character is feeling but show the readers. Telling won’t draw the readers fully into the story. Showing will fully engage them and they’ll love your story.
What is the character thinking? What’s on his or her mind? The readers want to know that.
Here’s an excerpt for one of my novels, Bella Lucia.
She cried out in pain and lurched forward as her foot got caught in the meandering roots of an old oak tree. Landing on the ground, her hand smashed down on a rock and pain seared up her arm. Great, twisted ankle and sprained wrist in the same day—pulling through the pain, she stood up and leaned on the tree for support. She thought about Peter again. The love of her life, he was also the man who broke her heart when he chose the agency over her. Don’t think about him, just keep moving.
Almost there, only about a few hundred feet to go, she looked at her watch. She still had five minutes to get inside. Well, I guess that wasn’t so bad for an old lady. When she reached the clearing between the woods and the lawn, she stopped for a moment. No one was outside. The lawn looked like it had just been mowed. As quickly as possible, she limped through the throbbing in her ankle and finally approached the cellar door. Opening it, she reached for the railing and then turned back to pull the door shut with her good hand. It wouldn’t budge and without thinking, she put too much pressure on her sprained wrist that gripped the railing as she tried to pull the door. She grunted as pain shot up her arm and nearly caused her to stumble down the stairs.
Take it easy, she reminded herself as she looked down the crumbling cement steps of the old root cellar. This section of the house remained unused ever since Reysen bought the house, at least that’s what George told her. Looking around at the cobwebs hanging from every crack and crevice and mice droppings on the stairs and the musty stench, she realized he was right. She was not going to enjoy her journey through this dank and dirty place.
Hopefully there was electricity down here. Just make it to the kitchen. She cursed under her breath, berating herself for not finding a light switch before closing the door. Dirt and grime were not her friends so reaching out blindly groping to find a light switch along the damp walls did not make her day. Nothing on the walls met her search. Inching over on the cement steps to try the other side, a thin string swung near her nose. Ah, a good old string to pull. Finally, a lone light bulb on the low ceiling flickered to life. Please don’t burn out on me.
Not sure where to exit, she limped down the steps and tried to kick it up a notch. She wasted a few minutes just getting into this place. Scanning the room, she saw filthy rotten wood shelves lining the walls and some mason jars for canning on a nearby table. Those jars brought to mind memories of canning tomatoes and fruits with her grandmother and mother, but she hastily swept those remembrances away. Now was not the time for the past, but the present.
Finally, she reached the doorway to the kitchen. For a moment her heart dropped as she thought the door could be locked. Then what? Fighting through the pain and sweat and tension, she tried the door. It was locked. She tried to pick the lock with the pin end of the broach she wore, but as she worked and rattled it, the unexpected happened. Relief washed over her as the door opened and she saw the young assistant cook, Erica staring at her with wide eyes.
“Mrs. Hollister! Are you okay?”
She pushed her way passed the stunned woman. “Erica, I can’t explain right now, but don’t tell anyone that you saw me. Not even George, okay?”
Her blonde curly head bobbed up and down and she nervously responded. “Okay.”
Esther looked at her watch, only eight minutes left. Great, I hope this guy can keep Victor talking. Limping outside the kitchen, she carefully made the journey to her room.
About the Author
Joanne Troppello is a published author of 3 inspirational fiction novels and the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Pandora's Box Gazette.
She has experience as a freelance writer in topics such as marketing, retail marketing, health and wellness, internet and media, travel and lifestyle, website content, app recommendations, and content for blogs.