Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Point of View ~ POV

The act of writing is an act of optimism. You would not take the trouble to do it if you felt it didn't matter.
Edward Albee

 POV or point of view, is the writer’s tool that is going to make or break your story.

The point of view in a story is the narrator’s voice that is telling the story. It is whose eyes the reader will be seeing through. Like Alice looking through the looking glass? Mad Hatter couldn’t tell you what Alice saw now could he?

In first person POV we will see through Jane’s eyes. What Jane sees, smells, hears, and especially what Jane thinks. (I think of Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill house.) This is an excellent portrayal of first person POV. But with first person POV, you have limited yourself to only Janes thoughts. The other character’s being introduced to the story will only be a mirror of what JANE portrays them to be. Again read the above novel by Shirley Jackson and you’ll get the idea of how paranoid her main character sounds.

Now trouble arrives when you try saying that John heard a noise that sounded like glass shattering. You have now shifted POV’s and this can be a dangerous line to cross when making it clear to the reader that this is Jane’s story and not John’s.

When you’re a beginning writer it is fundamentally important to learn the craft of POV.

I’ll try to make this simple, as if POV is ever simple. It can get pretty complicated but I’ll give you the basics. First person, second person and third person POV.

In first person, we’re going to use the word I a lot because I am going to tell you the story from my POV. Like many blogs that are written in first person POV, we use the word I to show that this is my perspective and not yours.

POV is basically, inside whose head are you going to tell the story from? You need to understand this factor of POV if you are ever to be taken seriously as a writer. Not understanding this concept can make your writing look amateurish to say the least and also make it look like you haven’t studied the craft long enough to understand.
Second person is a little, no A LOT trickier. I’ll let you read about it here, since I still get confused with it myself.

Third person POV is the point of view that most authors use. It is much like the first person, except you’ll use he saw the road crack before them instead of I saw the road crack. It is essentially using ‘he’ instead of ‘I’.

Now the tricky third person pov is the ever-elusive third person omniscient. Though omniscient is on occasion used in the beginning of the story, the writer switches to third person to get a tight grip on the main characters view.

Unbeknownst to me, Marge didn’t like the day that was about to unfold.

OMNISCIENT POV: This is where the reader is in everyone’s head and not really clinging to one character and getting to know him/her. You virtually give up the characters by using this point of view because no one can carry this all the way through a story and make it a profitable best seller. If you know of one author that has, then do tell! You can start a novel in this way, but really we switch to maybe a third person POV

The pov is tricky in writing so if you plan on mastering the craft of writing this would be a helpful tool to practice, read others work, and implement it into your own writing. By reading what others have written before you, you’ll get the idea of POV and you’ll also recognize WHEN the shifts occur and how to masterfully shift pov yourself.

The exercise I like to practice with most? Say we have a prompt of 500 words. Write the exercise in first person. Try the same story only switch to third person. Write it again in third person omniscient. (I NEVER tackle 2nd person and that is why I won’t touch the subject!)

Show your writing group your different pov’s of your stories. You ARE in a workshop right? After all my blogging about how important it is to surround yourself with other writers? SHAME ON YOU!

Your writing group will be able to help you see the difference, feel the difference and master the different ways to serve the POV to your reader. There isn’t enough room in a 500-word-blog to give you ALL of the details of POV, but trust me on this one. This is one tricky part of the craft to master. But once you have it licked, your writing will shine like the morning sunrise!

For further reading:

Book Bites:

The Power of Pointof View by Alicia Rasley

Rivet your Readers with deepPOV by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway

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