Sunday, 22 April 2012
Tip of the week: Point of view
There are several ways to bring across the different angles of a story and today, I'd like to take a closer look at them. I hope the examples below will shed some light on the issue and help to understand the differences.
1. We have first person POV: the story is told from one person's angle. This can be one or more main characters, as long as they are separated; for example: First chapter starts with Mary, the second with John, the third with Mary again, or, if there are more characters, each chapter is told through that particular character's eyes.
Mary: I used to like John a lot. When we met, ten years ago, he was kind, good looking and made me laugh. Every time I see him now, I feel sick to the core, remembering what he did to Ellie.
Ellie: My relationship with John started slow; he would come to see my sister Mary as they were the same age. I, being a few years younger, was not considered to be good company. Too young to understand what they were talking about. Maybe it was the forbidden-fact, that made me fall for John.
John: Mary has become such a bitch. Yeah, I made a mistake, a few to be precise, but gee, she acts as if I had killed anyone.
See? Those are all written in first person POV. Most will use this POV for one main character telling the story using 'I'.
2. A lot of books with use the third person POV: I'm using Mary's example to show the difference. Imagine she tells the story of their triangle.
Mary used to like John a lot. When they met, ten years ago, he was kind, good looking and made her laugh. Every time she sees him now, she feels sick to the core, remembering what he did to Ellie.
Normally, this POV is only used for one or two characters, to let the reader see through their eyes; in this case, Mary's.We don't know what the other characters are thinking when two or more of them are in the same scene. It's only one character's perspective. If used for multiple point of views, the next chapter would be Ellie's version of what happened, but caution: this is a tricky thing to do as people tend to become repetitive unless all characters are not related and have different backgrounds and stories to tell, but one common ground.
3. Then we have third person omniscient, the most difficult POV to pull off effectively, also known as head-hopping. The reader will be let into at least two character's heads in the same scene.
I'm using the examples of Mary and John above:
When she entered the room, Mary gasped and turned around with a disgusted look on her face.
She used to like John a lot. When they met, ten years ago, he was kind, good looking and made her laugh. Every time she sees him now, she feels sick to the core, remembering what he did to Ellie.
My goodness, Mary has become such a bitch. Yeah, he made a mistake, a few to be precise, but gee, she acts as if he had killed anyone. John stared at her back, wishing the party was over.
Mary sighed. What if Ellie follows the invite, too?
See the change? Two perspectives in the same scene, reacting to each other. The reader know exactly what each character is thinking. There's no limit as to how many characters' thoughts you want to reveal, but for this particular POV it has to be at least two. In my Thriller, I chose to reveal the thoughts of my three main characters, although I have eight characters in the book.
4. And now the last point of view, which admittedly is my favourite: second person. The story is told through the eyes of 'you'. This POV works best in present tense, as it's taking the reader by the hand and make him or her the main character of the story. The present tense adds immediacy
When you enter the room, you gasp and turn around with disgust.
You used to like John a lot. When you met, ten years ago, he was kind, good looking and made you laugh. Every time you see him now, you feel sick to the core, remembering what he did to Ellie.
As every POV, it requires exercise and honing. Every writer has a personal favourite, just play around with them and you'll find out what suits you best. A word of advice regarding omniscient point of view: make sure you don't 'head-hop' through thoughts only. It's what makes to read the this POV unpleasant. You know the character inside out, not only his thoughts. You know the wishes, the feelings, the fears, work with them.