Every week I deal with different subjects in this blog. I also post my blog to my Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. This week I am taking a look at Writing Viewpoints.
Below is an excerpt from my book TR Independent Books Guide to Writing:
Viewpoint or Point of View is extremely critical to your story. The Point of View allows the reader to experience someone else’s view of the world. The POV often determines whether a story is successful or not.
Before looking at the viewpoints let me give you another related principle: Make sure your reader knows when the character is thinking and when he is speaking. And try to avoid ‘he thought’ or ‘she thought’. While occasionally using such phrases is fine, too much of it can create a stilting effect. At the same time you want to keep the identity of the speaker before the reader. This can be done by occasionally having one speaker identify the other, such as ‘James, that’s wrong’. The reader knows it is not James talking.
We are going to take a look at two POV (Point of View). These are 1st Person and 3rd Person.
This is essentially the personal pronouns “I”, “Me”, “Mine”. The POV is from the speaker. He/she tells the story from his/her perspective. Personally, I don’t like this POV but I have read some excellent books using that technique.
There are a few advantages to this viewpoint, such as:
- Instant involvement: Because the reader is inside the character’s head all thoughts and actions are immediately known. There is no delay.
- Language: Because the reader is inside the head and knows the thoughts of the character the reader is able to instantly know the education, and class of the character.
- Range: How the character thinks. The reader learns a great deal about the character because every facet of his/her thinking is open to the reader.
But there are also disadvantages; such as:
- It requires the presence of the character in all scenes. This can cause difficulty in overall structure and the story itself. But it can be done as witnessed by successful writers.
- The character can’t keep secrets from the reader. If the character knows something, we do also, which leaves off any mystery you may want.
- You cannot include any information that the character doesn’t know. In other words, you know only what the character knows. No more and no less.
- The “I” becomes both you and the character. This can be troubling.
- Limited view. Since you only know what the character knows there is a whole world of unknowns.
First Person, in my opinion, is harder to write and to pull off. Some authors do and succeed quite well. But it can be unwieldy. Therefore, unless you have a great deal of experience in writing, I would recommend you stay away from it.
Third Person, in my opinion, is the preferred method to use. It is the personal pronoun “he”, “she” or “it” viewpoint.
The advantages of this POV are:
- An outside view of the person
- You, the narrator, can talk about other facts, events and people.
- You can have additional characters in third person
- You can have other POV characters.
- Unlimited worldview: In the first person you were restricted by the author’s or character’s thoughts and opinions.
- But in third person the narrator and reader have access to other information – thus expanding the scene.
- Greater objectivity – in first person you only have the character’s opinion of self, but in third Person you see much more and can make better judgments.
- Hidden information – In the third person the author can keep some of the facts about the character secret until later in the story. Then as the story unfolds the author can divulge pertinent and new information about the character.
But there are disadvantages. These include:
- separated involvement.
- With first person you had instant involvement, but here there exists separation or distance between the character and the reader.
- It is more difficult to identify the class and education of the character.
- Awkward. The thinking, etc, is not as visible as it is with first person.
Tip#1: Choose your POV carefully. 1st person identifies with character; 3rd person identifies with multiple characters.
Tip#2: When conveying a character’s thoughts put it in italics. Not a hard rule but I recommend it.
- First Person: I thought to myself, What a wonderful day!
- Third Person: He looked about, smiling. What a wonderful day!
Be careful with your POV. It is very easy to forget which POV you are using. The result can be disastrous.
I do not recommend First Person, although many authors have done so successfully. It takes a lot of hard work and skill. And in my opinion it is too limiting. But if you choose this POV then pay close attention, follow the rules carefully, and stick with it. You just might be one of those successful writers!
Be aware that there are many variations of first and third person viewpoints. I recommend you buy a good reference book on the subject. There are many resources, including Writers Digest.
To learn more about writing viewpoints or POVs TR Writing Services is currently giving away – that’s right, it’s FREE! – our TR Guide to Writing. Simply contact us and request a copy (PDF or docx) and we’ll send it to you. While at it, why not request the TR Writing Service booklet? This booklet will tell you about our different plans and prices. (The current discounted plans expire June 30th.)
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R Frederick Riddle is the Editor of TR Writing Services providing help to struggling and/or new authors to write and publish their books. In addition he is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical and Speculative Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.