Sunday, June 01, 2008

Point of view

A couple of Pen on Fire blog readers have questions about point of view.

Bibliophile says:

Hi B, I've been writing different parts of the same story in many different points of view. I've got at least 5 main characters, all speaking in first person. I then spent a week revising everything to omniscient... spent another week reading every chapter on POV in my collection of writing aid books. I had an idea to make one character in to the 'listener,' the one collecting all these stories from the other characters, but thought that might seem amateur-ish. Any advice?

And Christina says:
I finished reading a novel by one of my favorite authors. This particular novel has three main characters. For two, she uses first person; but for the other character, she uses third. It didn't confuse me as a reader, but as an aspiring writer; I feel like I need to know why this was done. I couldn't find the significance of using a different POV for this character - besides the point that the character was dealing with a lot of pain and in the end, she ended up killing her mother.

What do you think about using different POV's in your novel? Is there some type of rule out there that this author broke? As I said, this character was fighting through a LOT. Do you think the author switched the POV on her readers because it was easier to tell the story from a third person POV; rather than take us through the characters inner toil from her POV? Or perhaps when dealing with customer going through a lot mentally, it is better to use a third person POV?

I'm not trying to attack the writer; there's so much I need to learn about writing fiction - so when I see something I've never seen before, I just have to ask!

Well ... that's a lot to chew on.

I'll just give my thoughts and if others reading this blog have thoughts/opinions, please feel free to let them fly. I'm not the last word on this subject.

I don't think there are any fast rules on point of view. As soon as an author or writing teacher says, "This is the way!" someone comes along to break it. In my humble opinion, you do what works for the story you're writing.

I do think when you're writing a short story, using more than one point of view can get to be too much. It's so such a short form!

But with novels, like so very much in life and writing, it just depends. If you use more then one point of view, you've got to have a reason. Often the reason writers do this is that they wanted to get at various aspects of story and they just couldn't do that using one point of view character.

Usually you wait to change point of view characters with a new chapter. Although Ann Patchett did not do this in Bel Canto and it worked quite wonderfully. In Atonement, the novel is written in the third person until you get to the end, and then it goes into first person. Worked for me!

If you're writing a first novel, it probably makes sense to stick with one point of view, because you're getting to know the form, and why complicate things for yourself?

These are just my initial thoughts. I'll keep pondering. Meanwhile, if anyone has anything to add, please do!

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