Mar 08 2014

Points of view...

From The Fellowship of the Rings – “There were some that shook their heads and thought that this was too much of a good thing; it seemed unfair that anyone should possess (apparently) perpetual youth as well as (reputably) inexhaustible wealth.

“It will have to be paid for….”

Notice that the sentence is in no discernible particular voice.

*****

From Dune – ‘Paul’ heard the fear in her voice and wondered at it.

Jessica spoke without turning. “Reverend  Mother is waiting in my morning room. Please hurry.”

 

The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam sat in a tapestried chair watching mother and son approach…

 

Omniscient Point of View aka the POV of many movies (like Lord of the Rings and Dune) and the bane of many an editor’s existence. Also the Point of View of the novels Anna Karenina, The Lord of the Rings, Middlemarch, Charlotte’s Web and Dune. Also known as cinematic POV for its portrayal of scenery and the POV of the characters – as well as their thoughts. (Although thoughts are better conveyed through their expressions and actions, but that may just be me.) AKA the POV of the generation raised by the movies.

For those who have seen The Lord of the Rings movies, imagine the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring. Neither the movie nor the book is told solely from Frodo’s POV – at least part of the time Frodo is unconscious. The POV changes to Aragorn, Arwen (in her confrontation at the river in the movie), Elrond, Gandalf (when surprised by Saruman) and Samwise. The same is true of the books.

But it starts in Frodo’s point of view. It’s important to establish the primary voice or voices so the reader can identify with them.

Character points of view can be separated by spaces, as with the passage from Dune, or by a string of asterisks (*****).  Whichever you choose, be consistent. I do either, depending on the book, and until all the major characters have been introduced. Once that’s done the ones that work together talk to each other and interact as a group.

“Third-person point of view allows the author to be like a movie camera moving to any set and recording any event, as long as one of the characters is lugging the camera. It also allows the camera to slide behind the eyes of any character, but beware–do it too often or awkwardly, and you will lose your reader very quickly. When using third person, don’t get in your characters’ heads to show the reader their thoughts, but rather let their actions and words lead the reader to figure those thoughts out.” (Bob Mayer, The Novel Writer’s Toolkit: A Guide to Writing Novels and Getting Published. Writer’s Digest Books, 2003).

Which leads to a caveat. Many a writer advises that you end each chapter with a question (not a literal one, but a figurative question. “He looked out across the hills and wondered what would happen next….) That can be a bit stilted. For myself, I end the Chapters as the end of a scene is naturally reached. If I can end it on a question or a cliffhanger, I do, but only if it happens organically.

The second caveat is this – it is omniscient POV, but while the unseen narrator knows everything that’s going on, be careful not to presage events. Even in one of my books where the lead character has foresight, he can’t see everything. And readers like to be part of the journey.

I’m not sure when Omniscient POV went out of style except perhaps that it’s much harder to write and edit than other Points of View and it requires a very good editor in order to avoid ‘head-hopping’. It takes a good writer to properly convey the multiple POVs so that the reader/editor knows who is doing/saying/thinking what, and a good editor to make sure that in the novel they all stay straight. One of my editors insisted that there always be at least three paragraphs in a particular POV. I do that where I can, but there was one scene – a reunion of parents and child – in one of my books where I couldn’t. The scene was too crucial to showing the intensity of the feelings between parents separated from a grown but beloved child, I couldn’t eliminate it.

So, we’re going to walk you through the two most difficult POVs – omniscient, 1st person – and the most common – third person – so you can decide which POV will work best for your book.

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