Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 3, Point of View by B.Y. Rogers

I called Dave King a ‘Bitch’ in an email this last week. I do hope he knows I was jesting. I had emailed him (as well as Renni Browne) that I was blogging on their book. I wanted to do so out of courtesy and both Dave and a Ross Browne were kind enough to thank me. I do believe in good manners. (Then why did I call Dave a ‘Bitch?” Because he knows what he is doing. I wish I did. Think of man talk in Gran Torino.)

Finished the second draft of “The Thrashing of Charley Little”, my next short story, last night. Todd got my cover to me this week as well. Again, I am very impressed with Todd’s graphic talent. Now it is time to put on the editing hat and give my story a life of its own. In a way, it already as its own life, as it is a back story to The Sin of Certainty.

In the meantime, here is the next chapter of “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers”. IF you haven’t by now (what is wrong with you?), and you are or want to be a writer, you really should get this book. I AM SERIOUS ABOUT THIS!

Chapter 3  Point of View

The first person point of view has a number of advantages, the main one being that it gives your readers a great deal of intimacy with your viewpoint character.

What you gain in intimacy with the first person, you lose in perspective.

On the other end of the spectrum from the first person is the omniscient point of view. Instead of being written from inside the head of one of your characters, a scene in the omniscient point of view is not written from inside anyone’s head.

Note that with the omniscient voice what you gain in perspective you lose in intimacy.

If the first person invites intimacy and the omniscient narrator allows for perspective, the third person strikes balance between the two. (There is quite a bit of additional information on this topic in the book.)

Another factor that controls your narrative distance is how much you allow your viewpoint character’s emotion to color your description. (I am still trying to get my Pooh sized brain wrapped around ‘narrative distance’.)

So how much narrative distance is right for you? Broadly speaking the more intimate the point of view, the better.

The emotions have to go someplace and the language of your descriptions is a good place for them.

You want to engage your readers, not drive them to distraction.

Readers need time to settle into a given emotional state, so when you move quickly from one passion-charged head to another, you’re likely leave them behind. They’ll know what our various characters are feeling, but the won’t have time to feel like any of the characters.

When you make the point of view clear at the beginning of a scene, you get your readers involved right away and let them get used to inhabiting your viewpoint character’s head.

Linespaces prepare readers for a shift (in time, place or point of view), so the change in point of view won’t catch them by surprise. (I recently attempted to read a book where this skill was totally missing. It was a struggle to follow the story. The story seemed disconnected and halted almost on every page. I gave up and did not finish it.)

Point of view is a powerful tool. Master it.

(Amen)

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