From Whose Head is Your Story?

A Writer's Post

A Writer’s Post

This first section is reprinted from March 2, 2007 Blog

Realizing the importance of this subject, I decided to repost several of my blogs which go deep into point of view for writers who continue to have problems. Hope this will help all those who are confused by POV.

POV, or point of view continues to present problems for writers. Here’s a description of all the points of view and how they are used. In my next post I’ll go into using deep point of view in your fiction writing and how much more imminent it makes your stories.
KINDS OF POINT OF VIEW
First Person: The “I” of fiction. The person is both character and narrator.
Second Person: The “you” of fiction. You are both character and narrator.
Third Person: Traditional “he” or “she” of storytelling. There are clear
distinctions between the characters and the author. More than one character
can be POV character. Beginners should stick to one POV per scene, though
experienced writers often have more.

There are three other types of third person POV. They are called the
omnisciences.
Omniscient: The author can enter any character’s head, see through any
character’s eyes or muck around any character’s heart. This is not really “as
God,” because readers only need to be told as much as they need to know.
Normally, though dipping into all characters, a writer should stay with two or
three main characters to keep from muddying the waters and confusing the
reader as to who is most important. Not for beginners.
Limited: The protagonist is the only pov character. Writer is objective toward
secondary characters, but delves deeply into pov character’s heart and mind
and soul. This is an easy pov and one that beginners should try first.
Objective: A cool, impersonal tone is created and writer makes no value
judgments. Moral distinctions are left solely up to the reader. Writer is as
objective of the main character as he is of all the others. It’s like watching
someone else’s home movie. No internalization. This is rarely used in today’s
fiction except in experimental works. End of early post.

Now, today, I’d like to talk more about the use of POV in modern writing. Think about it this way. When you step into a room with windows and doors, your point of view shows you what is in the room, what you can see out the windows and what you learn when you open a door. If someone walks into that room, then in your point of view you listen to their dialogue, but you cannot hear what they are thinking or what they know unless they tell you. If a dog barks outside, you cannot know what kind of dog it is or who it is barking at or why unless you go to the door, open it and step outside.

There you may see someone, maybe you recognize him. When he hollers at the dog you can hear in your point of view what he says, see his gestures. But you cannot know why the dog is barking unless you see something amiss. There is no guesswork allowed here unless it is in your internalization. Not in that of the dog owner or anyone in the room with you.

So when you write a story you must first decide whose story it is, and then remain in his or her point of view throughout the story, using the rules of this room I illustrated to you. Your character cannot see his own expressions other than being aware that he frowns or laughs, smiles or cries. But what he looks like doing this is not available unless someone says, “boy you sure look weird when you laugh or cry or whatever.”

Writing from a singular point of view is the best way for beginners to write. And don’t tell me it can’t be done and tell your story. My latest book, Beyond the Moon, is 565 pages long written from a singular point of view. It has five other characters who play a large part in the plot, yet it gets told very well from my main characters POV. Or so I’ve heard from readers and my editor and publisher.

As an experienced writer, some of my books are written from dual or more points of view, but there are rules that must be learned very well so they can occasionally be broken. And those should come later in your craft after you’ve accomplished the ability to write very well in singular POV.

My Writer’s Workshops are held in the spring and fall of the year at Ozark Folkways on top of the Boston Mountains south of Winslow, Arkansas. If you are interested in taking this fall’s workshop, the date is Oct. 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $35. Please go to my website or the News Page here on Word Press for more information on the workshop.

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About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
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2 Responses to From Whose Head is Your Story?

  1. Looks good, however, I’m not sure I understand it. I will reread it several times and probably get it.
    JMC

    • James, keep looking at it and working with it in scenes and I think you’ll understand it. One of the most difficult concepts for writers to really “get” is POV. Good to hear from you, and thanks for commenting.

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