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Thread: First Person POV quandry

  1. #1
    In search of my marbles ElaineA's Avatar
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    First Person POV quandry

    My MC, first person narrator experiences a moment of embarrassment. There isn't another character on hand at the moment to observe that she's blushing.

    I wrote: I blushed to the roots of my hair.

    Now, I have been very careful to not have her say anything about herself that she doesn't know for certain. I have been careful not to have her know the thoughts of others and I haven't planted contrivances to have her say things she she can't otherwise know. In this situation, the only other person around is asleep.

    The question is, can a first person narrator make a statement about herself that she knows happens generally, but doesn't know for certain that it happened in the instance she says it? She can't see herself blush; she can feel it, though perhaps not to the roots of her hair. Is it OK to say this as one of those hyperbolic statements we all make?

    I can rewrite it many ways, it just made me wonder what others think since it was kind of bothering me.

  2. #2
    For I am a Rain Dog too LJ Hall's Avatar
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    It might bother me if I read it in first person, yeah.

    Why not just say she felt heat spread up her face all the way to the roots of her hair? Maybe still hyperbolic, but still fittingly first person.

  3. #3
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    I think people can generally tell when they're blushing, especially when blushing really hard, so saying, "I blushed" in a first person narrative isn't totally unbelievable to me.

    That being said, "blushing" is something that can be seen from the outside or felt from the inside. In my opinion, writing the line with a focus on the physical sensation of it would be more believable/less questionable.

    "My face grew hot," for example. Or, "I felt the blood rise in my face."

  4. #4
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    What else are you going to say? "She felt the blush on her cheeks." ? Filtering, big NO for me.

    Look at it this way: When reading 1st person, are you in their skin, or watching them?
    Not once, ever, have I felt like I was the narrator while reading 1st person. So, I'm always watching them, even if that's very a very short distance.
    Thus, describing the blush on them is perfectly fine for me.

    I think this is a writer/reader disconnect question. That the writer is blind to something until they become a reader to it.
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  5. #5
    In search of my marbles ElaineA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    I think this is a writer/reader disconnect question.
    Wow, that's a great observation, Will. That's what comes from micro-editing. I'm getting to the point where I'm questioning everything.

    I'm sure I could easily describe blushing through physical responses like hot ears or hot cheeks and pull it off. Or I could just have her say 'Holy guacamole! There's a naked guy in the bed.' and call it good.

  6. #6
    I'd go with the sensation. I think we all know when we're blushing. You could say something like, from the way my ears went hot, there was no way my face wasn't red as a beet.
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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Finis's Avatar
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    I love first person myself. I write in it all the time (like now! )

    I probably write in first person POV more than any other, so I ponder stuff like that a lot.

    Usually I'll use something like, "I felt my cheeks burning" unless I am feeling particularly clever, in which case I'd use a more clever bit of prose than I can think of off the top of my head. (Sorry, I stared at the keyboard for two minutes, time to move on.)

    I read a lot of 1st person as well, and I think you're just fine with "blushing" in private. Words are communication with your reader above all else, you don't always have to put flowering prose on the page, sometimes you just need them to know the character is blushing. Sometimes there are more important things to spend your word count on.
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  8. #8
    That hairy-handed gent
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    You could do something interpretative, like "I must have blushed."

    Or:

    "I looked in the mirror and my cheeks were as red as a ripe fire engine."

    I'd recommend the first example.

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    Hopeful romantic/hopeless pedant ARoyce's Avatar
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    I'm with Will about the filtering. Skip the "I felt/she felt" part and just describe the sensation. "My scalp tingled. My face burned. Please, God, don't let anyone see me like this." Using "I felt" to lead into the sensation distances the reader and sort of cancels out the deep POV.
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  10. #10
    Hopeful romantic/hopeless pedant ARoyce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    You could do something interpretative, like "I must have blushed."

    Or:

    "I looked in the mirror and my cheeks were as red as a ripe fire engine."

    I'd recommend the first example.

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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW Finis's Avatar
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    Mirror descriptions are bad mkay?
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  12. #12
    That hairy-handed gent
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    Quote Originally Posted by Finis View Post
    Mirror descriptions are bad mkay?
    It was a trifle of a joke.

    caw
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  13. #13
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    I just think of how many times I've said, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I'm blushing!" People usually get a kick out of it.

    Your character does not have to look in a mirror to let the reader know she's blushing. We all know what blushing feels and looks like.

    I see absolutely no problem with your character saying she blushed to the roots of her hair. In fact, I think it's cute and charming.
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  14. #14
    In search of my marbles ElaineA's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback, everyone. It's fascinating and helpful hearing other points of view on small questions like this. And I promise, there isn't a single ONE of those mirror-looking moments in this novel.

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    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElaineA View Post
    My MC, first person narrator experiences a moment of embarrassment. There isn't another character on hand at the moment to observe that she's blushing.

    I wrote: I blushed to the roots of my hair.

    Now, I have been very careful to not have her say anything about herself that she doesn't know for certain. I have been careful not to have her know the thoughts of others and I haven't planted contrivances to have her say things she she can't otherwise know. In this situation, the only other person around is asleep.

    The question is, can a first person narrator make a statement about herself that she knows happens generally, but doesn't know for certain that it happened in the instance she says it? She can't see herself blush; she can feel it, though perhaps not to the roots of her hair. Is it OK to say this as one of those hyperbolic statements we all make?

    I can rewrite it many ways, it just made me wonder what others think since it was kind of bothering me.
    I'd go with describing the sensation of blushing. If you want to toss in that she knows she's red to the roots of her hair, that might work.

    My face grew so hot I had to be blushing to the roots of my hair. Thank God no one was there to see me!
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  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW Finis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    It was a trifle of a joke.

    caw
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    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    There are a couple of problems with your description.

    First, blushing to the roots of the hair is a visual image. It would be better to describe how the blushing feels.

    Second, blushing to the roots of the hair is a description I've encountered numerous times. Numerous. It's stale, at best.

    So, my suggestion is -- come up with a fresh description that describes the act of blushing from the inside, not the outside.

  18. #18
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    What else are you going to say? "She felt the blush on her cheeks." ? Filtering, big NO for me.
    There are plenty of ways to write it without saying "she felt."

    Look at it this way: When reading 1st person, are you in their skin, or watching them?
    Not once, ever, have I felt like I was the narrator while reading 1st person. So, I'm always watching them, even if that's very a very short distance.
    Thus, describing the blush on them is perfectly fine for me.

    I think this is a writer/reader disconnect question. That the writer is blind to something until they become a reader to it.

    When in POV, descriptions are based on what the character would think, feel, or observe. You don't break the illusion just because of the way some people read and interpret.

  19. #19
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    People know when they're blushing. It comes with a distinct and strong feeling. Don't over think it. Just saying it is better than filtering it.

  20. #20
    has no socks JulianneQJohnson's Avatar
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    While I don't think the visual description would throw me for a loop, you have a perfect chance here to use a sensation that is not sight based. Your MC could feel the heat, as many have suggested, or hear the blood rush in her ears. There are so many critisisms that writing needs to use all the senses more, don't pass up a perfectly good reason to use something that isn't visual.
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  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW
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    Elaine, I think the way to go about this is to do the following:
    1) Go out in public and embarrass yourself spectacularly
    2) Recall what the embarrassment felt like
    3) Write it down

    All joking aside, I think it’s best to describe what your character is feeling/experiencing instead of outright saying, “I blushed.”

    Additionally, not everyone blushes when they’re embarrassed. Think about the different ways you’ve seen people react. For example, here are some I’ve personally experienced:

    - Laugh it off while silently going “WHY’D I DO THAT?”
    - Become flustered for a bit, then clear throat and continue on like nothing happened.
    - Look down and hide behind hair (or hands)
    - Widen eyes and then look away
    - Turn and walk away

    But if you really want to keep a blush, I think the heat thing works best.

    ETA: Apparently I misread and skipped over the fact that your character was by herself, so that list above may not apply
    Last edited by Dorky; 02-05-2013 at 11:42 PM.
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  22. #22
    In search of my marbles ElaineA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dorky View Post
    ETA: Apparently I misread and skipped over the fact that your character was by herself, so that list above may not apply
    Hah! I'm glad you pointed it out so I didn't have to, Dorky. And don't think I haven't tried your first suggestion. Well, maybe not intentionally...still, the result is the same.

    In all seriousness, though, I know I can describe blushing many ways. I've done it on numerous occasions. I wanted to gauge how this sentence would be received in a first person setting. It's a nice short sentence and in the particular narrative situation, the sentence is doing double duty by briefly interrupting her frantic physical and mental state.

    I have nothing against using physical sensation to indicate her embarrassment (and since consensus here is a reliable indicator, I'd better try) as long as I can do right by it in just a few words. And without being cliche. Or, I can cut the reference altogether, though I'd rather not. I'll have to pull on my creative boots and get back to shoveling the muck to see if I can find a gem. (Dang! Is that a cliche?)

  23. #23
    all hail zombie babies! CrastersBabies's Avatar
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    When I blush my neck, chest, and arms also turn red. Perhaps this is the same with her as well?
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  24. #24
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    I reckon most people can tell when they blush - you feel it curling across your face, your ears..... Just make sure you describe it in the same voice as the rest, and not in how it looks, but how it feels




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    practical experience, FTW hlynn117's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ARoyce View Post
    I'm with Will about the filtering. Skip the "I felt/she felt" part and just describe the sensation.
    Filler words are tempting, but the 'I' in first person POV is implied. 'My cheeks tingled' implies that she felt it.

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