Point of View by Virginia Farmer
“No, Virginia, POV is not privately owned vehicle. It’s point of view.”
What the heck waspoint of view anyway?
After pouring over books on writing, that question, as well as a few more, was answered.
Point of view is the camera through which your story is viewed. This camera is in the head of your character. It is through that character’s eyes and emotions the story will be told.
What does it do?
It is the vehicle with which to tell the story, it establishes the setting of your book and the characterization of the people in it.
Did you know I learned about six different view points? Single POV – first person, third person subjective, third person objective, multiple points of view, omniscient and deep POV.
Single POV—first person, (the entire story is told only through one character). First person uses “I”. This serves to deepen the characterization because your reader experiences what your character does, when your character experiences it. It promotes continuity from scene to scene because there are no POV shifts. It maintains the tension by putting your reader in the character’s seat. The tension builds without relief of knowledge other characters have.
The pitfalls — this POV are that the character can come off as self-centered, (it’s all about them). Also, the view point character can’t describe himself/herself without using the old cliché of mirrors, windows, pools of water or the bottom of shiny pots. Another pitfall — the reader doesn’t know what’s going on with other characters in the book, and readers are nosy people!
Single POV — Third person – subjective. This POV uses only one character and “he/she”— no use of “I” here.
Single POV — Third person – objective. This view point uses only one character and “he/she” as well, but the character is observing the scene, thoughts and feelings are not revealed.
The disadvantage to single POVis that the reader only experiences what the main character does. Anything happening to other characters is out of sight of the main character must be written “off stage.” This can cause the reader to lose the sense of immediacy of those conflicts when another character has to tell or show the reader what occurred. And when another character’s POV is introduced it is no longer single POV, but multiple. To stay true to single POV, the writer would need to use the omniscient POV, which again will pull the reader from the story.
Did I mention Multiple POV? This view point involves the reader in more than one character. This is the most common POV used in the romance genre. It helps to build suspense because the reader is given hints or clues as to what’s going to happen to the main character. It fleshes out the story and adds layers, making it more complex and allows the development of secondary stories. But caution must be used. Don’t overload the story with too many view points. The reader wants to form an emotional bond to the main character, too many shifts of POV weakens that bond.
What about Omniscient POV? I call it, “The see all and know all, Karnack the Amazing.” Written in third person using “he/she,” it doesn’t get into the heads of the characters. It describes the setting or actions of the scene. It’s often used at the beginning of a book. One of the drawbacks of omniscient POV is that it’s difficult to build tension, identify conflict and connect the reader with the characters.
Care must be exercised when using multiple POV. You want the reader to connect with the protagonist. Too many view points will jerk the reader from the scene and weaken the reader’s attachment to the character and even cause her to stop caring about the character—something to be avoided at all costs. Personally, I tend to use four: the hero, heroine, antagonist and a secondary character for back story). From 1 to say 5 are about standard, but in that, there will always be one dominate POV. This character is the book’s protagonist and most of the story will center on his/her tale.
So whose viewpoint should I use? In most fiction, multiple POV is used. So how, as writers do we decide which POV to use in the chapter or scene? Ask yourself these questions:
- Which character has the most at stake, emotionally or physically)?
- Which character has the problem that must be solved?
- Which character will grow the most in the scene or chapter?
- Which character is capable of solving the problem?
The Big No-No’s!Don’t change view points within a paragraph. It’s confusing to the reader. And a confused reader will often put the book down. And when in the midst of a scene, use great caution when switching the POV. Make sure the shift moves the scene, and that your transitions smooth and clear. Remember, every change of viewpoint disturbs your reader, so choose them carefully.
When changing POV, your reader will be less disturbed if you make your POV shifts smooth. There are a couple ways to do this.
- You write the entire chapter in one character’s view point.
- Your write the entire scene in one character’s view point and then insert a paragraph break to quietly signal your reader to the shift.
- You signal with the character’s name, or indicate clearly that there is a POV shift.
To prevent headhopping, (my chief complaint), ask yourself:
Can my character see, touch, smell, taste, think, feel or hear whatever I’ve written? If not, revise. Most cases of headhopping can be easily fixed.
There is one other item in POV, typically labeled, Deep POV. Most writers go into deep POV without even thinking about it. Deep POV is when you take the reader into the character’s mind where he/she remembers past experiences, fears and joys. This is where many writers carefully add bits of backstory. It helps to flesh out the character and justify his/her feelings and reactions, conflicts, goals and motivation.
By mastering Point Of View, you’ll write a richer story and your reader will invest in the character and ultimately in your book. And isn’t that what you want to do—connect with your reader, draw them into your story, keep them up till all hours of the night reading your book?
Virginia Farmer, author of three novels and winner of the 1999 Golden Heart, lives in a house she’s trying to drag into the 21st century in Spartanburg, SC. She keeps busy with renovations, writing and keeping up with her husband and two puppies, Gray Sea and Skeeter. You can visit her website at http://www.officialvirginiafarmer.com
We appreciate Virginia’s contribution to the writing tips at Once Upon A Romance. Please, visit her website for more info. Click on the link below.