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mlouisdixon
06-13-2011, 02:47 PM
POV

From Dummies.com
Understanding Point of View in Literature
By Geraldine Woods

Literature provides a lens through which readers look at the world. Point of view is the way the author allows you to "see" and "hear" what's going on. Skillful authors can fix their readers' attention on exactly the detail, opinion, or emotion the author wants to emphasize by manipulating the point of view of the story.
Point of view comes in three varieties, which the English scholars have handily numbered for your convenience:

First-person point of view is in use when a character narrates the story with I-me-my-mine in his or her speech. The advantage of this point of view is that you get to hear the thoughts of the narrator and see the world depicted in the story through his or her eyes. However, remember that no narrator, like no human being, has complete self-knowledge or, for that matter, complete knowledge of anything. Therefore, the reader's role is to go beyond what the narrator says.

For example, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is told from the point of view of Scout, a young child. She doesn't grasp the complex racial and socioeconomic relations of her town but the reader does, because Scout gives information that the reader can interpret. Also, Scout's innocence reminds the reader of a simple, "it's-not-fair" attitude that contrasts with the rationalizations of other characters.

Second-person point of view, in which the author uses you and your, is rare; authors seldom speak directly to the reader. When you encounter this point of view, pay attention. Why? The author has made a daring choice, probably with a specific purpose in mind. Most times, second-person point of view draws the reader into the story, almost making the reader a participant in the action.

Here's an example: Jay McInerney's best-selling Bright Lights, Big City was written in second person to make the experiences and tribulations of the unnamed main character more personal and intimate for the reader.

Third-person point of view is that of an outsider looking at the action. The writer may choose third-person omniscient, in which the thoughts of every character are open to the reader, or third-person limited, in which the reader enters only one character's mind, either throughout the entire work or in a specific section. Third-person limited differs from first-person because the author's voice, not the character's voice, is what you hear in the descriptive passages.

In Virginia Woolf's wonderful novel Mrs. Dalloway, you're in one character's mind at a time. You know the title character's thoughts about Peter, the great love of her youth, for example, and then a few pages later, you hear Peter's thoughts about Mrs. Dalloway. Fascinating! When you're reading a third-person selection, either limited or omniscient, you're watching the story unfold as an outsider. Remember that most writers choose this point of view.


______________________

What POV do you prefer to write in and why?

What POV do you dislike, or hate, and why?


MLD

ozmosis7
06-13-2011, 03:05 PM
2nd person always brings to mind playing the role-playing games like D&D as a kid. Where a DM would say, "You walk into a room..." :)

the_last_gunslinger
06-13-2011, 03:18 PM
Third person Omniscient is my favorite style to read, but I am better at writing first person or third person limited. Keeping the focus on one particular character is a lot easier for me to deal with. Plus, the reader is kept in the dark just as much as the character since you only get to experience the story through the protagonist.

TerryE
06-13-2011, 03:27 PM
Good topic, and hopefully a learning point for many of us. Personally, I'll use all points of view, but the story usually dictates which is best to use. I guess I use third person limited most. Point of view, along with voice, are some of the most important parts of writing, but are overlooked by new writers. Many of the contest stories shifted POV or went outside of the knowledge, experience, or understanding of their narrator. If one writes from the point of view of a child, the language and grammar must reflectively be "dumbed down" to the words and associations that the child could know. He might know fireworks, but a blast would not look like a red giant, going supernova in a solar system on the other side of the galaxy, unless you go through the trouble of explaining why a ten year old has a great knowledge of astronomy. A feral man, raised by wolves in the hills of Kentucky, would never quote a soliloquy of Shakespeare, or compare an odor to a New York subway. His wisdom would come from elders, comparisons would be to the natural world.

If somebody wants a good lesson in point of view, my favorite example is "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner. The novel is told from nearly 20 different points of view, and each one is distinctive in style and voice. One of my favorite uses of voice, that most of you have already read, is Stephen King's "Delores Claiborne". From the first sentence of that book, I could clearly hear her voice telling me the story.

And for all of those who use 1st person, remember who the narrator is telling the story to. There should be a great reason for him/her to go through all this trouble. A 1st person story should never be a tale that is a great secret that no one should ever know. Then why are you blabbing?? A confessional works, but only if the narrator has nothing to hide anymore. I've seen stories start with a narrator saying something along the line of "I killed a man, and if anyone ever found out they'd kill me." Well, that narrator had better be shown to be so psychotic and suicidal that he'd be telling me the tale that will obviously get him killed.

JJ Holden
06-13-2011, 03:46 PM
Third person limited, here, too. And I usually tell a novel length story from around three points of view. It's a reasonably low figure that still affords me some different 'camera angles' on the action, and I find a multi POV helps cut down on pages of dull exposition.

The biggest challenge - finding the distinct voice of each POV. No good at all if they all sound the same.

Nik Houser
06-13-2011, 05:23 PM
I find the most natural for me is 1st person. It's also, I find, the easiest and most natural way to engender goodwill toward your protagonist, especially if he's a bad dude. A character can be a real bastard, but if he charms you, you'll follow him anywhere through the narrative, at times even cheering for him (depending on how despicable he is). However, third person can be the most rewarding, particularly if you have multiple perspectives, and can have Character A find out that Character B is in danger before switching back to follow Character B, so that the reader hopefully thinks Oh no! They're gonna get clobbered! Look-out! as they follow them around. Plus, in horror, I find its a little tricky to physically and emotionally beat up a protagonist while maintaining a 1st person perspective. Not to say it can't be done, but I prefer 3rd person when really putting someone through the wringer.

the_last_gunslinger
06-13-2011, 07:27 PM
As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner. The novel is told from nearly 20 different points of view

This was a good example of the many different ways to utilize P.O.V.

On the negative side, it was a downright terrible book. I hate Faulkner.

mlouisdixon
06-15-2011, 08:58 PM
I started off writing in 1st person because it seemed the most natural—it’s me telling somebody about something that happened to me. I found that it became rather restrictive when I wanted to expand on the story and especially when working on my novel. I’ve actually gone back and rewrote a couple of stories to make them 3rd person limited because I wanted to break out of these limits a little.

I never really cared for 2nd person. It does seem a bit too “choose your own adventure.”

Omniscient kinda intimidates me. I’ve seen it done very well in Jack Ketchum’s Off Season, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Maybe I should try my next story with that POV.

MLD

ozmosis7
06-15-2011, 10:29 PM
You can't get scrambled eggs unless you stir it up. :)

RichardThomas
06-20-2011, 06:07 PM
amen - good stuff MLD, thanks for posting

Craig Wallwork
06-20-2011, 06:36 PM
Mostly I write 1st, but recently have taken to 3rd. Only once have I wrote in 2nd, which was published by Cherry Bleeds, so I must have done something right. While you're more limited in 1st, I do like how a reader can get truly under the skin of the character. I can't arge with prose like Fante's Ask the Dust and Road to Los Angeles for 1st person.

KT Wagner
06-20-2011, 11:26 PM
While you're more limited in 1st, I do like how a reader can get truly under the skin of the character.

30,000 words in, I decided to try rewriting a few pages of my 3rd person novel in close 1st. It slipped on like a glove, so I am revising the entire thing. Lots of work and a complete reworking of sections, but worth it, I think (I hope).

I usually write in close third - I believe the story somewhat dictates POV choices and often we have to write fairly far in before it is apparent.

KT

ozmosis7
06-21-2011, 12:07 AM
30,000 words in, I decided to try rewriting a few pages of my 3rd person novel in close 1st. It slipped on like a glove, so I am revising the entire thing. Lots of work and a complete reworking of sections, but worth it, I think (I hope).

I usually write in close third - I believe the story somewhat dictates POV choices and often we have to write fairly far in before it is apparent.

KT

I think 1st allows the writer to better slip into the skin of their characters. Maybe it's easier to describe your own feelings and emotions than it is someone else's. As a reader though, I almost always prefer 3rd person. It is easier for me to visualize and get into. Mostly a preference thing though. I'd give it a few days to think about and make sure before jumping into it though. I once did the exact same thing, and then switched back.

KT Wagner
06-21-2011, 12:42 AM
I think 1st allows the writer to better slip into the skin of their characters. Maybe it's easier to describe your own feelings and emotions than it is someone else's. As a reader though, I almost always prefer 3rd person. It is easier for me to visualize and get into. Mostly a preference thing though. I'd give it a few days to think about and make sure before jumping into it though. I once did the exact same thing, and then switched back.

As a reader, my preferences cover a range. It's easier to point out what I don't like. The current trend to writing in present tense is one. It's rarely well done, IMO, but there are exceptions.

I also generally don't like 2nd person. Perhaps it works for evoking an era but I'm not sure. On the other hand, many of the classics are written in 2nd, so what do I know. :-)

I didn't revise to first person lightly. My critique group kept commenting the story felt too distant - I did all of the usual edits, weeding out distance words, stamping out passive voice...it wasn't working for them and it wasn't working for me. But still, I resisted. Then, I realized the story was already being told 80 percent from the main character's point of view.

I am trying to finish the manuscript by the beginning of August and this change probably set me back a month. :-(

KT