For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine? You can also look under “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar. Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.
Lesson Thirteen talked about making sure we only see what the Point of View character can see. We also have to worry about accidentally getting into the heads of other characters as we describe what the POV character is seeing.
It seems to happen most for me when I describe what another character in the scene is doing.
“Mike studied the sign on the wall.”
Is Mike the POV character? No? Then how does the POV character know that he is studying it? He may just be looking in that direction but thinking of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Right?
Hold up your right hand and say: forever more I will call this…
The publisher red-lined something very similar to this, and said that you need to show what the characters are doing by showing what the POV character sees them doing. You cannot get into their heads, or assume what they are doing.
You might be able to fix something like this with “Mike stood in front of the sign on the wall, and scratched his head.” This would work especially well if there was a little dialog afterwards that made it obvious he looked at it. REMEMBER NOT TO SAY HE LOOKS AT IT. (See my earlier post on “Write without Looking”)