Problems with point of view

Writing a novel – a writer’s journal part 17

Problems with point of view

I honestly thought I had this point of view (POV) thing licked.

Not so.

Over recent days I have struggled with my choice of using the third person limited point of view. Initially-way back in chapter 1-I experimented with the first person POV. I wrote the chapter in the third person, then at the suggestion of one of my supervisors rewrote it in the first person. While it was an interesting exercise, it didn’t jell in my thoughts.

Since then I’ve stuck with the third person, and tried valiantly to maintain only the protagonist’s POV. Using the limited POV has inherent problems. Chief among these is the fact that the main character must be ‘on stage’ all the time. At one point in chapter 5 I have him running off away from the other children he was playing with. That’s a no-no. It’s his story-so we have to go off with him.

In other chapters I fall into another trap with limited third person POV. In subtle ways I slip into-without meaning to, of course-the thoughts of other characters. That’s another no-no. Limited POV means just that: limited. I can only let the reader ‘hear’ the thoughts of my protagonist-not everyone else in the neighbourhood. In order to dip into their thoughts, I actually have to make them say what they are thinking. There is no other way of knowing what they are thinking, or feeling. Well, actually, their actions can also convey this in a limited way.

Why didn’t I choose an omniscient POV? Then I could have dipped-God-like-into everyone’s thoughts! This can be very confusing to young readers, of course, so that option is not really one I can take.

Perhaps I could have used a shifting POV. The chapters could alternate the POV from one character to another. Again, this presents problems for both writer and the young reader. Possible, but it has to be done well. I made a decision against this before even writing a word. I had another idea for my novel, where there were two equal protagonists, each having their POV in alternating chapters. I chose not to follow this path as I felt my technical skills were not up the challenge. The plot also needed far more research than I had time for anyway, so I shelved that idea for another day.

All I can say now is that when I come to rewriting and editing, I’m going to have a few nerve wracking weeks trying to eliminate every shift in point of view.

Good writing.

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2 Responses to “Problems with point of view”

  1. […] the whole manuscript, rewriting sentences and passages as needed. I know I have some problems with point of view in the early chapters, for example. I will also sit down with my supervising lecturer and analyse […]

  2. […] Problems with point of view – further discussion on this topic. […]