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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who's Head is it Anyways?

I recently spoke with someone having trouble with point of view. So, I decided to post my response to her email on my blog because maybe there were other writer's out in cyberland who would benefit from this information.

Imagine yourself at a party holding a video camera. Everything you film is what your two hands move the camera to capture. Your voice is the only one speaking into the microphone. No one else can film your party like you. You film what you want, say what you want, and zoom in on what you want.

And then you pass the video camera to your husband. Now he films what he wants, says what he wants, and zooms in on what he wants. His story and everything he captures will be nothing like yours. The only way we can go back to your point of view is if the camera is handed back to you.

Now imagine you have two characters and their scene is their camera. They have to pass a scene back and forth between them so, the audience can understand their side of the story.

Sara, the heroine, begins the book in her POV. Everything she feels, sees, hears, tastes, thinks, and touches are written here. If anyone interrupts her internal monologue with their five senses or thoughts will throw her point of view off. Because it's all about her and her thoughts and her emotions and her five senses. No one else is allowed.

Sara, pass the camera, scene.

Now after we space down a couple of times, we introduce our hero, Sam. This scene is told from his side of the story. His thoughts, his emotions, his five senses are recorded here. However, if Sara jumps in and her internal monologue appears, telling the reader her five senses, thoughts, or emotions while it's Sam's turn...she should feel guilty and be banished for the next 20 pages. Because as our mommas always told us it is rude to butt in on someone else's business. Besides, it's Sam's turn with the camera/scene.

This is called a purist point of view, because it is one scene - one point of view.

My critique partner made the claim that when you write like this the reader doesn't get to experience both the hero and heroine's emotion...for instance, when they share their first kiss. But this is not so. Sam tells his story about their chance kiss in his cynical way. There was nothing to the kiss. It was just a peck, one he'd give his own sister. He brushes the thought aside. There's more important things to think Gary at work and how he always spys on Sam.

But wait, the next scene opens in Sara's loving point of view. She feels she has met her knight in shining armour. His lips were soft against hers and his hand pressed ever so gently against the small of her back. The kiss is obviously the beginning of a relationship.

Same kiss-two scenes-two points of view gives the reader even more insight into the character's goals, motivations, and conflicts. We know even more now than had we had one scene and only the descriptions of each character's emotions during the kiss.

If your not sure what omniscient point of view is...let's take it one step further.

Well, let's introduce one more character...the narrator. If Sam and Sara pass the camera back and forth, so the reader can see each side to their emotions, thoughts, and five senses, the narrator is the producer in the private sound room. The narrator tells the story, but sometimes she steps over her boundary and she spies and she exposes their private thoughts on a T.V. reality show.

However, this omniscient character is worse than the producers of any show. Because she is aware of Sam's and Sara's emotions, thoughts, and five senses and intrudes on their privacy by exposing what she knows, which is okay for a reality show, but is awful for fiction. Readers want to discover the characters on their own without someone telling them what is going on in the story.

Try this:

First Person Exercise

Write about Sara calling Sam for a date in first person. Using the word I and the verb is and be sure to include her five senses, her emotions, and her internal monologue (what she thinks).

Third Person Exercise

Write about Sam's reaction to the phone call in an internal monologue, entirely in third person. Using the word He and the verb was and include his thoughts, emotions, and five senses.

Omniscient Exercise

Write another scene this time about Sara arriving at Sam's apartment to ask him why he won't date her. Include both their thoughts, emotions, and five senses in this one scene.

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