Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Point of View

Point of View: I’ve heard a number of editors say that the biggest problem in learning to writer effective novels is to understand POINT OF VIEW.

Generally speaking, every scene should have one, and only one, viewpoint character. During the course of that scene (could be a paragraph or an entire chapter) the action takes place through the brain and eyeballs of your viewpoint character.

Know what point of view you are using, and make it crystal clear to the reader what point of view is being used.

What are Points of View?

First Person – I did this. I saw that. I think something else. (Author is the primary character.) More intimate – focused.

Third person – Bill did this. He did that. He did something else. (Author is narrator)

Multiple Focus – Controlled and calculated mixture of points of view. (Omniscient POV) – Gives author (and reader) variety and can get into the mind of the characters and reveal more about them.

Leonard Bishop, in Dare To Be A Great Writer, 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction says, "The multiple viewpoint can explore more characters through their own responses. The characters can be viewed in different places at the same time. The story can develop greater variety through the array of other fully developed characters.

Dean Koontz in How to Write Best Selling Fiction (Writer's Digest Books, 1981) says "Warning! At least three-quarters of all successful main stream novels are written from the modified omniscient point of view. The mainstream audience demands a story with greater breadth and depth-in terms of characters, background, and thematic structure-than does the general audience. Most writers find that it is easiest (though never easy) to create a story with breadth and depth by writing ii the modified omniscient voice, for there is total freedom to enter the minds of all the characters, whereas other narrative voices limit the author to the mind of just one character, the lead. The modified omniscient point of view also offers total freedom in placing the reader at all of the major dramatic story events, rather than restricting him to those events witnessed by the lead character... If you choose to write primarily in the modified omniscient voice, as I have recommended, you must understand that it is never permissible to switch points of view from one character to another within a single scene."

Albert Zuckerman in Writing the Blockbuster Novel says (of points of view), "I would recommend the smallest number possible, taking into account the story you're telling, but no fewer than three or four. With only one or two points of view, it becomes quite difficult to work up the kind of plot complexity and interpersonal drama readers expect in a big novel. With more than six or seven, the emotional focus tends to become diffused, and reader involvement with your lead characters is likely to diminish.”

Sol Stein in Stein on Writing recommends:
  • “Is your point of view consistent? If it slips anywhere, correct it. If it isn't working, try another point of view.
  • Is your point of view sufficiently subjective to involve the reader's emotions? Have you been too objective?
  • Have you avoided telling us how a character feels? Have you relied on actions to help the reader experience emotion?
  • If you're using the first person, have you used another character to convey in conversation what your first person character looks like?• Is the "I" character sufficiently different from you?
  • Have you told the reader anything that the "I" character couldn't know or wouldn't say? Is the author's voice showing?
  • Is there anything in your material that is not likely to be known to someone with your character's background or intelligence?
  • If you're using third person or the omniscient point of view, have you used particularity in describing that person?• Would it pay to narrow your focus so that the reader can identify more readily with one of the characters?
  • Have you established limitations or guidelines for your third-person point of view? Have you then adhered to those limitations?
Subjects taught in colleges and universities are called disciplines. Writing is a discipline. And one of its most disciplined techniques is that of point of view. The choice of point of view is yours, but once you've decided, be sure that you stick to it as if your reader's experience of the story depended on it. Because it does."

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