I have little control over my facial expressions. My eyes will bug out when I hear unbelievable claims. I hardly ever go to amateur musical performances, because I grimace whenever I detect a flat note or off-kilter sound.
I like to believe I am more self-aware than most. I am cognizant of every facial twitch, every sigh, every click of the tongue, every angling of my eyebrows.
It’s only my self-control that is lacking! The instinct to rein in my facial commentary comes too slowly.
Sorry, Mr. Politician, I didn’t mean to roll my eyes at your blatant exaggeration! Nor did I mean to flash that death’s-head rictus at your stupefying claim, Ms. Spokesperson.
It’s this self-awareness that also gets me in trouble with my writing.
Take for example my latest novel, the working title of which is “My Friend Jackson”. It’s a gritty YA urban fantasy/horror, dealing with Jasmine, an inner-city girl tormented by bullying, and the monster that comes unbidden to help her. All written in “Deep 3rd Person” — I’m the little angel/devil on her shoulder, observing what she observes, with the occasional peek into her thoughts.
I rely on my self-awareness to model and portray Jasmine’s thoughts, her fears, her likes and dislikes, and the myriad of angst-driven emotions that fill a teenager’s mind. What frustrates me, is that whenever I describe our heroine’s reactions, well-meaning critiquers circle it in red with the warning “You’ve changed POV!” (Point of View).
Consider these examples when I describe Jasmine’s actions: “she bared her front teeth in a weak snarl,” or “she pulled down her collar, exposing the yellowed bruise.”
I will get at least one “Bad POV!” response, inevitably backed up with the reasoning: “She can’t see her own face.”
And yet these same critics don’t bat an eyelash at the protagonist “raising her eyebrows.”
Wait a cotton-pickin’ minute!
She can’t see her own forehead– so why is the former a no-no, but the latter example is okay?
Riddle me THAT, Batman!
My stance is that the character must be allowed to be aware of their own body.
You want proof? There’s a scientific name for this phenomenon – proprioception. This is the body’s mechanism to know the position, actions and state of any part of the body without looking at it.
And everybody has it. For example, proprioception allows us to touch our nose with our finger, even when our eyes are closed (assuming we’re not tipsy!). Many neurologists refer to proprioception as “the body’s Sixth Sense.”
Proprioception is the sense that allows the character to know, without seeing:
– whether their own cheeks dimple or not,
– whether they raise one or both eyebrows,
– whether a bruised area is exposed or not,
– how far one sticks out their tongue at POV critics,
– whether their hand behind their back is crossing its fingers, or flipping POV critics the bird.
Writers often serve up the following advice – “Use all five senses.” I heartily agree, but let’s go one further — I feel writers are allowed to use all SIX senses.
I therefore plant my flag – it is valid to write anything that can be sensed by the character’s proprioception.
“So there!” he said, followed by a flash of his incisors.
Keep an eye on my Facebook author page for developments on “My Friend Jackson.”