I’ve had fun this week.
Now that the ACFW conference is over and I’ve brought closure on other life details, I’m back to writing. I’m working on a novel, a romantic suspense I started over a year ago. So far, I’ve fine-tuned some plot details (like who is the killer? I mean, like, that’s important, right?) and perfected my first five chapters before I continue on with the rough draft.
I’m writing the story from the point of view (POV) of both my lead female character and my lead male character. The rule of thumb for novels these days is that if you write from the perspective of more than one character, you stay with that one character throughout the scene. No head hopping allowed. No omniscience that allows you to peek around the corner of their lives and know what’s happening elsewhere. You want to give equal time to both characters since life gets rather narrow and two-dimensional if you only see it from one person’s point of view. No drama queens, no stage hogs allowed.
My challenge is that one of my lead characters is unconscious for a while. How can I write a scene from his point of view when the dude is out cold? I realized, however, that Kelsie was crowding out Mr. Nice Guy before he was down for the count. ‘Vhat a diva! So this week, I tried the fun task of changing an entire chapter from her POV to his. It’s the scene where he gets shot. This meant that instead of the girl seeing the guy get shot, he has to feel it. Instead of her looking at the gushing blood, I have to describe how he knows he is bleeding profusely.
Oh my. I can’t believe I’m writing this stuff. I’m the wuss who leaves the living room to fix a cup of tea during the scary parts of movies. My gag reflex functioned at 110% capacity whenever my daughters got the flu. Yet my character needed to bleed and he needed to feel like he was going to lose his cookies. The curtain had to be pulled back and I had to pry my hands off my other senses.
How could I write about something I’d never experienced and was too squeamish to witness on the silver screen? Oh wait a minute. There was, ahem, that little fall I had last May where I stared into a pool of my own blood and watched it drip from my forehead like water from a leaky faucet, my arms pinned under my body so I couldn’t do anything to squelch the leak.
I rewrote the scene, putting myself into the shoes—rather the head—of my main character. And I only swallowed back the revulsion two times.
I wonder. How would our connections with people be different if we rewrote the POV in our life stories?
My church assembly did that recently. The minister (my husband) led the members of the Christian education committee on a tour of the children’s classrooms and asked them to consider three questions. “What would your reaction be to this room if you were a first time parent? A first time child? A volunteer teacher?”
Change your point of view.
Why did the minister do this? He wanted the committee members to see the classrooms as parents, children and volunteers saw the classrooms. A new parent would walk in, seeing the cracked window and the clutter of old books. The child would see the archaic blackboard and ancient wall hangings and think, “This place is outdated.” The volunteer would wonder where teaching supplies were kept or would she have to buy her own?
When we allow ourselves to get inside the head of another person, we feel their emotions, displacement, fears, joys, past experiences, and frustrations. Unlatching the door to the inside allows us to react with compassion and meet core needs with greater effectiveness. We’re empowered to love them better because we’ve stopped to consider what life is like from their point of view. The tour of the classrooms compelled the committee members to take steps to update the classrooms in ways that would best meet the needs of the children we are trying to reach.
Change of POV works with our everyday encounters with people. What if we imagined ourselves going through a divorce, or hearing the news that we have cancer? What if upon hearing that a friend got fired from a job, we remembered the feelings, behaviors and reactions we had when we were financially strapped? Perhaps we would look past the incident and feel the emotions, taste the fear and feelings of inadequacy, swallow the bile of betrayal, and push against the pressure of temptations that are always closer and more menacing during times of stress.
Perhaps we’d be better at doing what Paul encouraged the Corinthians to do: comforting others as God has comforted us. We would more eagerly don the clothing of compassion, kindness and forbearance that Paul told the Colossians to wear in dealing with other members of Christ’s family (Colossians 3:12-14) because we would feel and remember the pain.
Changing our point of view takes more time, time we are loath to relinquish. It makes us look at more than we may want to see. It commits us to a higher level of involvement. Yet think of this. Our life story blooms in multi-colored splendor when we reach beyond ourselves to lift up the weary arms of someone we love and choose to walk the road they have been forced to travel. Multiple POV’s always make for a more complex and satisfying read.