Thursday, December 12, 2013

More Thoughts on Point of View

Point of view, (POV) is an area you must give serious thought to when sitting down to create your masterpiece. Looking back, I shudder at how many rules of writing I broke when setting out some of my earlier efforts. In one of my very first attempts at a novel, I probably got into the head and POV of almost every character in each chapter. I can imagine the language some of my editors would fling at me now if they received such a mash-up. Some experts advise limiting such efforts to only one or two characters, and even keeping these restricted to separate chapters, giving each character their own chapter so as to avoid confusing the reading public.

When you begin to plan and plot your epic, it is a good idea to give serious thought to the POV you will be using. The options are many such as first person, third person, omniscient etc., and each will affect how you can proceed with your story. For example, first person will restrict how much of what is going on beyond the narrator’s knowledge you can bring into the tale. You must resort to some author trickery to avoid the dreaded info-dump where you have another character rush in to the scene and take up a page or two explaining to the protagonist what is going on elsewhere. This technique has the tendency to put the reader to sleep. First person works well in the hard-boiled detective tale, much less so in the sweeping epic with massed armies scattered across vast areas of the page.

In The Dark Lady I restricted myself as an omniscient narrator, but getting inside of only one character's head and restricting the view outside to only what she could personally witness. This worked for that story set in a limited location. In my Housetrap Chronicles fantasy detective series I employed the first person. There it works well because the plot threads are revealed only as quickly as the detective unravels them. In an unpublished epic I have hiding in my closet I resorted to three different character’s POV’s but separated them by having each restricted to their own and separate chapter.

If there is a rule for the beginning writer I can pass along, it is to keep thing simple. You may be allowed some lee-way once you have mastered your trade and shown success on the bookstore shelf and best seller lists. I recently read a well-reviewed book by a university prof who teaches writing. He has several novels and series to his credit. In this latest effort, not only did he get inside the heads of several of his characters, but he often did so within a single chapter. I know the kind of negative reaction I would get from the powers-that-be if I tried such a trick. Are you familiar with the editorial phrase, please re-write this section, etc.?

The moral of this blurb is that you should make certain you know the rules of good writing, and that these rules are meant to be broken only after you have shown you have completely mastered them. (Unless of course, you are exceedingly exceptional, in which case all rules are off.) Unfortunately, I’m still deep in the learning process.


The Dark Lady - February 2012
Housetrap - December 2012
Knight’s Bridge - March 2013
The Queen’s Pawn - April 2013
Dial M for Mudder - July 2013  
House on Hollow Hill - Sept 2013
Hounds of Basalt Ville - Nov 2013


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Nora Roberts is good at multiple POVs in one segment/paragraph. Most can't pull it off.

I've been experimenting with Jodi Picoult's method of using the person's name as the chapter head and moving the action linearly with their first person POV, emotional, omnicient observations.