Last September, on CONVERSATIONS Around the Writers Table, our monthly tele-call for authors, we discussed different forms of POV, the advantages and drawbacks of these forms, and what it means to have a close POV versus a distant one. We also talked about how your choice of POV will be influenced by the genre in which you’re writing.
In this month’s conversation, we will explore POV further and look at:
- Common POV mistakes and how to avoid them
- The strengths of a close POV and how to achieve it
- The craft of using multiple narrators (multiple viewpoint characters):
- How to create authentic and distinct voices
- How to transition without confusing the reader
- How to keep your central protagonist from getting lost in the mix
If you missed the last show, or you’d just like a refresher, here’s a summary of what we covered then so you can be prepared to dive deeper into POV on March 15, 2017.
Common Forms of POV – Their Strengths and Drawbacks
The narrator is someone in the story, telling the story from his or her perspective. There is a close emotional connection between the reader and the narrator (who is usually the protagonist), but you are limited to showing only what this character can experience. Also, the narrator’s voice is limited by the character’s age, personality, intellect, etc.
Third Person, Limited
The narrator is someone outside the story, and who doesn’t participate in the story, but rather uses the perspective of a single “viewpoint character.” This form allows you to have a fairly close connection to the viewpoint character without having to match the narration so closely to the viewpoint character’s voice. You still can only show what this viewpoint character knows/experiences in a given scene, but you can create additional narrators using other viewpoint characters to give the reader access to more scenes and information.
Third Person, Omniscient
The narrator is outside of the story but may dip inside the head of any character. This means any scene can be shown, any backstory can be given, and any characters’ thoughts can be revealed. The downside is that the reader will automatically be distanced from the protagonist (and any other viewpoint characters) and it can be jarring or confusing to the reader as to whose perspective is being shown in the moment. Most important, there usually isn’t a strong bond with or loyalty to the characters.
Third Person, Objective (or cinematic)
Like watching a scene through a camera, the reader can only see and hear the characters, but cannot hear anyone’s thoughts or have direct access to their feelings. This can be useful when wanting to write a book that lacks a feeling of bias (e.g., narrative nonfiction). Readers, however, will have a hard time bonding with characters whose thoughts they can’t hear, and likely will not be as emotionally connected to the story.
Depth of POV refers to how close the reader is to the viewpoint character telling the story. This will generally be closer for a first-person narrator or a single third-person limited narrator. To attain a greater emotional engagement with the reader, you generally want a closer (or deeper) POV. However, this close POV also brings its own set of challenges.
To learn more about these challenges and how to overcome them, as well as how to work with multiple narrators, join Editor and Creativity Coach Gina Edwards and our guest, Developmental Editor Heather Whitaker at 7 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, for CONVERSATIONS Around the Writers Table. In the second half of the show, you’ll have the chance to ask questions regarding your use of multiple narrators, concerns about potential POV slips, and what depth of POV would be best for your story.
To get the details for how to listen and learn, click HERE.
Heather Whitaker is a developmental editor and writing coach specializing in novels and memoirs, including children’s literature, adult literary, and adult genre fiction. Heather’s approach to editing improves the manuscript and increases its chances of success, but also helps the author become a better writer. In addition to manuscript editing, Heather leads ongoing writers groups and teaches writing classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), Florida State University, in Tallahassee, Florida.
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