Yesterday at our monthly Saturday Writers meeting we got into a really interesting conversation about point of view, as in “writer’s point of view.” Jean (you know her; she was one of our bloggers until recently when life got in the way – Hi Jean!”) decided she’s going to write in a new point of view, which is what prompted the discussion. And in the process, we learned a couple of things, including the fact that I can’t say the word “Omniscient.” (You try it. Not that easy!) There are three primary Points of View (and a few twists on each of them, as well):
First Person – “I” point of view. Seen strictly from inside the protagonist’s head.
Third Person – “He/she” point of view. Seen from one or more characters, one at a time, and experience only what that character experiences.
Omniscient or Narrative– A narrator, who can be external or a character in the story, presents the tale to the reader. They can show us anyone’s thoughts or actions. It’s the most difficult POV to master.
Personally, as a reader and a writer, I’m a big fan of third person omniscient. I like being able to tell my story through the eyes of a number of characters (with appropriate scene changes and indicators to keep the reader following along nicely). I think this form has a number of benefits; it gives the narrator (me!) reliability because it’s clear I know everything. It lets the writer layer experiences and views, creating a rich landscape. And it covers more ground, because the writer doesn’t have to wait til the one-and-only viewpoint character comes across something to share the information. And make the POV universal omniscient instead of third-person – and things become tricky: I the writer can share with the reader things my characters don’t know.
There’s been a POV trend for the last decade of so – first person narrative. The story is told exclusively through the protagonist’s eyes. What he/she doesn’t see, neither does the reader see. What he/she doesn’t know, neither does the reader know. In some ways it’s more person… we’re living with and through the character, so we’re as closely “along for the ride” as we can be. But it’s also very limiting, in my opinion. It prevents a story from having all the layers it might have with the addition of other characters viewpoints. Often I won’t purchase a book that’s written in first POV because for me they tend to drag a bit. But I’m trying to broaden my horizons, and I just finished Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris, and I admit, I liked it. I’m also reading Lois Greiman’s Unzipped, another 1st person POV, and I’m enjoying it, too. So maybe as with all things, it’s the writer’s ability to handle the technique well.
So, I’m going to give in and test it for myself. Sometime this week I plan to rewrite Gemma’s opening scene in first person, and see if it improves, or doesn’t change at all, the strength of the piece. It should be an easy scene to experiment on, since it’s relatively short, somewhat active, and full of emotion.
I’ll let you know what I come up with.
In the meantime, what POV do you find yourself most easily immersed in? 1st person? 3rd? Omniscient?