Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lesson 7: POV

First off...For the young lady that emailed me with the question...No question is dumb, if you don't know the answer! And if I didn't explain to your satisfaction, you are free to email me again :-)

Today we are continuing editing lessons from the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

These lessons will be shortened overviews of the chapters and by no means should be a substitute for buying the book. I'm rereading but not posting a lot of good stuff!

Let's continue with Point Of View.

Some writing books distinguish as many as twenty-six different flavors of POV, but there are really only three basic approaches: first person, third person, and omniscient.

The first person is the "I" voice, where all the narration is written as if the narrator were speaking directly to the readers. ("I knew as soon as I entered...")
Note that in first person the narrator is one of the characters, not the writer.

The first-person POV has a number of advantages, the main one being that it gives your reader a great deal of intimacy with your viewpoint character. When you are writing in the "I" voice, your main character effortlessly invites your reader into his or her head and shows them the world through his or her eyes.

Of course, in order to succeed in first person POV, you have to create a character strong enough and interesting enough to keep your readers going for an entire novel, yet not so eccentric or bizarre that your readers feel trapped inside his or her head.

But realize, what you gain in intimacy with the first person...You lose in perspective! You can't write about anything your main character couldn't know, which means you have to have your main character in the spot whenever you want to write an immediate scene...This can limit your plot development possibilities!

Also in one POV, your readers get to know only one character directly. Everyone else is filtered through your viewpoint character. One way around this is to write in the first person but from several different viewpoints...With different scenes done from inside the heads of different characters.

This technique can be highly effective in the hands of an experienced writer. For example, over the course of Sol Stein's The Best Revenge, first-person sections are written from the POV's of six different characters. And Mary Gordon devotes the last section in the Company of Women to first-person accounts by all the major characters in turn.

And now for a joke!!!!!

Two high school sweethearts who went out together for four years in high school were both virgins; they enjoyed losing their virginity with each other in 10th grade.

When they graduated, they wanted to both go to the same college but the girl was accepted to a college on the east coast, and the guy went to the west coast. They agreed to be faithful to each other and spend anytime they could together.

As time went on, the guy would call the girl and she would never be home, and when he wrote, she would take weeks to return the letters. Even when he emailed her, she took days to return his messages.

Finally, she confessed to him she wanted to date around. He didn't take this very well and increased his calls, letters, and emails trying to win back her love.

Because she became annoyed, and now had a new boyfriend, she wanted to get him off her back. So, what she did is this: she took a Polaroid picture of her, in let's just say, a very compromised position with her new boyfriend! And sent it to her old boyfriend with a note reading, "I found a new boyfriend, leave me alone."

Well, needless to say, this guy was heartbroken but, even more so, was perturbed. So, what he did next was awesome. He wrote on the back of the photo the following, "Dear Mom and Dad, having a great time at college, please send more money!" and mailed the picture to HER parents.

Have a great day!


  1. Bernita said...
    I think I would call it something else besides "awesome"...
    Stephen Newton said...
    Leave to you to provide the positive perspective for my bear encounter. I loved your suggestion that if I'd set off the flash, I would have made it to the park gates sooner.
    David Meigs said...
    I enjoy writing in 1st person for my protag and in 3rd for scenes involving my antagonist and secondary characters. It gives the reader (and me) the best of both worlds.
    Rulan said...
    I prefer to write in third as it gives me greater freedom. Not many writers can grab my attention when they use first person, but I love the way David writes. I wish I found writing "first" as easy as he makes it look.

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