Writing Tips & Tools

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lesson 30: Point of View

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel.

What I am going to endeavor to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. This will by no means suffice as an alternative to reading the book...or the workbook. I hope it piques your appetite to buy the books. They are invaluable reading and reference!

Today's lesson is in Section THREE: Point of View.

Most contemporary novels are written from the POV of their characters. This can get quite intimate...first person being as intimate as you can get! But there are plenty of alternate POV's to employ, including the objective and authorial POV's.

Although these are older approaches as somewhat out of fashion...Hey who ever though bell bottoms and platform shoes would come back...LOL!

Whatever your choice, POV is the perspective you give your readers on the action of the story. It pays to make it strong.

What sort of voice do you have? Soprano? Alto? Tenor? Bass? What kind of soprano...bright? What kind of tenor...high? Is your voice pop, smooth, operatic, or belting? The type of singing voice you have makes a difference to the sound that comes out of your mouth, correct?

So it is with the voice of your novel. The voice will largely be determined by your choice of POV, but more than that by how you use that POV. Are the voices ordinary and generic, or are they highly colored and specific?

Heighten POV throughout your manuscript, and you will strengthen your story's impact.

Step 1: Open your manuscript at random. Whose POV are we experiencing the action through?

Step 2: On this page, select anything the POV character says, does, or thinks. Heighten it. Change the dialogue. Exaggerate the action. Grow the emotion, thought, or observation to make it even more characteristic of this character.

Note: Capturing a character's unique speech and outlook is perhaps easier in a first-person novel. But POV is more than just looking through a set of eyes onto the world. The mouth and brain must come into play also or your novel will have the chilliness of a movie camera

Follow-up: Turn to another page at random. Do the same exercise....repeat the steps about once in every scene in your novel.

Conclusion: What would happen if you did this exercise instead of just think about it? Your novel would take longer to write, but wouldn't it be stronger? Good news. The next exercise is a tool that might make the job easier!


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