Friday, May 20, 2011

Which Point of View Should I Choose?

Today we are talking about Point of View and how to choose which to use. I will be taking some of my thoughts from two different articles.

One of the first choices that a writer makes can be the most important. It can make or break any piece of fiction.

Point of view (POV).

First, as the writer, you must understand your options before you start. There are 3 different POV to choose from.

1st person – I walked through the store, looking for the perfect dress to wear that night. Most of them were absolutely hideous, and I wouldn’t be caught dead in them. Well, I guessed I would have to be dead to actually wear anything so ugly.

2nd person – You walked through the store, looking for the perfect dress to wear that night. Most of them were absolutely hideous, and you wouldn’t be caught dead in them. Well, you guessed you would have to be dead to actually wear anything so ugly.

3rd person – She walked through the store, looking for the perfect dress to wear that night. Most of them were absolutely hideous, and she wouldn’t be caught dead in them. Well, she guessed she would have to be dead to actually wear anything so ugly.

Now, we all know that within these there are other options as well, but we will just speak generally today.

1st – Beginning writers often prefer first person, but that doesn’t mean it is the best choice. If the story follows multiple characters then first person is not the right choice for the story, as this follows ONLY the main characters thoughts. This would be a good method to use for a mystery writer, or if the writer doesn’t want the main character to hold information until it is discovered. This is also a good POV for writing non-fiction as it can read like a diary.

In my opinion, first person is a good way to make the reader feel like a part of the story. However, I think that it is often used poorly. But if it is done well, it works really well.

EXAMPLE:

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Raw bands of flesh circled my bloody wrists. I touched my neck, feeling skin where there used to be metal. My fingers came away sticky with blood. I groped for the chair. Being freed of the weight of the chains caused a strange sensation to sweep over me; I felt as if I were either going to float away or pass out. I inhaled until the faintness passed.

Some advantages to writing in first person.
• Directness - You can give the reader a first-hand perspective on the story.
• Voice - If your narrator has a colorful or appealing way of talking, this can add flavor to the story-telling.
• Intimacy - Your reader has the chance to get to know the narrator by listening to him.

Some disadvantages to writing in first person.
• Limited scope - Your narrator only knows what she knows. She doesn't know what the other people around her are thinking. She doesn't know what's happening two miles away. That limits the information she can supply to the reader.
• Limited voice - If your narrator is a six-year-old, she can't talk convincingly about politics.
• Difficulty withholding information - If the narrator knows something that you don't want the reader to know yet, she might have to be tricky or evasive.
2nd – This is also limited to one person’s perspective. That person happens to be the reader. Most fiction writers choose not to write in second person. If the reader disagrees with what is going on in the story, as they are the main character, this will cause issues. Most writers who use second person use it in the form of a narration for self-help and do-it-yourself manuals.

3rd – Third person is usually the favorite of most fiction writers. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid it just to change things up. The reason it is a favorite is because it’s so easy to tell the story. It can be exclusively from the main character’s perspective, but it also has the advantage of switching among many characters. The basic freedom provided by third person is the ability of the author to follow multiple characters to let the reader view different events of a story from new and changing perspectives, increasing enjoyment and entertainment.

EXAMPLE:

The Dedicated Villain by Patricia Veryan

He seized her chin with one hand and forced it up as he smiled down into her bewitching, if enraged little face. “’Tis Francis’s fondest wish that you should become my wife, and –” His fervent utterance terminated in a yelp as his beloved demonstrated the depth of her feelings by sinking her teeth into his hand.
Advantages to third person.


~ You basically have the same advantages as with first person, but you are able to do that with many characters. If you are switching back and forth, you won’t be able to express every character’s every thought, because that would be tedious. But you could certainly hit on the main thoughts and feeling.

One thing to note, regardless of which POV you choose for your story, you MUST be consistent and appropriate for the story being told. POV is a way for the reader to get inside the character’s head, to know and understand what they are thinking, seeing, experiencing and feeling. Switching from one character’s POV to another in the same scene must be done carefully. Most readers don’t respond well to ‘head hopping’ as it can be very confusing.

You wouldn’t want to say, “He caressed her face and smiled at the softness of her cheek against his finger. Her legs wobbled and she feared they would fail her.”

That just gets confusing. And the reader is left saying, “Hey! I thought I was hearing his thoughts. Now I’m hearing hers?”

Instead, you should say, “He caressed her face and smiled at the softness of her cheek against his finger. She leaned into him, and he wrapped his arms around her, banding her closer to him. A secret thrill shot through him as he felt her heart pounding in her chest. It was his touch that caused her to sway in his arms; his touch caused her cheeks to flush and her breath to come in short breaths.”

See? It is better to stay with one character’s POV throughout the scene and then change at a break or chapter.

And remember, no matter what POV you choose, detail is ALWAYS important and will make your story ‘POP!’

2 comments:

GloryWords said...

Thanks so much for posting this!!! (this is Shirley from ANWA BTW)

Rachel Rager said...

Oh, hi, Shirley!! Thanks for stopping by!!! It's great to put a picture with the name too! :)