Friday, October 8, 2010

How to describe how one character feels from another's point-of-view

Here's the problem: You need to describe how a character feels, but you're not currently in that particular character's point-of-view. Most people highly recommend not switching between points-of-view within the same scene ("head hopping"). Here's how Dean Koontz accomplishes the description without changing points-of-view.

The scene below, in Chapter 62 of The Servants of Twilight, was written from Christine's point-of-view. But the feelings being described are being felt by Charlie.
Apparently, a dark current of pain crackled through him, for he winced and held his breath, and for a moment she thought he was going to pass out again.
The word "apparently" tells us that this is a pretty certain assumption but not necessarily a reality. Then the words "she thought" remind us we're not in Charlie's point-of-view, yet we still get a very good idea of how Charlie is feeling based on Christine's observation without switching the point-of-view to Charlie.

A similar situation happens in Chapter 64.
Spivey's people did not appear. He must have put a damned good scare in them. They must have stayed where he'd left them for at least half an hour. They must have proceeded to the ridge top with extreme caution.
What happened to Spivey's people? We don't know for sure, but from Charlie's point-of-view we get a pretty good idea what probably happened.  The words "must have" tell us this is a pretty certain assumption but not necessarily a reality. We're in the wrong point-of-view to know for sure, but we've got a pretty good idea what happened.

It's a technique I will call "Character assumption."

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't thought consciously about this before, thanks for the post!