There are so many aspects of writing a story that are crucial to the success of reaching your reader, so as a follow-up to the post I did on Monday, In Storytelling, Emotion Trumps All, I thought I'd focus on another aspect that I also consider absolutely essential to telling a compelling story.
In storytelling, POV is EVERYTHING.
Think about it. Where else in life can you get into somebody else's head?
You can't do it in real life. No matter how close you are to your husband or wife, no matter that you've loved and watched your child's every development since the moment of conception...you still cannot get inside their head to hear their thoughts and feel their emotions as if they were your own.
Even TV and film do not offer the deep POV which we can find inside the pages of a book. Aside from a few voice-overs, most of what you see on the screen is watching characters from the outside...just like in real life...though the story may be so focused that we may come away with greater insights.
It is the unique opportunity presented by a story that allows the reader to fully enter into someone else's point of view, to feel their emotions, understand their beliefs, experience their fears, which makes novels forever appealing to readers.
I think getting into a POV that is not your own is one of the greatest exercises we participate in when becoming a writer. If we as writers can truly immerse ourselves in the thoughts, beliefs, and fears of someone who is not "me," we can expand not only our own world view, but that of our readers as well. Having just come off a brutal election, I think developing this ability to empathize and understand someone who is not ourselves is perhaps the greatest gift writers have to offer the world.
There is so much to say on developing the POV of your characters, but I'd like to offer two points here. Choose a compelling POV(s) and then dive as deep into that head as you possibly can.
With each story I write, I try to work with a POV that provides unique insight to the story for the reader and an interesting challenge to me to write it. A POV can be compelling because of the personality of the character or the conflict they are experiencing. Whatever you do when choosing your POV, don't go for easy.
Then dive deeply into that head. Try, as much as possible, to get out of your own world view and into the perception of how your character would experience the story. Filter everything through the POV that you are in -- the setting, the other characters, the dialogue, and especially the conflict. Make this POV so real and so compelling that your reader will feel as if he or she is truly inside someone else's head experiencing the world through their eyes.
Because what a powerful gift to the world that is.