My view on viewpoint


So I’m in the beginning stages of an enormous edit round – all the stuff from critique group #1, plus some things I’m tossing in for good measure.

One of the main critiques I received was related to characterization, so I turned to my copy of “Character and Viewpoint” by Orson Scott Card – part of the Elements of Fiction Writing series (that I love so so much).

I’ve read the book before, and I have to admit that at the time, the point of view section sort of terrified me and I vowed to write everything in first person from that point on. (Not only does that solve the “how deep do I go” question of writing in third person, but it addresses the elusive “voice” question too….hmmmm.)

So what do I do? Complicate things. I write my WIP in third person. Arg.

All the way through drafts 1-3, I wondered: how much of my point of view character can/should I reveal through narration? Basically, I just did what felt right and let it work itself out in the wash.

Today I realized I was leaving some great characterization opportunities on the table, so to speak. So now I’m going in after them. I’m weaving more detail into my narration about what my peeps are thinking – about the situation, about themselves, and about other characters.

In re-reading Orson’s section on point of view, I latched onto one important concept…allow me to paraphrase: a good third person story will vary from cinematic (who did what to whom, with no internal detail) to shallow (who did what to whom, plus the occasional dip into the point of view character’s thoughts using “he thought” attribution) to deep (full disclosure, everything is as seen through the character’s eyes), depending on the stakes involved in the scene in question.

Cool. I can do that…I think.

I find most of the elements of storytelling to be intuitive, or at least common-sense. Third person viewpoint, however, doesn’t come easy. To me, it’s the most esoteric element of the whole game.

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One thought on “My view on viewpoint

  1. I’m right in the middle of a huge edit on my WIP as well. Writing third person can totally be difficult at times, especially when trying to keep up the tension. Good luck with your edits!

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