Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The More You Know, The More You'll Save, Part V - Point of View

by Alycia W. Morales

As authors, we're always looking for ways to save money and time. This is the fifth post in a series that is meant to help you save both. On the front end, putting forth the effort to learn these points will cost you some time, but in the long run, it will save you money on professional edits.

Last time, we continued discussing character development and went over backstory, information dumps, preaching, and repetition. This week, we'll take a look at Point of View.

The first thing we need to know is how to stay within one character's Point of View (POV). Many first-time novelists (and even some second- or third-time novelists) struggle with this concept. What happens is they write a scene with two or more characters interacting and the reader suddenly finds him or herself wondering which character is doing or saying something, because the writer has jumped from one character's POV to another. This is what we call "head hopping."

So how do we write without head hopping? Most writers will tell you to imagine your character has a video camera attached to their forehead. Your character can only experience what he could record on that camera. I would go one step farther and tell you to imagine yourself in your character's shoes. Think about the things you can see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and think. These are the things your character can see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and think. For example, I can see my husband. I can reach out and touch him if he's standing within my arm's reach. I can smell his scent because he's close enough. I can smell his breath if he's eaten a garlic and anchovy pizza or forgot to brush his teeth this morning. I cannot taste his garlic and anchovy pizza - except if I kiss him, then I may taste the oil from the garlic or the fish. Blah. I can then wrinkle my nose. I can hear him ask why I'm wrinkling my nose at him, but I can't read his mind. I can't know that he's thinking, "She must not like what I'm doing right now or she wouldn't be making that face at me." I can only know that if he asks, "Why are you making a face at me? Is there a problem?"

Get it? Your characters can only experience what they can see in front of or near them. So if one leaves the room, they can't see what the person left in the room is doing. Unless the walls are super thin, they can't hear what the person left in the room is saying. This is a common mistake in manuscripts that I edit, so pay close attention to what your characters are doing and saying and make sure you aren't switching from one to the other or having them assume to know what another character is thinking.

There are three points of view I'd like to discuss. Omniscient/Narrator. First Person. Third Person.

Omniscient/Narrator: This point of view is often the POV of the writer. Some refer to this as being God in your manuscript. As the author, you narrate the story. You know everything going on inside the characters and in their world around them, and you let the reader know this. But the characters may not know everything happening. Oftentimes, this POV is frowned upon in writing fiction.

And many times authors will accidentally slip into the omniscient POV. It tends to happen when trying to show what a character is doing or setting up a scene. To avoid slipping into the omniscient POV, make sure you stay inside your character's shoes, only allowing the reader to experience what the character is doing.

First Person: When we write in first person, we use the pronouns I, Me, Us, and We. Remember, we are staying within one character's POV at a time. Usually first-person POV stories are written with the lead character being the one whose POV we remain in throughout the story. We may see a hero and a heroine's POV, but we generally don't see outside of those two. Maybe we'll see the antagonist, the villain. Otherwise, the secondary characters remain very secondary.

Third Person: When we write in third person, we use the pronouns he, she, they, and them. Again, we are staying in one character's POV at a time. In third-person POV stories, we may see the secondary characters' POVs on occasion. But they never override the main characters' story lines.

Which leads me to our next and final topic for today: Primary vs. Secondary Characters and Their Roles.

Your primary character/s are the lead characters in your novel. This is the protagonist - the hero or heroine or both, depending on how you set up your story. Your antagonist/villain may also play a primary role. It's their story you're telling.

Secondary characters are the supporting actors in your story. They assist the lead character/s' story lines. But again, they never overtake them. They remain somewhat in the background. They're there for moral support. They can speak and act. They can give advice. They can cause problems for your main character. But they are not the main character. Think of Job. He had three buddies who came along and were part of his story. They even offered him ill advice. But they didn't run his story. It was still his. He was always the main character. We get glimpses into their lives and their thoughts, but they never take the lead character's place. If you notice your secondary character is trying to overcome your main character's position in your story, you may need to reconsider whose story needs to be told.

Do you struggle with POV? Do you have a burning question to ask? Feel free to share with us in the comments below.


A quick review of Point of View. Helping #writers save time & money via @AlyciaMorales. {Click to Tweet}

Understanding head hopping and how to avoid it. {Click to Tweet}

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