Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the workshop on Deep Point of View. I trust you’ll come away with a grasp of a skill that takes a step beyond the basic understanding of POV.
First of all, let me introduce myself. I write under my full name: Jill Elizabeth Nelson. My reason is simple, the domain name Jill Nelson was taken. I write romantic suspense for the “inspirational” market. Two books in my To Catch a Thief series—Reluctant Burglar and Reluctant Runaway—have been released through Multnomah Publishers, an imprint of Random House. The third releases in January under the title Reluctant Smuggler. If your curiosity is aroused, your can find out more at http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com/.
I was bitten by the writing bug in the sixth grade, when I penned—er, penciled—my first novel. Well, it was more of a novella, but I did finish it, and that’s a watershed moment for any writer. However, not a word of the manuscript still exists, and the world is grateful. Since then, I’ve worn the hats of poet, essayist, journalist, and short story-teller, but my favorite chapeau is novelist.
Now to begin the workshop. Our first lesson will cover basic POV information, and then we will move on to interactive lessons on Deep POV. Please read through the Lesson One material to help you identify the POV you are using in current WIP (work in progress). Here’s your first assignment: Please introduce yourself by your given name, initials, or Internet name, then tell us the genre book you are currently working on, identify the type of basic POV you are using, and feel free to post a question or make a comment.
I will post a fresh lesson every couple of hours in the comments section. Each segment will contain an opportunity for you to participate in discussion, carry out an assignment, or submit a sample of your writing for evaluation. Let’s dig in and have fun!
LESSON ONE: BASIC POINT OF VIEW
Some stories simply beg to be told in First Person, where the viewpoint character is “I.” A story told in first person requires that nothing can be heard, seen, or experienced except through the eyes of the character telling the story. However, a first person narrative does allow for that viewpoint character to skip ahead in the story, and make a comment like, “If I had known . . .,” because obviously this character survives to the end of the book in order to relay the narrative. An example of superbly handled first person narrative is Moby Dick. In contemporary usage, chic lit is often written in first person because the sassy voice of the central character can be so clearly portrayed. For excellent examples, check out books by Kristin Billerbeck. Many detective novels are also written in first person. Brandt Dodson has a wonderful series out in that vein.
Most books are written in some variation of Third Person, where the viewpoint character is “he,” “she,” or occasionally “it” (if you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy).
One possibility within third person narrative is omniscient point of view. Basically, this is a story told about a cast of characters by an all-knowing narrator. Rarely is this point of view done well, and never by a novice writer. By its very nature, omniscient point of view keeps readers at arms length from the characters, making it difficult for readers to care what happens to the people or creatures in the story. Not a desirable state of affairs for a novelist.
Another possibility within third person narrative is single point of view. This choice requires the author to remain inside the head of one character throughout the book. Single point of view creates an excellent opportunity for readers to identify with the POV character and thus be drawn into the story. A drawback is the limitation in what can be shown “on stage,” so to speak. Events that happen outside the POV character’s experience must either be told to him or her by another character or found out in some other way after the fact.
A more flexible possibility within third person narrative is multiple point of view, or telling the story from the viewpoints of two or more characters. This way, the reader can know more about what’s going on than what can be conveyed through the eyes of one character only.
A novice writer may attempt to use this POV to hop rapid-fire from one character’s head to the next. Thus the term “head-hopping”—in the literary realm, a crime nearly as awful as head-hunting. LOL. This method sows confusion rather than the intended goal of informing the reader of everything that’s going on in the scene. A few—very few—published authors do “hop” from one character’s head to another within the same scene. Even fewer do it effectively. Not a good choice for the unseasoned writer.
Multiple point of view works best if the writer limits the number of point of view characters to two, or at the most, three throughout the book. Any more than that and the writer again risks losing reader identification. Also, the writer does herself a favor if she remains in one character’s head for the duration of a scene or perhaps a whole chapter, depending on the flow of the storyline. A writer should master this technique BEFORE seriously attempting other types of POV.
Craft is a discipline as stern as boot camp. Those who are fluent in the rules are the ones competent to know when and how to break them. For the purposes of this workshop, I will speak as though we are all working in third person point of view, either single or limited multiple. The techniques of Deep Point of View work best in this environment.
Here’s a preview of what’s to come:
Lesson Two – What is Deep POV, and how will it help my writing?
Lesson Three – Examples of Deep POV contrasted with basic POV
Lesson Four – Telltale words or phrases that pinpoint places needing deep POV
Lesson Five – Submit segments of your work for teacher evaluation and class discussion
*These lessons will be posted in the comment section later in the day*
We CAN Promote Our Books! - marketing blog for writers - http://canblog.typepad.com/canbookmarketing/
Reluctant Burglar, Available Now!
Reluctant Runaway, Available Now! - watch a video trailer at http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com/tcatbooks.shtml
Reluctant Smuggler, January 2008Multnomah Publishers