Last month, I talked about the importance of keeping your writing real. This month come the caveats and other notes.
Some commenters last month asked about how keeping your writing real — using authentic and specific details in your descriptions — relates to your point of view. And, yes, what your viewpoint character notices depends on both who they are and how they’re feeling at the moment. If your viewpoint character is too thick to notice much of anything, then you have to adjust your descriptions to match.
D. E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book is about a woman who lives in a small town and makes the mistake of writing a book based on her neighbors, all of whom recognize themselves in the story once it’s published, except for Colonel Weatherhead. He fails to see himself in the book’s “Major Waterfoot,” who falls in love with a neighbor in the book, “Miss Mildmay.” But in the book, Major Waterfoot is living a sad and lonely life that Colonel Weatherhead finds hauntingly familiar. And that recognition – or lack of recognition – leads him to court and eventually propose to his neighbor, Miss Bold.
If you look carefully at scenes from the Colonel’s point of view elsewhere in Miss Buncle’s Book, they show the obliviousness that led to his engagement. A tool shed is “a dark musty place (as toolsheds so often are) filled with worn-out tools, and a wheelbarrow and a lawnmower, and festooned with spiders’ webs . . . “ Note that the only things he notices are the things he will run into or trip over. Later we hear about a walk home when “it was still raining and everything was dripping wet,” as so often happens after a rain. Clearly the Colonel is not the most observant of men, and Stevenson shows this by leaving out details in all of his descriptions.