Choosing Point of View

Cheryl Wright
 


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Deciding which point of view (POV) to use in your ms is a very important aspect of your story. Depending on which one you use, it can change the story completely.

There are three main POV’s:

  • Omniscient

  • Third Person Omniscient

  • First Person

    So how do you decide which one to use? First you need to understand the mechanics of each POV, then work out which one will best tell the story.

    Omniscient:

    This POV is basically an all seeing, all hearing, all knowing, POV. The ‘narrator’ knows pretty much everything that is going on in the story. In some ways, this POV is very similar to ‘head-hopping’ although in the true sense it’s not. With omniscient, the viewpoint moves all around the place. This particular POV is still used, but not as frequently as in the past.

    Third Person Omniscient:

    A large proportion of modern-day novels are written in this POV. Third person omniscient tells the story from one point of view, but in the one story that may vary. Huh?

    Let’s say you have two main characters – you might decide to tell the story from Pete’s POV in the first scene, and perhaps Mary Allen’s in the second. You may leave it in Mary Allen’s for another two scenes, because it suits the purpose of the story, then back to Pete’s. But in each case, the story is only told from the relevant protagonist’s POV, and the other one does not know what’s going on.

    Reasons for writing in third person omniscient POV:

    * You want the reader to understand each character’s motivation

    * To build tension

    Here are a couple of examples –

    Pete’s POV:

    Pete could feel the anger churning up inside himself. He knew he was clenching and unclenching his fists, could feel the vein in his neck pulsing, and could feel that ache in his head getting stronger. He could even feel the sweat begin to trickle down his face.

    Mary Allen’s POV:

    Oops! Now she’d done it. Pete was not happy – far from it.

    Mary Allen sat anxiously in her chair, her back upright, her shoulders squared. She watched as Pete’s hands firstly clenched, then unclenched. Sweat trickled down his face and glistened above his lips. As she watched the vein on his neck tick almost continuously, Mary Allen realised just how angry Pete really was.

    First Person:

    First person POV is literally the story being told by one person; the ‘me’ in the story.

    It’s a little more tricky, mainly because you need to ensure that only that one person’s POV is used. You also need to make certain that you only mention something that the first person protagonist can see, hear, or feel. For instance, if someone was coming up behind your protagonist, they can’t see it, so you (the writer) cannot mention it.

    If they blush, you can’t say “I saw my face blushing”. You could say “I could feel the heat creeping up my face” because the protagonist would feel it.

    A lot of writers keep away from this POV, simply because they believe it’s too hard. Please don’t do that to yourself. Once you understand and master the basic concepts, it is a very easy POV to write, and it’s incredibly effective.

    One of the simplest ways to conquer this POV is to literally put yourself in the protagonist’s shoes. Pretend you are wearing a spy cam on your head. Walk into a room, take a look around. Notice the television and video, the coffee table and sofa. Look at the ceiling fan, with its light sprinkling of dust.

    Look down and study the carpet. Can you see the intricate pattern? What about your ten year old son coming up behind you, a bucket of water in his hands?

    If you saw your adolescent offspring, then you just blew it. Because you do not have eyes in the back of your head, you cannot see behind you. The lesson here is that a first person narrator cannot see what she physically cannot see.

    Reasons for writing in first person POV:

    * You don’t want the reader to have the full story

    * You only want one POV to come across

    * To make only one character’s motivation clearer.

    Now that you understand the concepts, let’s look at the above two examples and turn them into first person POV –

    “Pete! What’s wrong?” From the minute Joe mentioned what had happened, Pete’s reaction was predictable. Before I’d even glanced across the room at him I knew that tell-tale vein would be ticking; the way it always did when he was angry.

    *As you can see, POV is extremely important to your story. Understand it correctly, and utilize its full potential to your advantage. ©

    Cheryl Wright is an award-winning Australian author and freelance journalist. In addition to an array of other projects, she is the owner of the Writer2Writer.com website and the Writer to Writer monthly ezine for writers. (http://www.writer2writer.com ) She is also the author of a series of ebooks for writers. Her romantic suspense novel “Saving Emma” was released January 2005 by Whiskey Creek Press. Visit Cheryl's website: http://www.cheryl-wright.com

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