Point of View When Writing Fiction

Posted by Backyard Urban Gardening on Sunday, December 03, 2006

I've always considered myself a proficient writer. I've edited newspapers. I perform a lot of techinical writing for my employer. I publish two blogs and contribute to a lot of online discussion forums.

I almost hate to admit it, but until I started attempting to write fiction a couple of years ago, I never worried about "point of view" in my writing. In academics most everything is written from a third person perspective, so I guess I naturally gravitated toward third person writing in my attempts to write fictional stories and anecdotes.

The Blue Quill has a few articles explaining point of view with samples of the various styles and approaches to assembling a story.

First person is becoming more and more popular and is evident in the many, many memoirs that are being published currently.

Third Person is prevalent in academic and in newspaper writing, but definitely has a place in fiction as well.

My struggle with point of view is that I naturally gravitate to third person omniscient and in recent critiques I've discovered that this viewpoint removes the reader from the story to the point that they begin to lose interest in what's taking place. I think third person restricted might solve a lot of the issues I've been having with keeping the reader involved.

Any suggestions for how to teach an old third person omniscient dog some new third person restricted tricks?

I'm also interested in your suggestions for some writers and/or novels that you consider proficient third person omniscient novelists that I could read and learn from. My personal preferences gravitate toward the thriller/mystery genres.

I think it's interesting that "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee is written in first person and is highly regarded as one of the alltime American classic novels, but most of the "how to" articles, books and memoirs about "how to write" favor third person point of view.

That tells me that if you are good enough and the story has the "right stuff", point of view might not be as important as some writers think it is.


Fran said...

...I think many classics are written in third-person omniscient. I also think writing how-to instruction books and writers and--oh, just about everything and everyone involved in things-publishing make TOO MUCH out of point-of-view, and out of all the various writing parts. That a particular story works as a whole is more important; "the" point-of-view used probably shouldn't be so noticeable that readers discuss it a lot in detail. And I put "the" in quotes because I don't see any reason why more than one POV can't be used in a single work. Actually, I think some works really demand more than one POV, and when they aren't ultimately written that way, they read weirder, they read as bad writing. So either those authors should have chosen to tell different stories, or should have broadened the way those stories were told, or maybe both things should have been done.

Write your story how you think it should best be written--and make that POV(s) work!

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