Friday, January 16, 2015

Writing Tips #4: Point of View

When writing a novel one has to think about dialogue, whether or not to use contractions, showing vs. telling, and yes: point of view.

Point of view is essentially the perspective from which your novel is told. Because the English language is sometimes convenient: first, second, and third Point of View is entirely dependant on which personal pronouns you're using: first, second or third. For any non-writer or newbie writer reading this, Point of View is often abbreviated to PoV, in case you're wondering. Now? Onwards.

First Person PoV:

Pronouns used: I, we, me, my, mine, us, our, and ours.

Example: I saw the sun beginning to rise over the hills and knew it was time for my clan to wake. We woke early as we needed to hunt early. If we waited for the sun to fully rise before hunting then we would become the hunted.

Seen in: Young Adult novels, mainly. There are some adult novels written in first person PoV (Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray come to mind) but most of the time, first person PoV is reserved for young adult novels or pre-teen novels.

Pros and cons: It directly links you to the main character. Unfortunately, that's the ONLY link you have to the story. So, no other characters can comment, you don't get other people's thoughts, and you don't really know for sure if what this character is telling you is 100% true. Of course it leads lots of interesting plot twists open because if your main character doesn't see it then neither will your reader.

But, if your ONLY narrator is unlikeable then you're going to get a lot of annoyed readers. So if you're going to use first person PoV, you have to be especially careful your only PoV character is likeable or someone out there is going to start rooting for the bad guy.

Second Person PoV:

Pronouns used: you, your, yours.

Example: You saw the sun beginning to rise over the hills and knew it was time for your clan to wake. The clan woke early as you needed to hunt early. If you waited for the sun to fully rise before hunting then you would become the hunted.

Seen in: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney...and I had to go Google a novel for second person PoV.

Pros and cons: The 'you' will always imply the reader is the main character. It's not about making the reader connect, it's about making the reader think they are the character. It's a whole other level of imagination that sometimes is pretty cool. The reader is not hearing the story in this sense, THEY ARE the story.

Writing in second person PoV isn't as hard as one would think. It's essentially writing in first person but changing the "I" to "you" with some tweaks here and there. Is it worth it? Well, there aren't many novels written in second person PoV. That tells us one of two things: no one wants to read them OR everyone's too afraid to write them.

Third Person PoV:

Pronouns used: character's name, he, she, it, him, her, his, hers, its, they, them, their(s)

Example: Hannah watched as the sun began to rise over the hills and she knew it was time for her clan to wake. They woke early as the clan needed to hunt early. Hannah knew if they waited for the sun to fully rise then they would become the hunted.

Seen in: Basically everything. Third person PoV is the most common PoVs as it's essentially "God Mode."

Pros and Cons: There are two types of third person PoV: God Mode (omniscient) and Singular (Limited). God Mode means jumping from character to character like G.R.R Martin in his Song of Ice and Fire series. Singular third person PoV means sticking to ONE character's PoV like in Harry Potter.

God Mode: Seeing into every character's thoughts when necessary at any given time and knowing things before certain characters. It means you can find your own person to connect with, you can hate other characters, and laugh/yell/gasp/ect when a character misses something obvious. It also means you can form your own opinions on who's good or bad and what the story's message is.

Singular: like first person PoV: you only get ONE characters thoughts/feelings/ect. So if your main character is separated from his friends you have NO IDEA what his friends are doing until the main character reunites with them. So it's all the pros and cons of first person but you're out of the character's head.

Which PoV do I use?

Whatever PoV will best tell your story. Do you want to keep every plot twist unknown to the reader until it happens? Use first person or third person limited. Do you want your reader to know things your main characters might not? Third person God Mode. Do you want your reader to be the main character? Second person.

Choosing a PoV depends entirely on the message you want to get across to your reader and how you want your story to be told. Most of the time I use third person and it's normally God Mode. The Mists of Time trilogy was limited to Blair's PoV. Anything xe didn't know/see, the reader didn't know/see which makes for some fun times.

On the other hand, a series like the thriller/mystery series wouldn't have worked so well in third person limited. Why? Each of the MC's jobs are unique to the MCs and cutting out one persons perspective takes something away from the story.

Third person is generally the easiest PoV to write. It gives you the most freedom and allows your reader the best chance to form a lasting relationship with multiple characters and to form opinions on the story itself rather than the narrator of said story.

Can I switch PoV?

Well you could but it's not advised. If you go from "I saw this happen" to "she saw this happen" in one novel it could throw your reader for a loop and the last thing you want to do is confuse your reader. If you confuse the reader then the reader will stop reading and no one wants that. The only time it's okay to switch your PoV is if you kill off your main narrator in either first person PoV or third person limited PoV.

How often can I switch perspectives in third person God Mode?

There is no numerical answer to this. It depends entirely on your novel and which of your main characters would tell whatever part of the story the best. How did I know to switch between James, Mia, Lucy, Michael, and Sable in the thriller/mystery series? I tried to keep it even, for one, or close to. They each had their say in every novel when they needed to. I also tried to keep each character's scene focused on their talents: James for interviews, Mia for chases, Lucy for forensics, Michael for finding people, and Sable for dissections.

Of course they over-lapped sometimes and because of the nature of the novel Lucy's forensic information was basically described in James' scenes or the reverse. They were part of a bigger unit that had to keep other parts informed after all.

I did give it a lot of thought in later novels mainly because of how I wanted these grisly murders to be seen and, more importantly: I wanted the reader to see how my MCs were growing over the course of the series.

Give everyone a chance to speak if they need to speak. If a character only has one scene in their PoV then really think about that character as a main. Are they going to become important in later novels or can you change the perspective of the scene to another character without changing the meaning/dynamics of the scene? If you answer yes to the first: keep it the way it is. Answer yes to the second? Well, that so-called Main character is not someone who needs a perspective.

Again, PoV is all about finding your voice and what works for your novel. It takes a lot of practice to know innately which PoV will work for each story and when you can switch it up in God Mode.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

1 comment:

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