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HOW Did He Know That? By: Michelle Levigne

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Today, I'm going to gripe about something I notice in books by beginners as well as people who should know better!


"Huh?" you may ask.

A very simple, crude illustration is a scene where the POV character is Tom -- POV means the character through whose eyes you see the scene, whose thoughts you share, whose sensory impressions you share. Usually (not always -- there are always exceptions) fiction is told in past tense, through the eyes of ONE narrator/POV character at a time. Yes, there are some writers who tell you what's going on in EVERYONE's head at the same time, but I find such writers really, really confusing. They seem to think they're God ...

Tom occupied his time in the waiting room watching Gregory, who got hungrier the longer he waited and made things worse by thinking about nearby restaurants and their menus.

Excuse me, HOW does Tom know Gregory is hungry and is thinking about nearby restaurants? Without being able to read Gregory's mind? Has Gregory spoken aloud, has his stomach grumbled, has he started flipping through the phone book and saying the names of restaurants aloud? How does Tom KNOW what Gregory is thinking if he's not a telepath or a wizard?

Another illustration: Sharon was busy with the Monday baking when George walked in, fuming about the fight he had last week with Rick. He kicked the cabinet, making the flour canister fall down on his foot and break two toe bones.

How does Sharon know George is fuming about Rick, and two bones are broken? For that matter, if George is really the POV character, how does HE know he has two broken bones? Is he a doctor, so he knows just from the shrieking of pain in his foot that he has broken bones instead of just bruised and bleeding flesh? (And why isn't he wearing shoes, anyway? )

Always keep the impressions, the thoughts, the emotions in the perspective of the person who is showing the reader the scene. Unless you're reading science fiction or fantasy or horror, where people have the ability to either broadcast whatever they're thinking and feeling, or invade the thoughts of other people so they know what is going through their minds ... ALWAYS ask yourself, and your POV character: How does he KNOW that about the other character?

As a side note, it's redundant to say, "He thought to himself." Who ELSE is he going to think to, unless he's a telepath who can broadcast his thoughts to other people, or is in a Vulcan mind-link with someone? Just leave it at "He thought," and save yourself a few words. It adds up!

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