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Point of View - Walter Shillington's Author's Workshop

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Writing Skills

Before you compose the first line of your novel, you must select a method of presenting the character’s Point of View.  Although there are many types, I am going to comment only on the ones most useful to a creative writer.

FIRST PERSON
If you write in the First Person your point of view is limited to one character who talks directly to the reader.  He will refer to himself as ‘I’.   This method creates strong empathy toward the character.  It’s especially useful if your character is the bad guy because the reader gets to follow his faulty logic and justifications for his unpleasant behavior.  I use this method when I write my serial. Each episode is short and spaced a week apart, and focusing on one character helps the reader to avoid confusion.

THIRD PERSON LIMITED
In this case the point of view is generally limited to one character.  Unlike First Person, the character is referred to as he or she by the narrator.

THIRD PERSON MULTIPLE
This is much like Third Person Limited except that you can switch to the viewpoint of other characters.  Be aware that you cannot switch midstream; you must start a new scene to access the viewpoint of a different character.  This is a useful method because you are not limited to what a single character can view or hear.

THIRD PERSON OMINISCIENT
In this version of third person, the narrator knows what everyone is thinking at all times.  I consider it cheating but, certainly, any information you need to feed the reader can be easily delivered.


Below is an example of writing, examining the differences between Omniscient, Multiple and First Person.

OMNISCIENT
Jake carefully examined the lieutenant, trying to determine if the man could be trusted to carry his package to the proper authorities.
Terry, Jake’s girlfriend, stood alongside, uneasy at the young officer's insistence that they meet on this dark street.  She shivered and pulled her coat tight against the light rain.
Lieutenant Foley smiled and held out his hand.  If the information this couple carried actually referred to the Omega project, many lives could be saved.  “Glad to meet you.  I’m Ken Foley.”
Unknown to the three, deep inside a hardened bunker, Major Marshal initiated the Omega Response System.  Four hundred missiles would be launched within the next ten minutes.

In the above example every bit of information is available.  While this is good, the frequent changes to different character’s Point of View can be confusing to the reader.


THIRD PERSON MULTIPLE
Jake carefully examined the lieutenant, trying to determine if the man could be trusted to carry his package to the proper authorities.  Alongside stood Terry, her hair soaked by light rain, rigid lines of tension running up her neck. She shivered and pulled her coat tight against her narrow frame.
The young officer smiled and held out his hand.  “Glad to meet you.  I’m Ken Foley.”

Two thousand miles away, deep inside a hardened facility, Major Marshal waited for the president’s okay.  It was hot in the bunker.  Marshal wiped the sweat from his brown and poised his finger above the final interlock button.
Lieutenant Davis turned from the phone and nodded.
This is it, Marshal thought, and pressed the button.

Using the Multiple Point of View you are required to reflect a single character’s viewpoint during the length of each scene.  I started with Jake’s.  In this example I failed to present Terry’s point of view to avoid the choppiness of frequent scene changes.  The reader will still understand that she was uneasy because Jake noticed the rigid lines on her neck.  The reader did not know Lieutenant Foley’s name until he introduced himself to Jake.  Also note that I started a new scene before switching to Major Marshal’s viewpoint.


FIRST PERSON
I carefully examined the lieutenant, trying to determine if the man could be trusted to carry my package to the proper authorities.  To my side stood Terry, her hair soaked by light rain, rigid lines of tension running up her neck.  She shivered and pulled her coat tight against her narrow frame.

The young officer smiled and held out his hand.  “Glad to meet you.  I’m Ken Foley.”

First Person requires the writer limit himself to one point of view.  I chose the viewpoint of Jake.  Notice that Jake refers to himself as ‘I’ and that the package is called ‘my package’.  Because Jake has not met Major Marshal and has never visited the Major’s underground facility, the Omega missile launch cannot be reported to the reader.


 
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