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Point of view can be one of the most difficult techniques for new writers to master. Even seasoned writers have slip-ups from time-to-time.
What is Point of view?
It’s the perspective that the story is told from. Who is standing where to watch what scene? It is delivered by the interaction between the writer, reader and characters. The most important rule to remember is, be consistent. Now here’s where it gets confusing. The character(s) you choose to tell the story is also referred to as the POV character, but that’s another discussion entirely. Here we’re talking about the POV technique, not character selection.
The first thing to do is make sure you understand how each POV will affect your story and make a conscious choice about which one you use. It may help to write one scene with the same character in two different POV.
What types of POV are there?
In this case, the story isnarrated by a single character. It is spoken as “I” and the narrator can only know that character’s feelings.
For example, if Sandy walks into a bar and doesn’t recognise a soul, then she can’t think, Mark is really hot, because she doesn’t know what his name is yet. She’d walk in and
think, I wouldn’t mind getting to know that hunk leaning on the bar. Sandy might make eye contact with him, but she could think, I blushed, because she can’t see her own face. She could think, The hunk made eye contact and I felt
heat rise up my throat and cheeks. See what I mean?
The beauty of first person is that you can show the feelings, deep desires and internal monologue of the one character, which can bring the reader closer to her. The disadvantage is
the temptation to tellinstead of show. Your character can only discover or observe things about other characters.
Take a look at this example. I pulled long strands of hair from my sticky neck and fanned the ballet program to create a breeze. Crap it was hot in here. A hot body pressed
against my back and encroached on my personal space. I turned to glare at the culprit. A trendy upstart with thick make-up melting from Botoxed cheeks, tanned breasts oozing from the top of a red-sequin dress. Her eyes were closed as the breeze from my fan lifted strands of her hair in a steady rhythm. I stopped fanning. Her eyes popped open, cheeks flushed to match the dress and she turned away.
I’m not going to go into detail here, because this isn’t often used. The author assigns the reader various characteristics and actions. It is spoken as “you” or “your”.
The narrator is an outsider looking in at the action. There are three types of third person narrator (discussed below), so it can get tricky, but the main thing to remember is that it’s spoken as“he/she/it”.
Take a look at this example. Sandy pulled long strands of hair from her sticky neck and fanned the ballet program to create a breeze. It was furnace hot in the lobby. She felt a hot body against her back and turned to glare at the culprit. A trendy woman with thick make-up melting from Botoxed cheeks, tanned breasts oozing from the top of a red-sequin dress. Her eyes were closed as the breeze from the fan lifted strands of her hair in a steady rhythm. Sandy stopped fanning. The woman’s eyes popped open, cheeks flushed to match the dress and she turned away.
Objective omniscient - This is impersonal and involves reporting events from what is seen or heard. The author isn’t in the mind of any character and so can’t know how they feel
or think. It can cause a lack of emotional connection.
Editorial omniscient - The narrator can enter the mind of all characters to interpret their thoughts, feelings and actions, and provide general reflections, judgements and truths. The disadvantage of this is the inclination to tell instead of show. Hopping from one character’s thoughts to another’s can be disconcerting for readers and for that reason isn’t popular.
Limited omniscient - The author only enters one character’s mind at a time. This is the most popular POV, because it allows the author more freedom than first person. It has the benefit of being able to rotate which character’s head you are in; therefore, revealing each character in turn. The disadvantage is that the reader is watching the story unfold as an outsider. However, if you are able to achieve a ‘deep POV’, you can avoid this and engage the reader as easily as with first person. However, you can avoid this by achieving ‘deep POV’.
Never heard of ‘deep POV’?
This is a way of getting deeper into the characters head, intimately involved in her senses, feelings and thoughts, in a way that helps the reader engage with her. Beware of words like smelt, felt, thought, wondered, considered, etc. They will pull the reader out of deep POV. E.g. Not, Sandy felt a pain shoot up her arm and wondered if she was going to pass out. Rewrite it to, The pain shot up her arm. She closed her eyes, said a silent prayer and waited for the blackness to claim her. Much more powerful, right?
To stay in ‘deep POV’ during description, you need to describe things as only that character would see them. E.g. When I walk into my kitchen I see the piles of magazines I meant to read and bills I meant to pay. There’s never enough darned time. If my musical friend came over, she might notice the Aboriginal rhythm sticks, and think about the didgeridoo she has at home, but hasn’t had time to attempt yet. If my dad came over, he might notice my husband’s new golf clubs in the corner and remember his love of the game, before a stroke robbed him of the ability to walk that far. My neighbour, who is a perfectionist, might comment about the family portrait that’s hanging off-centre.
Leave a comment to let others know what point of view you prefer. Do you have any helpful hints, or questions?
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