Point of View, Part Two

The  bottom line on why it’s better to have one.

Welcome to part two! Bear in mind there is no one right answer to this, but my rewrite of the scene I presented to you yesterday would look like this.

Chip Farren all-but-ran through the door of Smittie’s Pizzeria. The aroma of simmering meats and tomato sauce wafted through the dining area, and Chip sniffed in appreciation. He’d been craving an all-meats pizza all afternoon. What in the world possessed me to sign up for a three-hour trig class that started at noon? For the past hour, he’d struggled to concentrate over the grumbles of his own stomach.
He scanned the near-empty room, pleased to see Laverne, the co-owner and waitress of the eatery, approach him. “Hi, Hon. Good to see you again.” She winked and offered a smile that warmed his heart. “Just one today?”
Most or the time, Chip and his roommate Phil arrived as a pair. “He’s at the duplex tracking down a bug in our game.”
Laverne’s brows furrowed. He knew “the look” all too well. “You mean he skipped the math class? Again?” She shook her head. “Alright, this way.”
As if to shake off the wave of guilt, he shrugged. “I know, it’s just—”
Laverne cut him off. “It’s just you’re going to fail college if you don’t buckle down. And for what? A video game.”
Chip raised a finger. Now I have to object! “Not just a video game, Laverne, the greatest—”
“Greatest video game ever.” Laverne rolled her eyes. I know.” Laverne shook her head. “What am I going to do with you two?” She produced a well-worn order pad. “Oh, well. So, the usual?”
“Yep.”  Chip and Phil ordered a meats pizza at least four times a week.
“So a box for Phil?”
“Tell him I said hi. And no more skipping classes.”
Chip nodded. “Okay, Laverne. I will.”
Her smile reappeared, and the room lit up, the harsh tones of her lecture forgotten.
She winked. “Also, we made extra breadsticks, so I’ll add a large order.”
“You don’t have to—”
“No charge for my favorite customer, Hon.” She turned and retreated to the kitchen. Chip’s gaze followed her until she disappeared through the kitchen door.
A wave of guilt consumed him, and he chastised himself. You have a girlfriend. You have a girlfriend. You have a girlfriend…


Shifting a scene into a specific point of view is where the magic happens.

When you put your reader behind the eyes and into the skin of a character, you create layers to a scene that can’t be told with just visuals and dialog. We know Chip is hungry and wants pizza. Here, we learn much more about why he’s hungry. We also know what he’s hiding from Laverne, that his attraction to this particular eatery may have to do with more than just food.

Sure, we lost the description of Laverne’s clothes. Acquaintances who see each other every day, particularly when Laverne is wearing a “uniform,” stop noticing things like that. And how much did we lose versus the information we gained? Chip noticed the things important to him. Her wink, her smile, the way she walked, and how it affected his thoughts about his current girlfriend.

In terms of story, all these details are far more important than the color of Laverne’s blouse or Chip’s tennis shoes. We don’t need to say Laverne is a friendly waitress. We’re shown it. We don’t have to say Chip is smitten with Laverne, his every internal thought and response shows it to the reader.

As for the dialog, people who see each other every day don’t repeat obvious things to each other. But internal dialog and point of view narration compensate and allow the writer to still communicate the information to the reader. It’s not necessary for Laverne to say the order.

(whips out soapbox) This is why books are better than movies, and why books will always be better than movies. Contrary to what many beginning writers think, readers are not primarily interested in your plot, your twists, your scenes, or your quirky characters. Yes, they are interested in these things, but they are more interested in your ability to give them a satisfying escape from reality. An avid reader’s primary goal is to escape their problems and go somewhere else. Your success as a writer will depend on how well you provide that experience.

Readers want to drop behind the eyes and into the skin of someone else. When the cowboy gets on his horse and rides off after the villain, they want to feel the power and the speed of the horse beneath them. They want to taste the dirt. They want the rush of adrenaline as they close in on the villain. They want to swoon when the hero smiles at the heroine, or vice versa. They want to experience the thrill of that moment when the detective slaps the cuffs on the suspect that committed murder most foul.

Film depends on the video and the audio. That is literally all a film can bring to a viewer experience. A practiced writer can tap a reader’s imagination through evocative words. A writer becomes the imagination portal through which a reader can taste, act out, panic, consider, shrink away in fright, and so many other experiences by presenting your scenes through a point of view character.  (Hides soapbox)

So that’s plenty in defense of POV. Next time we’ll start to break down just how to do this.

Shameless plug: Find out more about Chip and Laverne in Virtual Blue.