What Miss Sparrow saw

If “empathy” is the ability to see the world through other people’s eyes, then fiction writing can be the most empathic of the arts.

My editor wants me to change the POV – or point of view – of a largish scene at the beginning of the sequel from the omnipresent third person to the more selective second person.

Let me explain.

Say you do that classic, 1940s British mystery, in which five strangers appear at an isolated castle on a foggy night. Agatha Bloody Christy and her ilk wrote this scene a thousand times. One way to write the scene is to see the drive up to the castle from the perspective of Lord Minsing-Latham. Do the scene in which the strangers first meet from the perspective of Jenny Sparrow, your plucky young heroine. And do the introductions from the perspective of Smedly, the butler.

No worries. You can write that easy-peasy, right?

Another option is to see the entire thing from the perspective of Miss Sparrow, beginning with the drive through the foggy countryside. She sees the castle loom up out of the mist. She’s a Londoner and drives her own car, naturally, which a few of the men-folk will find a bit uppity, bright young thing like that, with a car but no ring on her finger. She opens doors for herself as well, and she actually handles the introductions of the strangers, rather than waiting for one of the older men to initiate the conversation. Blimey, who does this bird think she is?

Doing the scene from multiple POVs lets you, the reader, sit at the right hand of God, seeing everything the author needs you to see and sharing their emotions. Lord Minsing-Latham is rather taken by Miss Sparrow while the butler harbors some seething anger, though we know not why. Yeah? But doing the scene from the POV of Jenny Sparrow means you, the reader, know only what Jenny knows.

I’m recasting the opening scenes of the sequel through one character’s eyes. It presents challenges, but it also (one hopes) grounds the reader’s perspectives and “imprints” them on that character.

That’s the theory anyway.


About danahaynes

Dana Haynes is the author of ICE COLD KILL (2013), BREAKING POINT (2011) and CRASHERS (2010) from Minotaur and St. Martin's Press.

Posted on January 31, 2011, in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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