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Friday, June 29, 2007

Common problems in first person POV, part two

In first person POV, especially, writers have a great deal of narrative and internal thoughts. While that narrative tends to have some conflict in it, too much narrative means less movement in the scene. And you can’t really substitute true conflict (action and dialogue) with the conflict in a long paragraph of internal thought—the scene drags and meanders.

I look at the call waiting. It’s my mother.

Mom has this annoying habit of calling right when I’m about to watch CSI. Even though I’ve told her again and again that she can’t call on this particular night at this particular time, she blithely ignores me. I might as well be talking to the cat. And at least the cat answers with a polite meow. Mother barely acknowledges I’ve spoken, much less what I’ve said.


All this narrative is more “telling” than “showing.” Instead of all this internal thought, why not show the information in action and dialogue?

I look at the call waiting. It’s my mother. I stab the TALK button.

“Mom, it’s CSI night!” I turn on the TV. Nope, not yet. Hopefully I can get her off quickly.

She pauses. “No ‘hello’ for your mother? How rude.”

I ignore her petulant tone. “I have told you a billion times not to call on this particular night, and this particular time.”

“I don’t remember you saying anything about it.”

“I told you last week.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“And the week before that.”

“Are you sure? I don’t recall.”

“I even wrote it on a Post-It note next to the phone.”

I hear crumpling paper. “No, I don’t see a note.”

In the back ground, I hear my father yell, “Martha, I told you not to call her. It’s CSI night.”

She huffs. “I’m sure I would have remembered if you’d told me.”

“Mom, I might was well talk to the cat.”

“Well, really!”

“And at least the cat answers with a polite meow.”


You want the scene to move along with action and dialogue, not with a lot of internal thoughts or narrative.

Go through your manuscript—anywhere there’s a paragraph of narrative or internal thought, see if you can rewrite it as action or dialogue instead.

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