Thursday, June 30, 2011

OT: Puttering with POV Characters

Current Project: Proposals for two MS
Status:  Inching along
Since this is my third post of the month, I decided to post off-topic.

Today I got to thinking about how point-of-view (POV) character choice affects scenes. Everything that takes place in that scene is filtered through the POV character’s senses and interpreted through their mind and emotions. It makes sense, then, that sometimes a POV switch can totally alter the reader’s experience of a scene—while at other times, not so much.

I decided to rewrite the opening paragraph of my Steampunk Romance work-in-progress in different POVs to see how perspective shapes a reader’s initial impression. 

Hot spring sunlight made an oven of the black widow’s weeds Sojie had donned to hide her identity while she and her two companions escaped from Portland. A breeze off the Columbia River failed to penetrate the dense veil that hung from her hat like a shroud.  She ignored the unladylike odor of the sweat that pasted her wool bodice to her torso like a potter’s glaze. Sojie had learned to ignore pain and sweat while turning dull clay into rainbow works of art over her scientist-mother’s objections. She smiled. Mother would be most displeased to learn her prodigal daughter had defied her to search for her missing father and brother in Boise.

Jett pretended to be mesmerized by the dirigibles that bobbed in their berths like flying leviathans, mentally cursing his lack of meteorological foresight. From beneath the brim of his hat, he kept surreptitious watch over a young woman shrouded in black who perched on the edge of her cafe chair in the blistering sunshine. When he’d insisted Sojie disguise herself as a widow traveling with her older brother, he should have considered the possibility of unseasonable heat.  Why couldn't he remember that other people couldn’t tolerate extreme temperatures the way he could? She’d wanted to cut off her hair and pass as a boy, but surely no man would have mistaken her sweet, earthy scent for a male’s. Even at this distance, his jaw ached with the effort of tamping down his primal response to her body’s perfume. 

Zack’s attention shot back and forth between the stiff back of the girl in widow’s weeds who sat at a nearby outdoor café table in the hot sun and the line of parched miners and cowboys who waited in front of him for a turn to purchase a cool drink. He eyed the looming airships moored nearby and then spat a stream of tobacco juice into one of the large brass spittoons the City of Portland provided for airship passengers. How could those leviathans possibly stay afloat? He hoped he wouldn’t regret accepting this job. Jett had offered him a genereous sum to keep Dr. Hemming’s runaway daughter safe on this crazy journey to Boise.

When you read Sojie’s POV, what were your impressions? Did you feel grounded in time and place? Were you hooked?

Now consider Jett’s POV. What changed for you?

Zack is an important secondary character, not the hero. Would using his POV at the beginning of the book confuse you as a reader?

Which opening paragraph did you prefer? 


chanceofbooks said...

What a neat exercise--I, personally, like Zack's opening the best. Since Steampunk isn't as strict as say Category Romance, I don't see why you *have* to open in hero/heroine's POV, esp if you'll be returning to Zack again. I think Zack's POV works so well because it's the most immediate, unburdened by backstory. As a reader, it kept me in the moment. Sojie and Jett both had too much backstory for my preferences as a reader, but that's something easily fixable if you choose. I think they both sound like absolutely fascinating characters!

Sarah Raplee said...

Thanks for the feedback, Cloudy. I just realized I posted for the wrong day; it should have been for tomorrow, so I'm going to try to remedy that, but I don[t inow what will happen to our comments.

Paty Jager said...

I agree, I liked Zack's and felt he had more at stake in his POV then the others did.
I also agree with Bethany that the others had too much backstory up front to hold my attention and hook me.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for the feedback, Patty!