Thursday, July 16, 2015

How I view it...

Points of view...

I'd argue with the editors that I need to switch points of view often because I want my readers to realize everybody sees things differently, that the same experience means different things to different people, and that some people lie to themselves about what happened!

Learning to correctly and effective use points of view was difficult for me, perhaps because I was used to watching TV shows where, as a viewer, I was verging on the omniscient, aware of almost all things happening to all characters and able to see multiple responses to events.

Although there are great stories written from an omniscient point of view, it is said readers get a much more intense and personal experience if an author takes them into the head and heart and soul of a single character. However, that intense experience is gained at the expense of intimately knowing the other characters.

The main complaint from beta readers in the early years of my writing career was that they were confused when I jumped repeatedly from one character's story to another. In working through that criticism I discovered that with skillful writing and special storytelling techniques, I could stick to a single point of view yet still let readers in on the feelings and thoughts of other characters.

I learned to do this by studying reality. I live my life in first person present, stuck in my body in a confined place in time and space yet I still manage to enjoy the experiences of others. I feel others' pain, enjoy others' successes. I worry about others, dislike others, understand and misunderstand others, all from my single point of view.

When writing, I strive to translate that ability into my story. I do this by describing characters' body language and behaviours and including lots of dialogue. Sometimes I toss in symbolism or memories, or dreams. When all else fails, I choose powerful words and exact phrasing.

I admit that at times, I still slip into a different point of view during a novel, but I am mindful of the confusion that can cause and usually reserve such switches for the beginning of new scenes or chapters.

Readers' preferences for types of points of view have changed over the years but the two things they have always wanted is to be able to follow the story without confusion and to connect deeply with the characters.

I urge writers to experiment with points of view until they find the one that makes it easiest to achieve those two things. During my learning years, I rewrote entire novels from different points of view.

In my point of view, writing is a lot of work...

Eileen Schuh, Author

Schrödinger's Cat

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