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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Point of View

This week I am reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King. The book devotes an entire chapter to POV; which, is crucial to the telling of any story. And, one of the areas I have worked relentlessly to master.                                                                                             

First person, third person & omniscient. I have to say that of these, I was most fond of the last. And, after reading, I understand why. I could head hop like a hurdler making for the final gate, present everyone's POV & confuse everyone, including myself, all at the same time - which makes me the multi-tasker that I am. Wow, talk about convoluted reading - and writing.

So, I went back to my little novel & started thinking about who needed to tell the story. My MC, of course. It's her coming of tale, not anyone else's. Then I pondered the idea of first person narrative - the older, wiser version of herself able to provide valuable commentary, not on interior monologue, but on her plight of the moment.

That led me a wonderin' if a flawed narrator, a comedic narrator or another versioned narrator wouldn't improve the jumbled mess I'd made. Of course, the  "I" version denotes a level of intimacy that can be engaging, emotional & empty perspective. How many times have we retold some story & whittled out the embarrassing, the outrageous or the plain silly (from our view) parts in order to do the telling? I don't know about any of you, but I have a tendency to weed out the really embarrassing stuff for my own psyche to chew on, unless of course, it is super funny. If the flag's going to fly, I want it to have purpose.

Ah, so I came to third person, perspective - that's what I needed. Perspective. The equal distribution of intimacy & optics; a gymnast on the balance beam of my keyboard did I become. The filter on the world I needed turned out to be through my MCs eyes in such a way that did not embarrass her by being too close, clue her in too early thus elongating the commentary or spew cynicism for her younger condition. And, there you have it. I chose the third person & am pushing the consistency, the emotional view & the descriptives from one singular pair of goggles.

I have to say, though, that mastering all three is the eventual goal. For now, I have a direction, but the several tales in the back pocket of my WIP folder will eventually call for all of these, in some fashion or 'tother. In the meantime, I cram a book's worth in & regurgitate like a final-examer. Hoping to 'use the force,' find my equilibrium & write with the gale force of a Montana wind.

Q: Do you have a preferred method of story-telling; 1st, 3rd or omniscient? Why?

Happy Writing,

Patti Struble


  1. I'll go with 3rd person ... but changing the POV character from time to to time, though I've a couple drafts that are only one character's viewpoint.

    I did try 1st person in one. Liked 3rd person better.

  2. I am tripping the view phantasmagorical, I guess. We'll see what turns up.

  3. I used first person for one main character and third person for the other in my two mysteries.

    With my current project, that approach didn't work nearly as well. I'm revising so the whole novel is third person, but with different chapters for different characters' POV.

    I guess it depends on the book. What works for one, may not work so well for another.


  4. Good point Pat. The voice has to match the voice. The characters and their stories do more to determine the POV than anything else.