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View Full Version : So--Whose Viewpoint Is It Anyway?



Laurie2
August 3rd, 2008, 12:09 AM
As authors, once we decide which viewpoint we are going to use (limited third, omniscient third, first person) then we are faced with additional questions about how to make the best use of that viewpoint.

For our purposes here I am going to focus on limited third person point of view, which is the viewpoint where deep point of view most often comes into play.

So, you've decided that you are going to tell your story using third person limited point of view. Unfortunately your point of view decisions aren't finished...they're really just beginning. With third person limited point of view the narrator tells the story from the perspective of one character, describing the events of the scene through the experiences of the character. This however the crucial question of WHICH character's point of view to use.

There are several things to consider when deciding which character should be the point of view character.

First, what information do you want to convey to the reader during this scene? You will need to choose a viewpoint character who has the information and who can convey it to the reader in a smooth and believable way. You do not want your scene to come off like a neon flashing sign that says "here reader is the information I want you to have." You want the transfer of information to the reader to seem fluid, smooth, natural.

Second, conventional wisdom often suggests that the author select the viewpoint character based on which character has the most to lose during the scene. While this is a valid consideration, particularly in romance, it can be interesting and powerful to show one character's crisis through the viewpoint of a character who cares deeply for the troubled character.

Third, what do you want the reader to feel emotionally during this scene? Remember that the reader's primary experience will be very similar to what the character experiences. If you want the reader to feel loss at the end of the scene it will be much easier if the viewpoint character feels loss.

Fourth, Which viewpoint allows you to show the scene most powerfully, most emotionally, most realistically?

Fifth, are there any characters whose motivation you need to show during this scene? Motivation, particularly internal motivation (that which stems from the character's emotions or backstory) is most easily conveyed when you are using that character's viewpoint and can show the memory that motivates the character's thoughts, feelings, or actions.

Given all these considerations, you must select a character who will be your viewpoint character, at least at the start of the scene.

Conventional wisdom varies about if/when it is permissable to change viewpoint during a scene or whether it is only permissable to change at scene or chapter breaks. This seems to be something that authors discuss more than publishers. Most publishers are open to viewpoint changes within the scene as long as they are carried smoothly and purposefully. What no one likes to see is head hopping...and we will pick up that topic tomorrow. :)

rgraham666
August 3rd, 2008, 08:47 AM
My POV seems to select me rather than the other way around.

I'm finding, these days, that if the central character is male I write in first person, if female, limited third. I'm not sure I could do first person of a woman and make it believable.

Just seem to be the way I write and I try not to question it.

hollie
August 3rd, 2008, 05:11 PM
I'm not sure I could do first person of a woman and make it believable.


It could prove to be an interesting exercise for you Rob just for fun you never know you might be good at it.

Sometimes I'm glad I don't write it sounds very complicated

Laurie2
August 3rd, 2008, 05:33 PM
Don't let the complication scare you away. It is all a series of imagination, creativity, and a series of learned skills, technique and knowledge and there is really nothing like creating worlds and characters. It's an amazing experience to communicate an image that is in your mind to another person so that they have essentially the same image, the same feelings.

It is an awesome experience.

Laurie

Sometimes I'm glad I don't write it sounds very complicated[/quote]

hollie
August 3rd, 2008, 05:38 PM
Don't let the complication scare you away. It is all a series of imagination, creativity, and a series of learned skills, technique and knowledge and there is really nothing like creating worlds and characters. It's an amazing experience to communicate an image that is in your mind to another person so that they have essentially the same image, the same feelings.

It is an awesome experience.

Laurie
[/quote]

... and that would be the main reason I don't write, I don't have the imagination for it but I love to lose myself in a book and now I am reviewing I can tell other people about books as well

Laurie2
August 3rd, 2008, 05:44 PM
Those of us who do write, and who do publish are very thankful for those who enjoy getting lost in the stories we tell and especially those who review and otherwise tell others about our books.

Just didn't want you to have that feeling that I get sometimes when I look at a For Dummies book on some computer thing...that feeling where I feel like EVEN the dummies book is beyond me. That is not a good feeling and I wouldn't want any workshop I taught to leave anyone with that feeling. :)

... and that would be the main reason I don't write, I don't have the imagination for it but I love to lose myself in a book and now I am reviewing I can tell other people about books as well[/quote]

hollie
August 3rd, 2008, 05:49 PM
No I think if I ever got an idea for a story I would give it a go but even at school the kids no not to ask me for ideas. When they get an idea i can help devlope it but I just can't seem to know how to start

Cindy Maday
August 4th, 2008, 08:50 AM
I was told that you can't change POV in a scene. Yet, the more I read romance novels it seems that's what authors are doing. Either they leave space between or change chapters when they change POV. But recently, and I tagged this book, twice where the author shows the heroines point of view in one paragraph and a little ways down shows the hero's point of view. That's how I found I tend to write and no matter how hard I try to put in one characters POV, it doesn't work for me. I like seeing what he's thinking in response to what she's thinking. Any input on this would be appreciated.

Jean Kelli
August 4th, 2008, 04:30 PM
I especially like the idea of thinking about what I wish the reader to feel emotionally during a scene. I don't think I am focusing enough on that while writing a scene, I'm too busy worrying about other things. I think I really should approach each scene the same I would in acting: understand my characters motivations and what I wish to convey before hitting the stage.

hollie
August 4th, 2008, 04:33 PM
I especially like the idea of thinking about what I wish the reader to feel emotionally during a scene. I don't think I am focusing enough on that while writing a scene, I'm too busy worrying about other things. I think I really should approach each scene the same I would in acting: understand my characters motivations and what I wish to convey before hitting the stage.

Welcome to Coffee time romance Jean

Laurie2
August 5th, 2008, 12:28 AM
Hi Cindy,

There may be a very few publishers who won't accept changes of POV in a scene...but most do as long as the switch is handled smoothly. The thing is...if you are carrying your reader through the story smoothly, most of us are content to follow you. We only stop to mark things or tell you that you can't do them when they don't work.

Many romance publishers allow POV shifts within a scene.

My own rule about POV shifts is that I want there to be a reason for the POV shift. In other words, if you are going to change point of view then you need to show me something that you couldn't show me from the POV you are in. I like viewpoints to stay for several pages, usually, but some scenes lend themselves to more frequent shifts. I will only mark it if the viewpoint shifts jar me or if they are not clear.

I like seeing both viewpoints in stories as well, and I have had a couple of submissions returned to me by readers who said that they didn't like them because they didn't include the hero's point of view...or didn't include enough of the hero's point of view.

My suggestion is to make sure when you change viewpoint you do it with focus and awareness...don't change just because...and don't let it wander. Make sure there is a good compelling reason to shift. Every couple paragraphs is generally too quick to change viewpoint in most books and settings. I don't want to switch viewpoint every page...but every few pages is fine and I have no problem accepting that if the viewpoints are signaled and handled smoothly.

I will soon be assigning an exercise or two...so perhaps you will post an example then and I'll be able to provide a more specific mark up.

Laurie


I was told that you can't change POV in a scene. Yet, the more I read romance novels it seems that's what authors are doing. Either they leave space between or change chapters when they change POV. But recently, and I tagged this book, twice where the author shows the heroines point of view in one paragraph and a little ways down shows the hero's point of view. That's how I found I tend to write and no matter how hard I try to put in one characters POV, it doesn't work for me. I like seeing what he's thinking in response to what she's thinking. Any input on this would be appreciated.

Laurie2
August 5th, 2008, 12:34 AM
Hi Kelli,

Yes, I think it makes sense to think about what you want the reader to feel emotionally...and what you want them to experience as they read a given passage.

I mentioned in another post about running scenes through our minds like they are movies...and the need to run them through our minds, not like movies that we are watching on our mind's eye but more like a movie we are experiencing.

There are several things I think it makes sense to think about periodically while writing. Of course what you want the reader to feel, what experience you want them to have, but also what you want them to worry about. A reader who is relaxed reading, who is not worried about something in the story is a reader who is not engaged deeply enough in the story.

Since you have an acting background it may work very well to use the acting experience to help you get the right mindset and ask the right questions as you are writing.

Laurie


I especially like the idea of thinking about what I wish the reader to feel emotionally during a scene. I don't think I am focusing enough on that while writing a scene, I'm too busy worrying about other things. I think I really should approach each scene the same I would in acting: understand my characters motivations and what I wish to convey before hitting the stage.

Jean Kelli
August 5th, 2008, 03:16 PM
Ah-ha, what I wish the reader to "worry about" while writing a scene. Very good, I will do this. I think I've been writing a scene with the end goal in mind only. Having these other tools to focus on will really keep me deeper in focus and have the affect I'm going for. Duh! It seems to obvious now that you mention it--why didn't I think of this!?
:)

Scarlet.Skye
August 5th, 2008, 06:00 PM
I have always tried to picture myself as the viewpoint character when acting out a scene in my mind, so I am hoping that this will help to avoid the whole 'head hopping' issue...

I do have to say though, after reading through the head hopping examples I noticed that alot of them were sooo subtle that even I, as the reader, who was specifically LOOKING for the example had a hard time picking it out...

Surprisingly technical...Makes me wonder how often I did just that unknowingly...hhhmmm....

Laurie2
August 5th, 2008, 06:10 PM
Hi Kelli,

There are those things that you learn that forever change the way that you write. For me thinking about what I wanted the reader to worry about was one of those things.

Deep point of view is another one of those.

Laurie


Ah-ha, what I wish the reader to "worry about" while writing a scene. Very good, I will do this. I think I've been writing a scene with the end goal in mind only. Having these other tools to focus on will really keep me deeper in focus and have the affect I'm going for. Duh! It seems to obvious now that you mention it--why didn't I think of this!?
:)

Laurie2
August 5th, 2008, 07:44 PM
Hi Scarlet,

Yes, head hopping is a very subtle thing...which makes it a very easy habit to pick up. The question to ask yourself is always whether this is something the viewpoint character could experience...and if they could conceivably experience is it likely they would think about this thing at the time they are thinking about it.

This kinda goes back to the earlier post about the author's job being to pilot the reader's gilded coach through the story smoothly missing pot-holes, bumps in the roads, detours and bridges that are out.

I find that once authors understand deep point of view and begin to bring in the depth and details then other problems crop up...these being related to moving the reader smoothly through the scene.

We'll have lots of opportunities to go over examples and to do exercises so that everyone can get a good grasp during the workshop.

Laurie


I have always tried to picture myself as the viewpoint character when acting out a scene in my mind, so I am hoping that this will help to avoid the whole 'head hopping' issue...

I do have to say though, after reading through the head hopping examples I noticed that alot of them were sooo subtle that even I, as the reader, who was specifically LOOKING for the example had a hard time picking it out...

Surprisingly technical...Makes me wonder how often I did just that unknowingly...hhhmmm....