Thursday, January 15, 2015

Perils of the Writer: Perspective and POV

I'm a pretty die-hard multiple-third-person-limited POV kind of guy.  This is because perspective and POV are tools in the writer's toolkit, and multiple-third-person-limited POVs are, for me, the vice grips of writing. Maximum control and maximum torque.
All right, that metaphor is a little strangled.
I'm not a fan of first-person, because I find it far too limiting.  Also, I come from a background of film and theatre, so I'm used to having some distance between the audience and the characters.  Plus, those are the kind of books I like.  I have very few favorites that are first-person.
I'm also not a fan of third-person omniscient, at least as far as my own writing goes.  I think it can be done very well-- Neil Gaiman is fantastic at it, for example-- and for it to work, I think it needs a distinct narrator's voice-- as if the narrator is a separate character.  I've dabbled with it, but it isn't a good fit for the stories I'm telling.
Here's what I really like about multiple-third-person: I get to jump around and be in the right person's head for any given scene.  I get to give the reader information that the main characters don't have.
I'm not really a big believer in any "rules" for who can be a POV character.  For me, the best POV character is whoever makes the scene most interesting.  Main character, secondary character, or random interloper who happens to be observing the action.
Of course, the real trick is making sure it all works.  Giving a character the POV is giving them power to define the narrative. You need to ensure that it won't disrupt your story. For example, if you're telling a murder mystery, jumping to the POV of a suspect will immediately confirm or exonerate them as the murderer.  You don't want to do that until it's the right time in the story to give that information.

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