Let’s look at another basic fiction writing technique: point of view. Whatever you’re writing, whether it’s a short story, or a novel, the question of point of view (POV) needs to be addressed.
When you keep POV simple, you can write more
When you write fiction, you’re writing an entertainment. Entertaining your readers needs to be your primary goal. Choosing the appropriate POV makes writing easier, and you can write more.
POV isn’t complicated, as long as remember WHO you are — which fictional character, that is — in a scene.
Let’s look at my simple “rules” for point of view (POV.)
There are two:
- One character’s POV per scene;
- Limit POV characters in your short story or novel.
You can break these rules of course, as long as you know why you’re doing it. Generally speaking, I prefer to stick with one POV per scene, and rarely have more than three POV characters in a novel, no matter how long the novel happens to be.
Sticking with the two simple rules makes editing easier. Here’s why.
When it comes to editing, one of your challenges is: what does this character know at this point in the story? If you keep switching POVs within scenes, you’ll hurt your brain trying to work it out, and it makes editing HARD. If you know me at all, you know that I prefer to keep things simple. Then you can focus on writing, and pleasing your readers. (And on writing more.)
A tip: write something first, then decide on POV
Let’s say you’re starting a novel. You’ve got a basic idea, and a concept. (We’ve discussed concept.)
Start writing. Don’t worry about POV yet. When you start writing, you’ll have chosen a POV instinctively. Nine times out of ten, your instinct is correct. Here’s how to tell whether it’s the correct choice. Ask yourself whether you’re comfortable.
If you’re writing easily — ideas come to you, and word flow effortlessly, you’ve made the right choice.
I don’t want to belabor POV too much. You’ve read lots of fiction. Your subconscious knows what you’re writing, even though you aren’t consciously aware of it. The big danger with discussing technique, and thinking about it, is that you’ll stifle your creativity.
First person POV is challenging
I enjoy writing first person POV — viz: “Late that night, I hurried to meet him. He’d left.” But I rarely use it, because it becomes tedious, especially at novel-length.
The big challenge with first person POV is that it’s constrictive. You can only show what your POV character knows, sees, hears and feels. That cuts off your options.
That said, if you find yourself trapped in first person POV, and need to escape, write a few scenes in another character’s POV. Why not? If your story needs it, do it.
Close third person is often the most useful POV
In close third person, you’re inside your viewpoint character; it’s almost like first person. “Late that night, she hurried to meet him. You can’t escape me, not this time. He’d left.”
Do what you need to do: it’s your story
Remember the two rules. They’ll keep POV simple and manageable for you. Beyond that, do what your story requires. And have fun — it makes you more creative.
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I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.More info →
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