Point of view: a reader and writer’s perspective

Writing has made me a more critical reader. My latest library book lost me as a reader because of technical issues. Besides some rather drab characters and a meandering plot, the POV shifted so often I was starting to feel the main action of the story was my ability to leap about between character’s heads. I won’t tell you what the book  is because I don’t want to bash another writer. I can tell you that the main reason I picked it up was author recognition.

Besides being irritating, it raised all kinds of questions.  How is a well known published writer allowed to commit these major editorial sins? Where is her editor? Does this bother anybody besides me?

Point of view is challenging. It was a difficult concept for me to grasp and flipping between character’s heads is easier than channel surfing. It’s so easy to do without being aware of it, but my handy dandy desktop Self-Editing for Fiction Writers helps guide me through these muddy waters.

I also find it useful to read books, like the annoying one mentioned, which ignore this important element because it makes me aware of how much I don’t want to inflict these mental gymnastics on my readers.

As a writer, it took me a while to understand which point of view I was even writing in, but once I did, it raised my POV consciousness. For me, writing a fantasy seen through the eyes of a cat, means I must ‘become the cat’.

As a reader, I don’t have the patience to stay with a book that forces me to guess who’s thinking what. I returned the book to the library. Now I need something good to read!

6 thoughts on “Point of view: a reader and writer’s perspective

  1. Funny, but before I ever wrote a short story or an article, I tackled an entire novel — in 1st person.

    I revised the novel like 50 times, possibly over 1 million words written — in 1st person.

    I’m now tackling short stories, many of which are in close 3rd or omniscient 3rd. And it ain’t easy. There are so many rules with 3rd, so many things the mc is or isn’t supposed to do or think that if it weren’t for my stubborn drive to master something, I would stay in 1st person for all my writing.

    My biggest problem is trying to learn by reading from well-known authors, some of whom don’t play by the rules, or any rules. I’ll have to check out the book you mentioned, because I’d rather know the rules before I break them.

    1. Same here, about tackling a book first. What was I thinking?! And it’s in third person, the most confusing one.

      When I need to refresh my understanding of third person, I go to the book referenced above, Self-Editing, because I love how they define it. Third person, they say, strikes a balance between the varying degrees of intimacy of first person and ominsicient, having been defined in 26 different flavors. “It’s much less complicated to treat the third person POV as a continuum running from narrative intimacy to narrative distance.”

      The simplest way for me to think of 3rd person is a camera lens zooming up close and back out.

  2. Rahma,

    I do get a lot out of reading less than stellar writing. It helps me find the flaws in my own. I guess that’s why critiquing is so valuable to me.

    I get more out of critiquing someone else’s manuscript than I do my own. LOL! It’s just easier to understand the dynamics when the darlings you have to kill are not mine.

    1. I agree about the value of critiquing. What I found disturbing was the fact that this was a published book by a fairly well known author. It seems like the standards for publication are pretty inconsistent and I was disappointed in the quality of this second book.

      I haven’t read her first book, which is the one that made the big splash, but I plan to check it out and hope to be surprised in a good way.

  3. I’ve only written one story in the first person. Oddly the character was a 16 year old girl. Must have been one in a previous life. As regards alternating POV – I was horrified to find that I did it twice in one book. How’d that get past me the first 15 times? Getting too wrapped up in the characters I think.

    1. I don’t think I could even write from inside the head of a 16 year old girl at this point in time! 🙂

      As far as changing POV, it’s ok if you change chapters or scenes and make it obvious whose head is talking. I think it would be very hard to write a book totally from one perspective, like first person.

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