new writers are quick to recognize how difficult it is to write
scenes and to describe the action of characters within those
scenes. Add to that the idea that within a scene or story arc,
maintaining a character's Point-of-View is critical, and, well,
the result can muddle up a manuscript. Other writers—when
critiques on their manuscript include notations about "mixing
POV" or "your POVs are distracting"—often
have misunderstood the concept.
We asked Arthur Herzog who is noted for his bestselling books
and book-to-film experiences to provide us with an overview
for writers who are grappling with this point-of-view technique.
While reading this article, imagine you have a video camera
strapped to your forehead. It'll give you just the right perspective.
WRITING TIPS :: POV ::
as you should strive to keep a balance among plot, settings
and characterizations, so you should follow the rules in fiction
regarding point of view--"POV" as denoted in film
scripts for where the camera points.
Understanding POV is essential, or ought to be.
Even writers who parade on the bestseller list sometimes don't
have the hang of it, with the result that the reader is jolted
Rarely can you deviate successfully from the POV you've established.
in fiction means who's telling the story and there are, essentially,
three possible approaches.
Person Singular - "I"
Person Singular - "he or she"
the omniscient or universal narrator who sees all e.g., "God"
in the case of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby, the
POV has advantages and drawbacks. The
main advantage of the omniscient approach is that it's the easiest
to handle. That's the major reason so many writers select it.
The universal narrator knows all and can enter a character's
head any time he chooses. The drawback of the technique (all
writing is technique) is that it can be shallow, distracting,
and uneven. In the hands of a master, however, it is a fine
person singular narration is, ordinarily, the most difficult
to achieve because "au" (as proofreaders designate
authors) is compelled to relate and describe everything through
the eyes of "I"--nothing can happen that "I"
doesn't know about, and this means the writer must compress
every event into a single perspective and finesse those who
refuse to all within that context. (In Sophie's Choice, Styron
used a one-step remove from the first person singular, an "I"
narrator who tells someone else's story.)
compromise between these two POVs is the third person singular,
which allows for the continuity of a single perspective yet
gives the writer latitude to describe things on his own, without
the blinders of "I," even though "he" or
"she" may not get as close to the bone as "I"
can. It's also possible to have two third person singular points
of view, as represented by two characters through whose eyes
the story is told in alternating chapters, say. But if two's
company, three's a crowd - and that demands
the omniscient point of view.
POV ought to be carefully and deliberately selected, even experimented
with, in terms of the needs of the material.
it in advance to avoid the self-loathing that can result from
squandering hours. But whatever the POV, and the difficulty
of forcing the action into a particular frame, stay within it.
Herzog, author of ten novels (including Heat, Orca, and Aries
Rising) also writes nonfiction (The Church Trap, The Woodchipper
Murder and Vesco: From Wall Street to Castro's Cuba) and his
short story appears in this edition of wordsmitten.com and is
titled Tear Ducts.
This article on POV (Point of View), reprinted with permission
from the author, is an excerpt from his book, How to Write Almost
Anything Better - And Faster! (Hearthstone/Carlton Press NY).
Educated at the University of Arizona, Stanford University and
Columbia University, where he received an MA in English literature,
Herzog writes for newspapers, magazines, and literary journals.
Herzog and his wife Leslie reside in East Hampton, New York.
(WordSmitten Quarterly Journal)
Reporting on the people, the books, and the business of writing
our winter issue, we feature ZZ
Packer . In
our previous issues we've featured authors Connie
May Fowler, Chris Offutt, Frank
of Angela's Ashes and winner of the Pulitzer Prize), and Alice
McDermott; editors Nan
Talese, Marcela Landres, and Ann Campbell,
and literary agents Gail Hochman, William Clark, and Eric Simonoff.