marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

point of view and description

Was reading in a blog recently where one poster was discussing how he and his fellow soldiers in Germany would survey the landscape discussing it in terms of how to stop the Soviet advance.  Given they were young men and fond of explosions, the destruction might have been excessive; instead of taking out one span on the highway, they would blow it all up as a tank berm.

He then added that such surveillance would be strange to us civilians.  I countered that on the contrary, we knew the principle inside and out.  We leap into the story and go about noticing that has to be foreshadowing, and this is a dangling participle. . . .

But when you're doing it for a POV character, that's where it gets truly interesting.  Because whatever the character knows is going to color what he sees.  A bargeman looks at the river and sees by the swirls that there's a snag under the water just there.  A re-enactor looks at an illustration for a medieval theme and says the artist was imitating the 14th century.  An equestrian reads a horse's adventures in a fantasy novel and mutters they must really be a kind of vegetable.

Did it right by accident, once.  I was reading through a work and realized that when I threw in local color about the plants (down to one scene where they needed dead-heading), it was in the point of view of the character who gardened.

But it's a real trick to keep in the character's mindset because you have to remember it all the time and not reach by reflex for what you would know.
Tags: description, point of view

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