Point of View

» Posted on Apr 12, 2011 in Articles | 1 comment

Point of view can be a hot topic with some authors. Some people are purist and only want one point of view per scene or chapter. Others like to hop from head to head. I fit in between those two. I often am only in one person’s head during a scene, but there are times I move from the heroine’s viewpoint to the hero’s in a scene without a break. I do try not to hop around because I believe that can be confusing for a reader.

But what I think is the most important part concerning point of view is how deep the writer goes into a character’s viewpoint. That’s what I would like to address in this short column. When you are writing a character and are in his (or her) viewpoint, you need to be totally immersed inside his head. I want to feel, see, hear, taste what he does. You need to write the scene as though you are in first person, observing and experiencing what is going on around you as the character you are writing. If you do that, it will make it easier to go deeply into your character’s head and to show the emotions behind the action and dialogue.

Showing the character’s emotions through his thoughts and reactions to the other characters in the scene is what is important. Feeling the five senses is essential, too, but what will hook your reader is connecting to your character so much it’s as though we are viewing the world through his eyes, glimpsing what he is thinking and feeling about what is going on around him. This isn’t easy. First, you must know your character well. That often comes from doing an in-depth character sketch of him then sitting down and writing him. As you write hopefully your character will come alive to you in your head and start to speak to you. When that happens, you are really connected to that character and can portray him on the paper as though you are him.

I don’t always get this the first time I write a scene. This can often come from layering (adding ot a scene) when I do rewrites. I will grasp the essence of what I want to convey, then when I edit, I elaborate and go deeper into my character’s mind, especially after I have finished the rough draft of my book and know him thoroughly which I had better by this time or I haven’t done a good job of writing.

The other aspect to consider when doing the point of view in a book is who to use as the viewpoint character in a scene. I think it is the character with the most at stake in that scene who usually should be the one you see the story unfolding through his eyes. There are a few exceptions. Sometimes a secondary character will show the reactions in a scene of the hero and heroine and it adds a different dimension to the story.

Viewpoint is an important part of the writing process–not only the depth you go into a character’s point of view but also in deciding whose eyes and thoughts to show the scene through. Sometimes to achieve this a writer will have to write the scene from both hero and heroine’s viewpoints to see which conveys her story the best.

1 Comment

  1. I appreciate your insight on this topic. Though I try not to wander within a scene, I do find that I will on occasion switch from the hero to the heroine or visa versa within a scene. Usually one will be the main focus, but I will switch.
    I have always wondered if I was handling point of view appropriately by doing this. It is encouraging to know that you don’t have to be a purest in POV!
    Thanks for the encouragement.
    Stephanie
    (new author: Shades of the Orient)

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