Play It Again, Sam – 1 Scene, Many POVs


I have a tendency, especially on my first draft, to do what’s called ‘cinematic’ writing. Essentially that means I write the physical action of the scene, at the expense of inner monologue and descriptions of character emotions. For a first draft that’s fine, but it requires pretty extensive fixing during the editing phase. Cinematic writing isn’t going to suck the readers in or make them care for the characters – you’ve got to get those emotions down on the page.

This is a trick I learned at last September’s writing class to help with that. It’s one of those ideas that’s so simple you wonder why you didn’t think of it before. Write the same scene from the perspective of several characters – preferably in 1POV, to get right inside their heads. In a scene with three characters, you should end up with three totally different versions of events. Only the physical action remains the same – their view of it and reactions to it will be wildly different. Much of what you come up with won’t end up in the final version but the glimpses that are there will add so much richness to your characters, as well as making their behaviour more believable and genuine.

It’s like that old story about blind men describing an elephant, come to think of it:

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

If you only use one perspective, you get a spear or a snake or a tree. If you take them all into account you get something much more impressive, solid and interesting. When writing a scene remember to ask all the blind men, not just one.



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