Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Point of View: What Works Best For You (1st In A Series)

Point of View is simply the way the narrator of a story, scene or chapter views the action taking place. There are a number of POVs a writer can use and we'll discuss them in a few minutes. When using a POV it is important that the writer be cognizant of inadvertent POV shifts in their work. I cannot recall how many times my writer's group catches me in POV shifts. So let's start off defining the various POVs.

There are eight possible POVs and all traditional novels are told using one, or sometimes more than one. The eight POVs are: First-Person: Protagonist Narrator, Third-Person: Protagonist Narrator, First-Person: Supporting Character Narrator, Third-Person: Supporting Character Narrator, First-Person: Minor Character Narrator, Third-Person: Supporting Minor Narrator, First-Person: Shifting Viewpoint Narrators, and Third-Person: Shifting Viewpoint Narrators. In this post, I will discuss the Omniscient Power; what is it and does POV affect it.

I'd like to begin by defining Omniscient Powers. Omniscient powers are used by the writer to convey information that will assist the reader in understanding the story. This information can relate to characters, environment, and events. The omniscient view is a dispassionate view and the phrase omniscient powers conveys that the writer is playing GOD. Using these powers the writer can record conversations, enter into a character's thoughts and emotions, and even pass through locked doors. In short, the writer has absolute control on every aspect of his/her characters lives, even down to the era in which they live and what the weather will be like at any particular time.

The first thing a writer must determine is which level of omniscient power he/she will use; restricted or unrestricted. This to some extent is determined by the POV the writer has decided to use. If you are going to tell your story in First-Person you must use restricted omniscient powers and the following editorial rule must be observed: Only that portion of the action, narration, and description can be covered which the narrator can personally observe or deduce from his/her 5 senses, and no material beyond his/her perception or range of knowledge can be included in the novel.

In selecting the correct POV, the writer must ask some questions.

1. Is the story best told in 1st or 3rd person?
2. Am I going to enter into the thoughts and feelings of one character (restricted view) or into the thoughts and feelings of more than 1 character (unrestricted view)?

Which ever way the writer decides, he/she should not use restricted view in one portion of the novel and unrestricted in another (although of late there have been a number of novels that have done just this--usually established writers who will do a chapter in the protagonist's POV and another in the antagonist's).

Forthcoming posts will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each of the 8 possible POVs.


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