This is topic Deciding to cut a character POV? in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by annepin (Member # 5952) on :
(Sorry! Mistitled--more accurately titled: "Deciding to cut a character POV" or something.)

So, my WIP is told in 3 people's POVs. I'm really struggling with one of the characters, the female protag in the story (and the eventual love interest of one of the other POVs). She feels slippery to me, like I can't quite get into her head. She's also kind of a passive character, which might be related to my inability to tap into her personality.

Now, I'm considering cutting out her POV. It would be a _major_ change in the novel, since the novel, in part, is about the clash of cultures and how they sort of come to terms with each other, as told through the eyes of people in wildly different cultures. I would be able to show that but I don't think it would be as powerful, or as original.

So, while I understand the truism that one should use as few POVs as possible to tell the story, practically speaking, how do you decide? Is that fact that i'm just not "feeling" a character enough, or should stick to the original vision and really work on getting that character pinned down? Especially since, whether or not I write in her POV, she's still going to play a major role in the story. She also undergoes quite a bit of change, so the problem is not that she's static.

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited January 17, 2008).]

Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
The fact that she feels "slippery" to you makes me think of something I remember hearing about that is attributed to Robert McKee (STORY).

There is this character role grid with something like "helps" and "hinders" across the top and the kinds of characters along the side: protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, love interest, and so on.

The relevant thing here is that while the antagonist, by definition, does whatever possible to hinder the protagonist, and the sidekick does whatever possible to help the protagonist, the love interest helps sometimes and hinders other times.

That said, I would vote for keeping her POV and working on clarifying her as a person in your mind. I'm sure you've figured out what her motivations are--what she REALLY wants, even if she doesn't actually recognize that herself--but in case you haven't, that's a key place to pound on.

Another thing that can help clarify a character (at least, it has helped me), is to find a face for her. What works best for me is to pick an actor in a role that is similar to the one my character is playing. I had a couple of characters click into place for me once after seeing a movie with a character in a similar situation as one of my characters, and realizing that THAT was what I needed to "see" in order to make my characters clearer.

You can try interviewing your character, or imagining her carrying on a conversation with someone completely outside of your story.

We could even have you "bring" her here and let people here "talk" to her in this topic, if it would help. Crazier things have happened on Hatrack.

Posted by rickfisher (Member # 1214) on :
I'm a bit curious why you're putting a passive character into a leading role in the first place. Especially one who is to serve as a love interest. Oh, I can think of explanations, but although it doesn't seem impossible or even (necessarily) unreasonable to me, it does feel foreign.

That aside--either way, you're going to have to pin down your understanding of her. I'd spend a bit of time doing that, first (Kathleen has good suggestions) before deciding to drop her as a POV. After thinking it through, take each of her scenes and try to figure out what else she's thinking, and PUT IT IN. If that doesn't get you anywhere, THEN consider the POV elimination.

[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited January 17, 2008).]

Posted by Christine (Member # 1646) on :
I don't believe in using as few POV characters as possible. I don't believe in using unnecessary POV characters, but unnecessary is a highly subjective term in this case. Use as many POV characters as the story requires, whether that's 1 or 20, and if you introduce them well and work it well, it'll be fine.

As for this case, it sounds like you don't really want to cut her and it sounds like she has a role, but that you don't know her very well. Maybe you need to sit down with her for a few days and chat. Or slip into her head and write some free-flow from a first person point of view.

As for her being passive, I've had occasion to need to write from passive character's POV. They still have desires and motivations and no character is completely limp in the face of what's going on around them. Let's say her home burns down...she's choosing her action whether she sits and cries about it or goes and hunts down the arsonists who did it. What would make her choose one way over the other?

Posted by annepin (Member # 5952) on :
Thanks guys. You're right, I don't want to cut her, I'm just afraid I can't pull her off. Right now she's dragging the whole story down.

Rickfisher, I don't know that there's a specific problem with passive characters--they are harder to pull off, but especially when I have such other active characters, I think it provides a nice foil. In this case, though, I think she's acting passive simply because I don't know yet how she would react--I get the feeling she's not passive by nature, I simply don't feel comfortable enough with her to know for certain what she would do, so she sort of thrusts about awkwardly.

So yeah, it seems I need to spend some quality time with her, getting to know her. I don't know why I'm having such a hard time with this character. My other two protags are male, and I have no problem with them. Even my minor characters I feel I know better. Which is what made me consider cutting her--if she doesn't excite me, I'm afraid it's going to show in the book. But I'll give her a chance, first.

Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
Would it work at all to put a part of yourself that you've not emphasized so far in your life into her?
Maybe even a part of yourself that you'd really rather ignore?

Or maybe one you used to dream being in your future, but things never really worked out that way?

Give yourself a chance to explore what-might-have-beens (or what-you're-glad-never-was) through this character?

Posted by annepin (Member # 5952) on :
Thanks, Kathleen. I think you're on to something. I'm partly afraid I'm not getting into her head because there is some part of me I'm not willing to explore.

Darn these characters!

Posted by Lynda (Member # 3574) on :
Kathleen's right - cast an actor in the part (in your head), then sit down and talk with her! Or sit down and listen as she talks with the other characters (I do this more than talking with the character myself). Find an actor whose look AND personality (either that person's personality or the personality of some character she's portrayed) and give her the part, then let her sink her teeth into it. Perhaps your character is a Kiera Knightly-type. If so, she's athletic, ambitious, strong-willed (based on her character in "Atonement" and "Pirates"). Perhaps she's a Reese Witherspoon type (as in "Legally Blond" - very intelligent but also very "fluffy"). Maybe she's a Lois Lane-type (as on "Smallville" - brash, loud, aggressive, funny, athletic, impulsive, smart). Perhaps you just need to have a couple of days of a movie marathon, trying out various actresses for the part of the character in your story. Pop some popcorn, pop in some DVDs and get to casting - it can be a lot of fun, as well as a good way to solve your problem.


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