9/22/11

Writing 101 -- Point of View (POV)

Today, I’m touching on the topic of POV. In writing, POV refers to whose head the writer is occupying. The three most common types of POV are first person, third person and omniscient. Within each of these are varying degrees of depth. Many writers will call it ‘deep third person’ or ‘limited third person’, but that’s just semantics--Third person is third person and if it is done correctly, the writer is already deeply entrenched in the character’s personality, which makes the word ‘deep’ unnecessary.

First Person POV has become more accepted in recent years, especially in the rise of paranormal romance, although I have seen it flow over into other areas of romance. Other genres that are more accepting of first person are children’s books, middle grade and young adult books, and fantasy. The key to doing first person well is for the author to entrench themselves into the main character telling the story.

As the writer, YOU are the character. YOU know the character’s mind. YOU know why the character does and says certain things.

I’m writing the Goblin’s Apprentice series in first person POV. I feel that I’m closer to the character and that closeness adds to the unique voice of Kyte. BUT does it force the writer to see the story from that POV only?

No. The writer can write other character’s viewpoints. I personally would recommend third person POV for those instances, but many writers have been successful writing co-first person POV.

Rick Riordan wrote dual first person POV for the brother/sister duo in The Kane Chronicles. At first, it confused me until I realized that each sibling had their own chapter in their own POV, I switched easily. It helped that personality-wise, the characters were different, therefore had their own way of narrating the same scene.

Some writers fail at this, which results in a confusing mish-mash wherein the reader is trying to figure out who’s who. And what usually happens when the reader is confused?

They put the book down. Do not make this mistake.

TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME, an example:

Mom insisted that only horse’s sweat, men perspired and ladies dewed. I’ve got a news flash for her--I just might be a horse because I sweat. There was no dewing involved.

It was in the middle of the afternoon. In July. In Oklahoma. ‘nuff said.

So, of course, Mom sent me and Mike outside for some “fresh air and sunshine”.

No, this example isn’t grammatically correct, but it is told from the POV of a ten-year old. Sometimes a writer has to ‘forget’ the rules of grammar to impart the ‘voice’ of the character to the reader.  

Third Person POV is the most common narrative point of view. This is where the author refers to the character by name or a pronoun. When writing in this POV, it’s easy to switch between POV characters within a scene, though it is recommended not to bounce back and forth between characters (head hopping) too often. Choose the character who has the most to gain or lose within the scene and show the scene through their eyes.

THE FAERIE WHO LOST HIS WINGS (unpublished children’s book):

Piper’s eyes were half-closed and her tummy was full of strawberries and nectar.  She was almost asleep.  “Papa, tell me the story of the faerie who lost his wings,” she asked.

“Not tonight, Piper.  It’s late.”

“But, Papa, I love that story.  Plea-eze,” she begged.
         
“Oh, all right, but then you have to go straight to sleep.”

“I will, Papa,” said Piper as she snuggled down under the covers.

In this scene, Piper is the POV character.

Omniscient POV is less common than it once was. To tell you the truth, I never read a book written in omniscient POV until I read Cowboys & Aliens. This POV is written from multiple characters within a scene. Many would call this type of writing ‘lazy’ and ‘head hopping’. Both descriptions are true with many books. But when a book is a novelization, which is a book written from a screenplay, it almost needs to be written in this manner since many times, omniscient is the only way to describe the books and characters.
 
BUT do not do this when you are writing genre fiction. It is not accepted. Many times this is lazy writing because an author hasn’t dug deep enough into the character or the character’s motivations. Goal, Motivation and Conflict is very important for every primary character, but also some minor characters.

Here is an example of omniscient POV.

COWBOYS & ALIENS by Joan D. Vinge, an excerpt from page 2:

Abruptly the man sat up with a terrified gasp, like he’d been wakened out of a nightmare. He sat sucking in air as if he had been running all night, staring at the land around him with the empty eyes of someone who had no idea what he was doing there.

The buzzards that had been circling on the thermals overhead, watching him with more than casual interest, canted their wings and flew off, disappointed.

The man, dazzled by the light, never noticed, seeing the land around him in double vision. He kept blinking, until finally he knew--within a range of several thousand square miles--where he was. In the desert. Lost in the desert.

Notice the phrases marked in blue? The part of the paragraph in black is acceptable in third person POV, BUT the part in blue brings the POV directly into the buzzard’s mind.

And that is POV in a nutshell.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment. If I can’t answer your questions, I’ll tell you. But feel free to surf the wide-world of the Internet to find blogs, books or whatever you need to answer your questions.

Later, Peeps!

4 comments:

Twisted Sister said...

Great! Loved your examples.

magolla said...

Thanks, Meg! I'm spending more time writing these blogs instead of editing. Hm, I suspect that I'm procrastinating. . .

Jody Werner said...

But sometimes in helping other people, you're also helping yourself!

magolla said...

Naw, but I enjoy writing the little blogs in a nutshell, Jods. I have found out that some are harder to write than others. :-)