Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Perception is Part of Point of View

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Perception plays a huge role in point of view. How we perceive things depends on many factors. Even people in the same family, brought up in the same neighborhood and country will look at things differently. That's because many variables enter into their lives, one being birth order. No matter how parents try to be fair, a second or third child is not treated exactly as the first. Also, other contacts, such as teachers, friends, enemies, even events, can shape thoughts.

Likewise, each author perceives things in his or her own way. Such views have a way of sneaking into books. When you write, be careful you are perceiving the universe from your character's point of view and not your own. Go through your manuscript and elimate places where your point of view has slipped in, unless you actually want your character to be a mirror of yourself and not a person in his or own right.

When you've done that, scan your manuscript again. This time make sure your characters differ in perceptions from each other, even if only in small ways, so the reader can tell one apart from the other.


Morgan Mandel


  1. Good post, Morgan. Before your character can maintain "voice", they really need to have a well-defined viewpoint first. That's not easy to maintain throughout a novel.


  2. So true, Morgan. The book I am editing right now doesn't have the distinct voices. I read interactions between two characters and realize I read a very similar interaction between two others earlier. Not good. :-)

  3. Great post! Creating unique characters is tantamount to a unique experience. You can have five writers working on the same plotline and if all five writers have a strong handle on character, they will produce five completely different manuscripts/experiences.

  4. Sometimes I think my characters are different, and they are in my head, but a good critique, such as at our Chicago-North RWA meetings, tells me different.

    That goes to show everyone perceives things differently.

    Morgan Mandel

  5. The distinct voices of your characters is very important to your book. I'm glad you addressed this today.

    It's good to remember, too, if you have a character whose views are the opposite of your own views, you have to check yourself to make sure you're not subtly undermining or condemning those views. You may not like them, but that characters does.

  6. I agree with Dani that it's difficult to maintain a "well-defined viewpoint throughout a novel."

    I've tried printing each POV character's passages, then reviewing each group for consistency. It's quite a task if you have multiple viewpoints in your work but has helped me spot when I diverge from a character's voice.

  7. Right now I'm working on a sequel to my current book, and sometimes it's difficult to remain true to the character I created in the first book.

  8. Very good point to make and since I'm busy editing my ms I'll be taking a look at perception!


    Teagan Oliver

  9. Interesting point; I used various parts of my personality in different characters. Josh had my sarcastic wit. Will my former drinking problem. By utilizing traits that I knew firsthand I was able to make my characters more realistic and human. In their own way each developed their own voice during the story.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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