Too Much Distance, or Why My Writing Stinks

I recently discovered why my writing stinks.  The issue is that my POV isn’t deep enough.  (For the newbies: POV = Point of View)

Often when speaking of POV, we talk about first person versus third person and that whole debate.  But not today.

Today, I’m talking about how shallow POV kills your story and how deep POV can give it that jolt of energy it lacks.

Here’s the deal.  You have an interesting story, awesome characters, and great setting.  And to tell a story, you start reporting it.  And suddenly your reader gets to be a fly on the wall in your awesome story.

But that’s WRONG.

Readers don’t want to be a fly on the wall.  They want to be LIVE the story themselves.  So if your writing has too much distance – if there’s an unplanned narrator between the reader and the MC – you’re doing it wrong.

Let me give you some examples:

DISTANT:

Emily walked down the stairs and saw blood all over the kitchen.  She felt like she was going to be sick.  She ran from the room, her face the picture of distress.

CLOSE:

Emily walked down the stairs and gasped.  There was blood all over the kitchen.  She was going to puke.  She ran, her heartbeat thudding in her ears.

By taking out words such as felt, saw, tasted, thought, etc, and simply WRITING what the character felt, saw, tasted, etc, we take out the distance and get our reader right there with the MC.

Another issue in the “close” version was actually a POV break: her face a picture of distress is not something Emily would say about herself in this moment.  Therefore, if she’s not thinking those words, then who is?  The invisible narrator.  Often times I’ll see new writers say things like “Emily looked at him, her blue eyes like fire.”  Well, if it’s from Emily’s POV, then how does she know what her eyes looked like?  The invisible narrator strikes again.  We don’t want him!

That’s my point.  If you want a better-told, faster-paced, more emotionally compelling story, then don’t tell me what the character felt, looked like, saw, whatever.  Let me see it, feel it, taste it, with them.

(I must give credit in this post to a CCer who gave me an amazing crit that pointed this out to me.  Thanks Jayg!)

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