Monday, November 2, 2009

Respect the head you're in...

Awhile back I gave a talk which included a discussion on Point Of View and I think I confused more than I clarified. I'm very sorry folks. POV is one of those aspects of writing that just when I think I have it sussed, breaks free of my grasp like a wriggley two year old who turns around and blows a raspberry at me. I confess that once or twice I have written in first person just to avoid committing any POV sins. And I must also confess that I am not confident when head hopping is and isn't a legitmate thing to do. But what I can say about POV is, respect the head you're in. Whatever point of view you are writing from will have certain limitations which must be respected. If writing from my own POV I cannot know what is going on inside someone else's head or how they are feeling. I can make educated guesses based on physical and verbal cues which is how it should be spelled out in my writing. I cannot know what is going on beyond my hearing or vision except for some physical or aural cues which must be spelled out in my writing. Likewise from any character's POV. POV can change during a piece of writing but there must be a reason for doing so and there must be enough cues for the reader to know who the POV resides with. Readers like a challenge but if they can't tell what is going on they will put the book down. An omniscient POV does not necessarily solve all these problems as knowing everything can also lead to reader confusion. If you are having trouble with POV in your writing, try working in first person for awhile. The discipline of a more restricted point of view will show you what is and isn't possible and once you have it under control, can provide a good springboard onto more complex POV arrangements.

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