I am, by nature, a Third Person POV fiction writer. It’s the saddle that I’m most comfortable in, though I think I’ve convinced myself to give Second and Third person a ride at some point for the experience.
Waaaaay back in the day, when I didn’t know any other writers, I wrote my first manuscript (a 500,000-word monster) all by my lonesome without knowing what the heck point of view was or even that there was such a thing. Can you imagine the head-hopping? LOL! Finally meeting other writers completely changed my life and clued me in to that and many other essentials. (The only thing that halfway saved me to where I could salvage a lot of the monster was my avid soap opera and dramatic movie watching. I might not have known why scenes were structured the way they were and endings always left the viewer waiting for more, but I picked up on that and imitated the heck out of it.)
I want to share this old post of mine with you newbies out there, from long after the light bulb had come on and POV was one of my absolute favorite things when it came to writing a story.
(originally posted July 15, 2007, Writingscape V1.0)
I was perusing the Flogging the Quill blog (the creation of novelist/freelance editor Ray Rhamey), and came across a post from last June by Rhamey that had me shouting hallelujah, because it was spot-on when it came to my own experiences with that infamous little element called Point of View. You see, I firmly believe that many times the difference between an okay scene and a fantastic scene is if that scene is in the character’s POV, as it should be, rather than the writer’s.
Writers tell stories. Characters have experiences. Which one do you think excites a person reading black type on a white page more? Being told a story? Or having an experience, as if they’re really there, with senses engaged?
Character viewpoint is what makes fiction live.
Agent Russell Galen calls it “astral projection.” Rhamey calls it connecting to the life of a character using descriptions (their personal point of view in the scene). Nalo Hopkinson warns against doing voice-over, against not getting in your character’s head, and against “breaking the fourth wall”—the WRITER talking to the reader.
Be mindful of what your character will or will not see in a setting, rather than you the writer. An older, jaded mailroom veteran will notice different things in that room than his much younger new recruit. A female predator will see, hear, and feel things very differently in that alley than her male victim during the very same scene. A kid from a poverty-stricken neighborhood, while pedaling his bike down an upper-class street, will definitely note the richness of a house but probably not delight in the sidewalk tiles being a certain designer’s, imported from Italy.
Remember, it’s not about you. Readers can always tell when you think it is.