July 20, 2006

Voint of pew – the spew

So continuing on from yesterday, let us delve further into point of view (POV) when writing and editing a novel. I mentioned yesterday that a story could get a bit stale if written in first person POV because you see everything through one person’s eyes, your impressions of the world that the character inhabits are formed based on the POV characters impressions and opinions. This could lead to a slightly one-sided story. According to "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers", some writers get around this by having their novel be first-person POV but have several different characters tell the story over the course of the book. Another gimmick (and one which is probably financially lucrative) is to tell the same story through the eyes of different characters as several different books :p

I thought that one classic example of this would be Piers Anthony‘s Incarnations of Immortality series since I seemed to recall that this was the same story told through different characters. However, on looking it up, it appears as if I might have been mistaken. Another example that I can vouch for is Gordon R. Dickson‘s "Final Encyclopedia" and its counterparts, "Young Bleys" and "Other". The latter two novels show basically the same events that took place in "Final Encyclopedia" but from the perspective of the antagonist of the main character in "Final Encyclopedia". While events do tend to repeat, you still find yourself fascinated because of the completely opposite viewpoint of events and people :)

Of course, there are also other reasons for using (or not using) first-person POV. If you write in first-person, all your reader can see and know comes from what the POV character knows. This is a good way to do a whodunnit for instance because the reader is kept in the dark till the main character discovers the mastermind behind the murder.

One thing that goes hand in hand with POV is language. Depending on the POV that you’re using, you have to be very careful about the language that you use. Is your POV character an illiterate villager who has just arrived in the big city? If so, you can’t have him describing the things that he sees in the city (when you’re in his viewpoint) with precision and in four or five syllabic sentences. Each characters language and mode of speech is shaped by their background, upbringing and history. So you have to think about how that particular person would speak when you start writing in their viewpoint.

POV is probably one of the most complex (and sometimes hard to pin down) parts of successfully writing a novel/story. There is a lot more that I can talk about with regards to POV but I know that "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" comes back to the same topic from different angles in various other topics in the book. So we’ll probably come back to this topic again :)

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Tags: Writing
Posted by Fahim at 6:47 am   Comments (0)