Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's your favorite POV?

Authors have many things to think about when writing a novel, none more important than what "point of view" the story will be told from.  My co-author Dave and I have written in omniscient point of view in our two "Otharia" books and first person in our novelette, "The Right Path."  Deciding which viewpoint you want to write in will definitely impact the reader's enjoyment of a story and it is a good idea for any author to think about that before the first word is written.

There are 4 common points of view:
First Person Point of View
Second Person Point of View
Third Person Point of View
Omniscient Point of View

First Person Point of View tells the story from only one perspective.  Every detail of your story must be filtered through the storyteller. This impacts your choice of narrator—it may be, and most often is, your main character. If your main character cannot see, hear, touch, smell, taste, think, know or feel it, you can’t include it. Therefore, if you want to introduce something outside the range of your main character, you have to use the words or observed actions of some other character who is in a position to see/know the events in order to convey the information you want the reader to have. Remember that the POV character cannot know the thoughts or unspoken feelings of another character.
Example: The banging on my door reverberated within my skull like a giant church bell in an empty hall. I groaned and rolled onto my stomach, pulling the pillow over my head.

Second Person Point of View:  Very little fiction is written in second person with the exception of “choose your own adventure” types of books, or books about psychosis. But it is a popular style for a lot of non-fiction self-help books, and tourism ads.
It often has a jarring effect in fiction and is the least popular viewpoint. Your reader picks up a book to escape into another character for awhile and using “you” destroys this illusion. And it just feels weird--as though you are being bossed around with someone always telling you what to do and feel.
Example: “You open your eyes and the sun is already high in the sky. You’ve slept away the whole morning. You roll over on the hot sand, scrambling to your knees. The events of last night come rushing back to you…”

Third Person Point of ViewThis is the most common point of view in all genres except young adult fiction where first person is more common. It is the viewpoint that we are most familiar with as readers and so the transition to writing third person is quite natural.
With third person point of view, the options are endless as you choose your viewpoint character(s). You can keep it almost as personal as first person viewpoint by choosing to tell the story through the eyes of just one character. Or, you can choose two or more characters to tell your story and rotate from one to another.This is the most commonly accepted viewpoint in literature and it makes it a bit easier when it comes time to sell your writing although this is a marginal consideration and all choices should be made for the benefit of the story.  

You can use two different viewpoints in separate sections of your story and then weave them together at some point.

Example: “As they followed Charlie through the crowded maze, Jake felt an odd excitement building inside him—or was it fear? He tried to grab Sophie’s hand, but she slapped him away. He had promised Grandpa he’d look after her. A pang of guilt stabbed him. 

Omniscient Point of View: Basically, omniscient point of view means that the story is told from an all-seeing God-like, omnipotent viewpoint. You would use third person pronouns in the writing, but you can choose to dip into the head of any of the characters and reveal things that have occurred in the past or will happen in the future.  

The trouble is that each character must have a distinctive voice so that the reader is never at a loss as to whose head he is in at the moment.

Think about true omniscient POV as having a camera panning throughout the room at a party scene, dipping into anyone’s head and perhaps more than one person at a time, by taking on the collective group perspective. Then you can think about limited omniscient more like passing a camera around the room with each person filming their own POV of the story.

All definitions and samples from above are from THE WRITERS CRAFT web site.

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