Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Deep POV and Real Life

Thinking about deep POV (see has drawn me into a deeper contemplation of my own life, and the way we human beings view ourselves and our world, and even--or especially--how we view God.

In writing, "deep POV" is point-of-view, or perspective, written from deep inside the POV character. It gives readers a view, not only of the character's thoughts, but of his emotions and his physical sensations—what he sees through his eyes, hears through his ears, and feels in his body. It brings readers as close into the character's reality as the character is. Readers become the character while they are reading.

But it's possible for a writer to write from a character's POV and still keep readers at arms length. The character's thoughts are expressed, but the reader (and the writer) are viewing the character from outside his skin. They're reading his mind, but not fully sharing his experience. That's a shallow POV. Deep POV takes the reader closer into the experience of the character.

This distinction applies to life on a broader scale. It has occurred to me that I often view my own life from this "arms-length" perspective. I watch my life as an outsider. I live analytically, thinking about life more often than living it, detaching myself from my world and thus never deeply experiencing it. Does this make sense? Even when I go for a walk by a river, I'm sometimes not there. I'm thinking, not feeling--thinking about things outside my body, things in other places or other times--past or future. I'm not living in the present, feeling the warm air on my skin, hearing the birds chirping, smelling the pungent scent of sun-warmed pine trees.

I don't think I'm the only one who lives this way. I have a friend who is going through a great hardship right now. She feels, rightly, I believe, that distancing from yourself is sometimes a necessary coping mechanism. When life is too painful, we have to detach to survive. But as the pain begins to heal, we need to make sure we don't remain in this detached state. We have to move back into the experience of life. Often the move has to be deliberate. Otherwise the coping mechanisms become castles with high stone walls that keep out, not only the pain, but the joy of life.

Zinovy, the main character in my novel, lives in this kind of castle. The pain of seeing his mother brutally murdered when he was five, spending his childhood in an abusive foster home, and growing up as a teen in a Russian military orphan camp has driven him deep into an analytical mindset and locked out the possibility of all emotional involvement with the world around him. There is no room in his worldview for non-rational reality or for personal, subjective experience. His redemption from this self-imposed prison/fortress constitutes the main theme of the book.

In my own experience, I wonder where this tendency comes from. I think much of it is in my genes. I'm naturally an analytical person. But the deep pain of losing my father when I was seven definitely drove me more deeply in this direction. I remember moving out of my body when the grief was too hard to bear, and I lived that way for years. Even as the intensity of the grief softened, I don't think I softened. The coping mechanism had become a part of who I was, and it has only been recently, in my old age (!), that I feel I'm finally able to recognize the problem and overcome the tendency.

My deep personal relationship with God was a part of the healing process. But even so, I know I've done this kind of withdrawing from God, too. I read the Bible and learn about him. I think about him. But I suspect my analytical approach often gets in the way of my actually experiencing him. God doesn't want to be simply thought about. He wasn't meant to be known analytically. The purpose of thinking about God is to bring us into relationship with him--to bring us to the point of experiencing him.

Experiencing God, I am learning, can even be wordless. That realization is a shock to my system. I'm a writer. Words are important to me. But more and more I'm discovering the limitation of words, particularly in growing deeper in my relationship with God. Yes, words are necessary in our understanding of who God is and who He isn't. There are proper limitations. He is Good. He is not bad. He is Eternal. He does not change. He is Faithful. He does not abandon us. He is Righteous. He is never unholy. I'm glad those words about Him are in my mind. But I want, more and more, to be able to sit in His presence, letting the knowledge of who He is penetrate beyond my mind into my heart--letting myself feel his love around me, hear the whisper of his truth brush past my mind and into my spirit.

I think we're all on the same journey as Zinovy. We all begin at different places, and the path is more difficult for some than for others, but God's purpose in life is to move each one of us toward a full and deep and glorious experience of Him—of His truth and his love.

It's a wonderful journey. I'm glad I'm on it. But I long for the destination. I know the end will be pure joy. Yes, I’m into happy endings. I believe in them. Whoever said the truth had to be miserable? That just doesn’t make sense. What's good makes sense. This is where the analytical and the experiential come together: God is Good. This is the rational reality. But I want to know that truth on a continuously deeper level. So the journey continues, and I'm glad the Good God goes with me.


Jessica said...

Beautiful post. As much as I've learned about deep POV, I've never thought of it in conjunction with my life and my relationship with God. Awesome perspective.
Thank you!

Ginny Jaques said...

Thanks for commenting, Jessica. It's nice to meet you online. All the best for your WIP.