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My Freedom Flame

Motivating Writers Worldwide

Tag: point-of-view

Strive for Limited Point of View

The days of omniscient point of view are long gone and it’s time to buckle down and limit point of view just as you would experience life. Just like you do experience life. We don’t view life from an omniscient viewpoint and neither should your main character.

 

How to Limit Point of View

The easiest way is to write from a first-person narrative, using pronouns like ‘I’, ‘me,’ ‘my,’ ‘mine,’ over the third person view.

This helps novice authors stay in point of view and although I never published a work in first-person point of view, I have written shorter works in this narrative and it helped me remain in a limited scope throughout the work.

If you find yourself naturally writing in third-person, using the character’s name, plus pronouns like ‘he,’ (she, if the point of view character is female), ‘his,’ etc., remember six things:

1. The reader should only see what the point of view character sees.

2. The reader should only hear what the point of view character hears.

3. The reader should only taste what the point of view character tastes.

4. The reader should only touch what the point of view character touches.

5. The reader should only smell what the point of view character smells.

6. The reader should only read the point of view character’s thoughts.

Side note: I’m saying the point of view character and not the main character, as there are times your point of view character isn’t your main character.

For instance, in my Neo Skyehawk novelette series, Neo is the main character in Book II, Fighting Treason, but Seneca LaSalle, who is Neo’s best friend, takes over as the point of view character and eventually, the main character in later works.

 

What You Need to Know

Okay, small spoiler alert: In the Lord of Columbia Series, Cain is hard at hearing, which means the reader isn’t going to hear everything. In Cain’s point of view, other characters mumble in his eyes, so he has a tough time understanding words. They sound slurred to him.

So, if I were to be clear with what Lira Ross or any other character in the series says to Cain all the time, it loses that point of view connection. Instead, I’ll state another character said something unintelligible, prompting Cain to lean forward or ask that character to repeat what they said.

That’s point of view, but it took me a nice little learning curve to get it right, so if you struggle early, don’t flip.

Say, for instance, your point of view character is short and a taller character peers over a wall and sees something. In the shorter character’s point of view, the reader should only get an idea of what’s over the wall by reading the taller character’s face.

From a sense of sight, only when the point of view character sees something should the reader also see it. Only if the point of view character knows something should the reader know it.

Now, there might be a time where this breaks. For instance, in Prince Caspian, the reader is experiencing a story from Caspian’s viewpoint for a part of the novel. Assuming the reader already read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, they do know about the Pevensie Kids’ reign in Narnia before, however, Caspian is just learning it.

The reader knows the Pevensies stopped the White Witch, however, Caspian is beside himself with excitement when he learns this early in the book, much like he is when he finds that the animals talked.

So, if you’re writing a series and are introducing a second point of view character, feel free to bend the rule a little bit here. However, I would only recommend this if your books still stick with a primary point of view character from the series itself, much like Lewis did with Prince Caspian.

 

How Many Point of View Characters?

Ideally, one point of view character per book, however, there are numerous exceptions, as Jerry Jenkins once pointed out when he wrote Left Behind, which took place on a global scale, necessitating two points of view.

The same goes for you.

What is the scale of your book?

If it’s on a global scale as Left Behind was, more than one point of view character (Rayford Steele and Buck Williams) is necessary.

However, if you’re writing a book on a much smaller scale, like when I wrote Northern Knights, only one character (Cain Riscattare) was necessary.

Again, this is an ideal situation and isn’t required by any means, especially if you have a large ensemble of characters.

At the very least, you should aim for one point of view character per chapter, but you can narrow this down more if need be to one point of view character per scene, but nothing less.

So, one per scene or one per chapter works, but one per book should be the primary aim.

If you are doing one per scene, it’s best to remember the following steps:

1. Always, always, always use the point of view character’s full name if you’re flipping back and forth. For instance, Jerry Jenkins would state Rayford Steele when in Rayford’s point of view and Cameron Williams when it Buck’s point of view.

2. Always use a typographical dingbat to distinguish point of view. For instance, I use this **** as my cue AND the character’s full name to cue a reader in a change of point of view.

 

Go Distant, or Go Deep?

Now, there are two types of point of view; distant and deep and yes, it’s okay to switch between the two unless a reader specifically likes distant or deep point of view.

I’d say my Lord of Columbia Series is more of a hybrid. There are some deep methods in it, but other times there are distant methods when I couldn’t concoct anything below the surface.

Some of the best writers out there use deep point of view in an exclusive manner and unfortunately, I’m not one of those writers and it’ll take about 5,000 more hours of invested writing and editing before I scratch the surface.

What is the difference between distant and deep?

Distant point of view is used when you’re seeing through the characters eyes but are still using some dialogue tags such as ‘he said,’ ‘she said.’ Also seeing and acting upon the point of view character’s thoughts aren’t so clear. Again, this is okay and some of the best books out there are written in a distant point of view.

Deep point of view consists of when a character is only acting on his or her thoughts and the entire narration is based among these thoughts. In other words, the reader never leaves the main character’s head. Deep point of view, from a narration standpoint, can even be told from the main character’s voice.

 

If you’ve ever read The Catcher in the Rye, you’ll have a decent idea of what deep point of view looks like, as the entire story is told in Holden Caulfield’s voice. Every thought that passes through Holden also passes through the reader.

Dialogue tags are still alive and well in this book, but it’s a great example of writing where nothing is going on beyond what Holden sees, hears, feels, etc.

When you’re a novice author and are just trying to take your first stab at writing, I recommend just starting from a distant point of view. You will find places where you can go deep, but with each subsequent work, you’ll find yourself diving deeper into a point of view from a natural standpoint.

I found this out after completing Swords of Destiny, where Cain’s point of view was much deeper in it than Northern Knights. And I’m sure the point of view is even deeper in Missing in Columbia than Swords of Destiny. Each passing work will help you improve as a writer.

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Fiction Writing Tips: How to Master Point-of-View

Put Yourself in Your Main Character’s Shoes

Alright, today’s tip is going to encompass an entire article rather than breaking something into three or four parts. We’re covering fiction writing tips today that will help you master one of the more difficult skills a fiction author will face: Point-of-view.

When I found out point-of-view existed back in November 2017 (thank you, Jerry Jenkins!) I found my writing during the first drafts of Northern Knights was omniscient.
At times, omniscient point-of-view works and the classic novels are good at displaying such work.

However, times have changed and today point-of-view must be limited, as if the reader (and the author) is the main character, seeing the work from their eyes.

Why has this become?

We live in an age where authors are facing more than just competition from other authors. We’re facing competition from iPads, iPhones, TV, movies, the latest video game, Netflix binge-watching, and whatever else these mad tech scientists are concocting.

It isn’t a day where books rule the world which was prevalent in the early to mid-twentieth century.

But, there’s hope and if you’re having a tough time mastering point-of-view, you found such hope.

 

Through the Eyes of the Main

There are exceptions to this rule but most works will be seen through the eyes of a main character, typically the main character.

You know those five senses they taught you about?

Yep, the main character and only the main character can see, feel, hear, taste, and smell things. No one else can.

You can imply they can, such as something insane happens and Lira’s eyes widened. But we’re still in Cain’s point-of-view. For this, you can’t say Lira was shocked (show, don’t tell), but you should say this:

Lira’s eyes widened and she stumbled backward as Ferguson tore between her and Cain.

“What just happened?” Lira said, gazing where Ferguson bolted off.

Kid’s on freaking crack. Cain crossed his arms. “I don’t know, but he’s flying high on something.”

Note a few things here. You’re seeing Lira’s expression and Ferguson bolting away with his arms flailing through Cain’s eyes.

But, note something else. I didn’t have to say Cain saw or even state Cain thought. We know Cain’s thinking when I state ‘Kid’s on freaking crack’ after Ferguson bolted off. We can say Lira looked, or in this case gazed because Cain, and therefore the reader can see Lira turning her head and looking in a certain direction.

 

Don’t Say They Saw, Thought, or Felt

Like I mentioned above, it’s not necessary to state Cain saw, thought, felt, or anything related. Instead, let’s so it so the reader can experience it.

Cain whipped around. “What the hell was what, Lira?”

The reader realizes Cain’s perturbed.

Or, this example:

Cain snickered. “It sure as hell sounded like a dream starring Yours Truly.”

The reader knows Cain’s amused.

What about text outside a quote.

Oh, Gaia in hell, does she always freak out like this?

We’re seeing Cain’s thoughts, but again, being in his point-of-view, we don’t have to say Cain thought. We can just say what he thought.

Also, we can’t say what the other characters are thinking. For instance, we can’t state Lira was annoyed with Cain. We show this like this:

Fling!

“Oh, ow, son of a bitch, Lira, what the hell did you throw at me?”

Lira raised her eyebrows. “I told you not to get smart with me.”

I think the reader knows Cain annoyed Lira enough for her to throw a piece of metal into his face by showing her actions.

For instance, if a character raises their voice at the main and are shaking with a vein pulsing, it shows they’re angry.

If the author just says the other character is angry, the reader feels nothing. By showing it, the reader will feel everything the main character is feeling. Man, that piece of metal to the head hurt! I felt that one!

Not only did I provide examples that never stated Cain saw this or felt the piece of metal. Cain’s reaction to Lira flinging a piece of metal into his face shows the reader Cain’s reaction.

 

The Reader Knows what the Main Knows

Jerry Jenkins states that ideally, there should be one point-of-view per book, but always one per scene and preferably one per chapter.

Now, Jenkins certainly deviated from this at times and sometimes it’s necessary.

For instance, I’m drafting Book Four in the Lord of Columbia Series while editing Books Two and Three.

Book Four does require two points-of-view due to the plot’s complexity and distance. Jenkins practiced this in his Left Behind Series, which took place at the global level.

If there’s information the reader needs from two points-of-view, this can be done but remember to limit point-of-view to one per scene or ideally, one per chapter.

Also, when changing point-of-view let the reader know with a typographical dingbat. For instance, when in Cain’s point-of-view in Book Four, I would place a few asterisks above the scene to indicate change in point-of-view.

It’s also wise to use a character’s full name so I would state Cain Riscattare in the first line instead of Cain.

This will let the reader know of the point-of-view switch so they can experience the story from Cain’s eyes, in this example.

 

Avoid Head-hopping

And, my final tip is to avoid head-hopping. This might be rampant in your work if you struggle with point-of-view but it will get easier as time goes on.

Head-hopping is when an author goes from one point-of-view to another in the same scene.

For instance, if I were to take the scene with Ferguson again, as mentioned earlier and stated the following:

Cain gazed where Ferguson bolted off.

Now, we’re no longer in Cain’s limited point-of-view.

If I were to go on to state this:

Lira stumbled backward. Someone needs to help the poor kid. “What just happened?”

We just went from being in Cain’s point-of-view earlier in the scene (in the actual text) to Lira’s point-of-view without telling the reader otherwise.

This leads to a confused reader.

 

Take Action

So, save yourself some harsh critics and practice this exercise by stating what’s in front of you. For instance, here’s where I am at this moment in time:

Sitting in the library, Todd typed another blog onto his laptop. It was a busy day here on a late-Wednesday afternoon. Every table was packed with patrons and the librarians scurried all over the place helping those searching for books. Another patron entered and swept in front of Todd’s table, parking himself at the far end near the window.

Once again, we never stated I looked or anything. But, we saw the whole thing from my point-of-view.

Let’s add more pizzazz.

Todd squirted fruit-punch flavored drink mix into his water bottle and took a swig.

Again, readers know what fruit punch tastes like. The goal, by mentioning the fruit punch flavored mix is to get the reader to taste the punch.

Someone nearby was streaming a live music video while two others conversed about their day behind Todd.

You know I’m hearing something but I never had to state that I heard anything.

Hmm, was someone wearing cologne? It wasn’t Cosmo Kramer’s beach cologne, but it was something tropical. Perhaps it was time to book another trip to the beach or to see family in Fort Myers, Florida?

We’re getting the smells.

The table consisted of a rugged texture, a stark contrast from the smooth-ended keyboard.

Finally, the sense of touch, without saying anyone felt.

It might take a bit of sentence structuring and word playing, but once your product is finished you’ll see first-hand how much better your work reads when point-of-view is mastered.

Thanks a bunch for coming across My Freedom Flame, and please follow my blog for more information regarding fiction writing tips. Thanks again and please come back soon.

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