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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Guest Blog: Jane Toombs: What's the Point of Point of View?

The point is who, meaning which character or characters, do you intend to have tell your story.

1. The I or first person character.
If you chose to have one character tell the story, using I, rather than the characters name, this tends to make the story more immediate. The drawback is no other character can have a voice, so the I person must base everything on what she or he hears and sees.

2. The You or second person character.
This is rarely used because most readers find it off-putting. It’s difficult to do successfully.

3. The third person character who now will have a name.
Stories have been where this character was never named, but those are uncommon and take skill to pull off.  Third person telling is the one most authors choose because it allows more scope to the writing. Third person can be from only one character’s point of view or from two alternating characters’ points of view. Or it can be omniscient where the major characters and even some of the minor ones all can have a point of view.

When one named character, usually either the hero or heroine. Tells the story, no other person can intrude with their point of view. Many stories use this two named person point of view so the reader can see the story from both the heroine’s and the hero’s point of view. But this can be tricky because the author must be careful not to get into head hopping, which is going back and forth from one to the other in the same scene and can be very confusing to a reader. Ideally each scene is told from one of their points of view. But with a line break to tell the reader the point of view is shifting, it’s possible to use both in a scene. Try to limit this use to once per scene.

Sometimes the villain needs to have a point of view as well. Now the author gets into limited omniscient third person point of view. The least confusing way to do this is to give the villain his or her own chapter each time, even if it’s a short one.

Omniscient third person, if it’s not limited, can be a disaster for a writer who isn’t already skilled in handling multiple points of view, so my advice is to leave it alone.

Wrong example of first person POV:
I hurried down to the wharf to be the first to great my father when he disembarked. He looked down from the rail, and saw me, then wondered why Richard wasn’t there.

I hurried down to the wharf to be the first to greet my father when he disembarked, He looked down and saw me. I could tell by his frown he wondered why Richard wasn’t with me.

Why is the first example wrong? Because the point of view shifted from the I character’s head to her father’s head. If you use first person POV only the I character has any POV.

No example of the second person POV because the likelihood of anyone using this awkward way of telling a story is unlikely.

Third person limited wrong example:
Mary walked faster when she saw John’s familiar figure emerge from the store. When John saw her he smiled, knowing she was as eager to see him as he was her.

Mary walked faster when she saw John’s familiar figure emerged from the store. When he smiled she knew he was as eager to see her as she was him.

Why is the first example wrong? Because the POV shifted to John’s head when the entire story is being told from Mary’s POV.

Third person with two characters’ POV wrong example:
When John took her in his arms, Mary’s zing of excitement made her sigh in anticipation. John heard her blissful sigh and knew she was all his tonight.

When John took her in his arms, Mary’s zing of excitement made her sigh in anticipation and wondered if John could tell she was all his tonight.

Why is the first example wrong.?
Because John is getting his say too early. We need to see a lot more of this from Mary’s point of view before a page break where we get to know how John feels. Or the entire scene could be told from Mary’s POV.

Third person omniscient with three characters wrong example:
Had anyone ever died of passion? Mary wondered as she gave herself up to John’s lovemaking. John, so caught up in his intense web of pleasure no longer thought, only felt. Zoe, having used the key she’d stolen from Mary to get into the house, eased open the bedroom door and leveled her Glock.

In this chapter we see a prelude to the lovemaking between John and Mary before they get into it. It is their chapter whether we see only her POV or both, remembering to use a space break if both. It ends with them still making love.

Another chapter begins with Zoe coming into the house, sneaking upstairs and catching them making love. What happens next depends upon whether she shoots one or two or none, and is in her POV.

Some time before this , if the author feels so inclined, she can have a short chapter where Zoe is stalking them, so the reader has a premonition something bad is going to happen. In other word the villain has her own chapter.

If an animal gets to think or speak, then it has to be considered a character and have a prominent part to play in the story. Otherwise let it be an animal and act like one. So if you intend to have a thinking or speaking animal, you need to plan to include that animal as a character, and be careful not to head hop if it gets into a dialogue with a human.

So how many whos are telling your story?

BIO: Jane Toombs, the Viking from her past and their grandcat Kinko live in an uncursed house on the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula. Here they enjoy three great seasons and suffer through the miserable winter one. Jane writes in many genres, her favorite being paranormal romance. She's edging up toward ninety published books, with so-far-uncounted number of novellas and short stories.

BLURB: Hallow House: Part One (out now)
A house built for love and cursed with death. Two children, one will live, one will die. Magic potions and secret rooms. Is there a curse or does evil reside with innocence? What is the real secret of Hallow House?

Part Two will be out soon from Books We Love Publishing Partners. Buy Link at: 


Linda Kage said...

Great explanation on POV, Jane. Thanks for visiting!

Molly Daniels said...

I got my 'head hopping' habit from Danielle Steele's earlier work. I'm now trying very hard to correct it!

Thanks for the right/wrong examples:)

Sandy said...

Great examples, Jane.

I read one of Danielle Steele's books, and it drove me crazy with the head hopping.

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