When I first joined a writer’s group, a common theme in the advice part of the meeting was keeping point of view pure. By that I mean that stories were to be told by only one point of view character and everything that landed on the page had to be observable by that character. We were to eschew omniscient author — therefore nothing like “it was the best of times it was the worst of times.” “Head-hopping,” that is moving between one point of view character and another, was forbidden. One analogy that was used to emphasize the purity of POV was to imagine the story unfolding before the author’s eyes like a movie. If the author couldn’t see the event on the screen of her mind, neither could the POV character.
It was a useful analogy and one I’ve used myself, but like all “rules” in writing, it can be taken too far. The biggest drawback, in my opinion, is that it turns the author and therefore the reader, into an observer rather than a participant. The screen in my mind may allow me to see a brawl in the street, but I am distanced from it. My character should be in there swinging. He should feel the anger that provoked the fight, smell the sweat and fear on his opponent and struggle for breath when a blow hits him in the solar plexus. He should also be involved emotionally. Robots may engage in battle in modern movies, but for a story to grab me I want a real person, with real feelings. I want to ache with him, dream with him and hope with him. Watching him on a screen won’t do that.
Instead, I suggest the writer try to get inside her character. You still only write what he can see and hear and touch and smell, but you also know how he feels. I heard a female author of romance once talk about taking on a man’s pose as she sat in her chair. She rubbed her chin as though she had whiskers, stuck her legs straight out in front of her, put her hands behind her head and leaned back — all actions she associated with men. Then, when she felt herself inside a man’s skin, she’d write the scene from the hero’s point of view. It’s an intriguing thought. I’ve been watching a lot of baseball lately, so I see men scratching and spitting. Don’t know if I’ll go that deep!
I’m writing western historical romance, so sometimes I’ll put on a long skirt and a buttoned up blouse and try walking about in it. I don’t have a corset, but I can still experience the restricted movement such garments require, not to mention the stiff back.
Of course, some writers can get inside their characters without props, but if you’re having a hard time imagining the heart and soul of a medieval lady, try donning a wimple and see if that helps.