I am stumbling and fumbling with this topic. It is becoming challenging to learn point of view. I pick my books about writing craft. And the giants that I learn from seem to talk in a foreign language to me. Well, not that I am a polyglot, but they don’t seem to speak English today.
What should I do?
Who am I deceiving? I will end up doing what I do every time I want to learn something. I will write an article.
So, the article o this week will be about the point of view. Yes, I know I should write more. I will try, don’t banter me, OK? I wonder if people talk to themselves when writing. We will never know. Why did I say that in plural? Whatever.
For this task, I will pick my old pals Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card and How to Write Best Selling Fiction by James Scott Bell. Now that I think about it, I have a lot of books on writing. Well, helping writers to subsist surely must count as a golden deed for entering heaven. Call me Saint J.E. Guzman.
I know these books. Let see how I can rearrange the knowledge, pass it through my mind, make it mine, and deliver value to my dear readers. Not an easy task indeed. Mmm indeed, I like to say indeed. Anyways, let’s do this:
- Intimacy between reader and character;
- Deep inside the fictive dream; and
- Writing craft nuggets regarding point of view.
Intimacy between reader and character
The point of view is about intimacy. Point of view creates intimacy with the character. Our readers feel this bonding. The degree of intimacy varies depending on such point of view.
The first-person point of view creates the most intimate feelings because we are in the characters head living his thoughts, feeling, and observations.
The omniscient point of view is like being the God of our story, and we can enter into any character’s head. However, it is the least intimate of the points of view.
The third-person point of view is in between the first and the omniscient. This is interesting. It divides into limited and open. I will dive into this later.
OK, I understand the intimacy thing. But is it one of them used more often in best sellers books? I guess we will never know.
How is that so? Go and research it. Just a quick search, at least.
Self-motivating is tough and not funny at all.
First, I will check my novels. I see. It seems to be a pattern. Let’s research a little bit . . . this is exciting. Bingo, I knew it. The last part of this article seems to confirm my observations regarding the more often used point of view in commercial fiction best sellers. However, my readers like to read about writing. They won’t be happy only with that. Yes! This other article seems to align the same pattern, and James Scott Bell between lines seems to agree.
Now, what happens if I put the intimacy level on the X-axis and the best seller point of view presence on the Y-axis, and then plot those three points of view?
Point of View Scheme by J.E. Guzman on Medium
Who said Paint was dead?
I will double-check my books about writing. No, it seems no one has shown it this way. Now I feel proud of myself. And if someone else already did it, zero drama, after all, another guy invented calculus before Newton, and no one cares.
It means that most best-sellers use the third person point of view and fall second on intimacy only to the first person point of view.
On the other hand, the most intimate experience belongs to the first person point of view, losing in best seller presence only to the third person point of view.
And the omniscient point of view is the least intimate and rarely seen in best-sellers nowadays.
Deep inside the fictive dream
Our readers know exactly where they want to be. They want to find themselves deep inside the fictive dream. To take them there, the lullaby name is the points of view.
The first-person point of view
About the first person point of view, Orson Scott Card says:
“ . . . the sad truth is that first person is very difficult. Though the first person is usually the first choice of the novice storyteller, since it seems so simple and natural, it is considerably harder to handle well than the third person, so that the novice usually betrays himself.”
Somehow I have this ominous feeling I might inadvertently make this novice mistake someday.
Intimacy and attitude
The First-person is a straight plug connection into the protagonist’s mind. We are wearing the skin of the protagonist. Nothing will get that close to the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the lead.
The only information we get from the story comes from the narrator and his experiences. Therefore our readers need to feel the protagonist posses attitude.
We need to make our readers feel from the start that they are hearing someone worth listening to. We better gift attitude to our first-person narrator.
Pitfalls of the first-person narrator
Apparently, with the first-person narrator, we might fall into the temptation of talking too much about irrelevant things. Such impudent novices talking for the sake of talking, may God forbid me such behavior. We have to stick to what is relevant: Plot, thoughts, feelings, and observations.
Nonetheless, there is an exception! The talkative first-person narrator can work only if, and only if, our readers are fully bewitched and engaged with the voice. To do this, we need practice and confidence.
Good technique dictates that each of these voices has to be unique, not for the light-hearted writer. Besides, we have to keep consistent that unique voice every time we use it.
In novels, we mostly find one first-person narrator. However, it is possible to write our novel using more than one first-person voice. To do this, not mandatory, the chapter title will be the character’s name whose point of view is narrating.
Commonly the story is told in the past. But nowadays, the first-person narrator in the present tense is popular. The idea behind the present tense is to tell the story as it unfolds in real-time, like if it is happening right now. It creates a feeling of immediacy. It also adds suspense because the protagonist doesn’t know what will happen next, and he is telling us the story. The unquestionable example of this point of view is The Hunger Games.
The third-person point of view
The likely most common point of view in commercial fiction bestsellers, third person. It is the tool to get the job done. If we want to be pragmatic and cut the chase of an innovative voice, this one has stood the test of time. It works, period. Even is the only point of view used for many successful writers.
We can divide this point of view into limited and open.
The limited third-person point of view
The limited third point of view means we see everything through one character’s eyes. We don’t stray into the perception of any other character. In that regard, it is close to first-person in intimacy. And because of that intimacy, a strong bonding with the character emerges organically.
The open third-person point of view
Open means we can choose to narrate one scene with one character’s eyes and switch the point of view to another character in another scene. Never two points of view in one scene, never.
It means different scenes can be seen from different characters’ points of view. This comes in handy for thrillers and mystery to change the scene at a moment of high tension and suspense to another character’s scene, creating a craving of wanting to know what will happen with the switched scene.
To jump from one character to another, we put an extra space. It is a white space often called the double return. It makes the scene switch. Our readers understand we are switching to another character’s head. It is also advisable to switch locations when we switch scenes using the double return.
Remember, one point of view per scene. Any thoughts or feelings expressed in one scene come out of one character. Our purpose is to don’t confuse our readers.
Omniscient point of view
From the omniscient point of view, we are the God of the story. We can fly freely into any character’s head and view the story’s whole world landscape in finger snaps.
We are all-knowing and all-seeing. We decide how much of our voice we want to insert in the story.
Ideally, we shouldn’t address the reader directly nor appear in the narrative.
Intrusive narrators are uncommon in today’s novels. If used, omniscient is for delivering story information. If we use an omniscient narrator for some reason, it is better to go into a character soon to let our