Writing Tips & Tools

Monday, October 01, 2007

Lesson #7 - POV

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we are continuing editing lessons from the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

These lessons will be shortened overviews of the chapters and by no means should be a substitute for buying the book. I'm rereading but not posting a lot of good stuff!

Let's continue with Point Of View.

Some writing books distinguish as many as twenty-six different flavors of POV, but there are really only three basic approaches: first person, third person, and omniscient.

The first person is the "I" voice, where all the narration is written as if the narrator were speaking directly to the readers. ("I knew as soon as I entered...")
Note that in first person the narrator is one of the characters, not the writer.

The first-person POV has a number of advantages, the main one being that it gives your reader a great deal of intimacy with your viewpoint character. When you are writing in the "I" voice, your main character effortlessly invites your reader into his or her head and shows them the world through his or her eyes.

Of course, in order to succeed in first person POV, you have to create a character strong enough and interesting enough to keep your readers going for an entire novel, yet not so eccentric or bizarre that your readers feel trapped inside his or her head.

But realize, what you gain in intimacy with the first person...You lose in perspective! You can't write about anything your main character couldn't know, which means you have to have your main character in the spot whenever you want to write an immediate scene...This can limit your plot development possibilities!

Also in one POV, your readers get to know only one character directly. Everyone else is filtered through your viewpoint character. One way around this is to write in the first person but from several different viewpoints...With different scenes done from inside the heads of different characters.

This technique can be highly effective in the hands of an experienced writer. For example, over the course of Sol Stein's The Best Revenge, first-person sections are written from the POV's of six different characters. And Mary Gordon devotes the last section in the Company of Women to first-person accounts by all the major characters in turn.


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