Dennis Lehane writing outside of Boston Larry McMurtry writing outside of a western
What is Poiint of View"
What Is Reality?
What someone perceives it to be.
Thus there is no ONE reality.
So your choice of point of view taints
It is the number one style problem most
It could also be the key to selling your
book. Or not selling.
What Is Reality?
In real life, POV is a perspective on a situation.
3 people see an event, we have three different
In writing, POV is the author’s choice of the
perspective through which the story is told.
3 people see an event, we only get the POV the
author chooses to show it through.
Or three different POVs that conflict.
Who Is Telling The Story?
But whose voice does the reader ‘hear’
when they read?
You are getting a story that is alive in your
head, into the reader’s head, through the
medium of the ‘printed’ word.
The POV you choose is the format of that
I recommend thinking as if you were a film
director, recording a scene.
POV is the camera through which the story
Where is the camera?
Who has the camera in the scene?
If a single character has the camera for the
entire story and is telling the story, you are
in first person.
If you move the camera between several
characters having the camera, you are in
multiple third person.
If you, the writer, have the camera, you are
All that counts is what is recorded.
Get out of your head and focus on the
camera and what the reader ‘sees’ that
A shift in POV is a shift in the camera= a
You stop the camera, restart the same
one in a new time and/or scene. Or . . .
You stop the camera, go to a new
camera. Can be same scene (head-
hopping) or a new scene (with the same
or a new point of view character).
Or you as the author control the camera
and can go anywhere and any time you
want (omniscient point of view).
You should avoid head-hopping unless
showing the same scene from two
different POVs adds something.
Also, remember, you are filtering
everything through a POV character
(unless you’re writing omniscient). You
can give their thoughts, but consider a
film. How do we see thoughts in film?
Through action. Or, occasionally,
Point of View
As you can tell, Point of View can quickly
The biggest thing is to make sure you, the
author, have a firm sense where the
camera is in each scene. Because if you
don’t, you are going to confuse the
Narrator is not the author.
The narrator always has the camera.
Narrator has to be present in every
scene or get information second-hand.
Works for mysteries. Hard for thrillers.
Why wasn’t Holmes the narrator?
The Usual Suspects.
Should we believe your narrator?
Is difficult to write in.
Besides the limitations of the camera
always being with one character, you
have the issue of Time Sense.
Are you telling an “I remember when”
story or a “Come along with me” story?
First Person Time Sense
I remember when . . .
Already know what happened and are
No suspense over fate of the narrator.
Come along with me.
What happens if your narrator gets into an
emotionally overwhelming event?
Both are usually told in past tense which is
confusing especially for come along with me.
You often end up mixing the two modes.
Everything is channelled through
various characters’ points of view.
Cuts have to be very clear to readers.
Each POV character must be distinct as
their POV taints what they observe.
Cutting in the middle of a scene: is there a purpose or
are you head-hopping?
How many points of view can you-- and the reader--
Aka: how schizophrenic are you?
How many can the reader keep up with?
If you have too many POV characters:
The reader ends up knowing more than any of the
You diffuse attention from your protagonist.
The line between Third Limited and Omniscient is a
Camera is above, all-seeing and all-
You must be the story psychologist.
Good for action scenes.
Can call one form of it translucent.
This is where you are behind one character
at a time and have a feed into their brain.
You know what they’re thinking and even
what they are unaware of in their own
There are first/third stories. These are
where you write in third person, but stick
with one character throughout. Why? To
avoid the time sense problem.
There are also first/omniscient where you
have the camera but follow only one
First: Years ago, I was told that to be an effective
sniper, I had to be a man who could shoot another
human being on nothing but an order and stop; also
on order. I’d been told I was one of those people.
Third: Years ago, Horace Chase was told that an
effective sniper was a man who could shoot another
human being on nothing but an order and stop; also
on order. He knew he was one of those people.
Omniscient: An effective sniper is a man who can
shoot another human being on nothing but an order
and stop; also on order. Horace Chase was one of
those people and that made him dangerous.
Second person. (Fourth dimension in
film where an actor/actress addresses
Multiple first person. Why would you
use this instead of multiple third
No point of view is wrong. Just have a
reason for using the one you choose.
More importantly. Choose one. Before
you start writing the book!
Mixing points of view? Faulkner did it in
The Sound and the Fury.
Most of us aren’t Faulkner.
Like everything else— if you do it, have
Play with it. Write a scene in one point
of view, then rewrite in another.
I’ve found that if I rewrite going from
first to third, I tend to go through
First and omniscient lend themselves to
“info-dump” which we want to avoid.
In third limited, you can’t info-dump.
You will tend to write in the voice you
It’s a psychological issue.
Often the voice we fear to write in is our
best one. Because it’s cutting an artery
instead of a vein to bleed onto the
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