Friday, July 10, 2015

Point of View--from a Character's Perspective

I'm a fan of Food Network's 'Next Food Network Star.'  In that show, they always talk about 'point of view' (POV). For them, it means what's their brand, their topic or genre, so to speak.

But for a writer, the point of view means who's head is the reader in when the action's taking place.  Who is telling the story?

There are basic points of view to choose from, such as first, second, third, omniscient, third person objective, third person limited, third person omniscient, close third person...etc.  They're all different ways to write a book from different perspectives.

But I'm going to look at the actual point of view of the character in the story.  The character telling the story will have one way to look at the story, which may be completely different from what another character experiences in the same situation.

Imagine this...you're standing beside a friend and witness a car crash.  You both saw the white car cut off the blue car, and they crashed.  From your vantage point, it was clearly the white car's fault.  But from your friend's vantage point, they saw something different.  They could see the duck wandering out into traffic.  The white car swerved to miss the duck and hit the blue car instead.

So you and your friend have different stories.  You might agree there was a crash but wouldn't agree on fault.

The same thing happens in a book.  In first person POV, the writer can only describe what the main character (the 'I') sees.  The only way he/she can know what someone else sees is for that person to tell them.

In third person POV, the writer can jump to each character's head and see what they see.  However, the writer can't do that in the same scene, or that's called head hopping.  It has to be in two different scenes or even in two different chapters.

In television shows, they get away with showing what each person sees a lot easier, because it's in omniscient POV.  The cameraman is an invisible 'character,' seeing everything.  However, they usually can't hear what the person's thinking.

A writer has to stay true to the character's story and not be able to see through buildings or cars to figure out what's really going on.  They also can't get into an animal's head unless the story is told through an animal's point of view (and fantasy or a children's book).

I read a romance, once, from a famous author, where the entire story was from the man and woman's perspective...until the last scene.  That's when they jumped to the dog's point of view, who weighed in on the man and woman's relationship.

HUH?  But it was third person, and it seems that these days, anything goes.  However, I don't recommend it.

For new writers, I'd suggest sticking with third person POV, and only write from two characters in the book.  Here's why...if you use more than two characters, you're going to lose the audience.  They have a short attention span and don't want to think that hard.  Keeping track of too many characters is tough, in the least, for a reader.

So stick in the character's head and don't head hop.  You'll be thankful you took my advice on this, when it comes to getting and keeping readers.

Have a wonderful week!
Markee

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