Point-of-View Part 1: POV Styles

Point of view is second only to dialogue mechanics on the list of new writer trouble spots.Research Triangle Publications It is one of the most common errors you’ll find in less polished works. If your reader can’t get through the first chapter without stumbling across major POV blunders, it is unlikely he’ll keep reading, no matter how much appeal the story or characters may otherwise have. He may not recognize what’s wrong; he only knows that the story “sounds funny” or that it’s hard to follow. Worse yet, POV errors instantly tear down the walls of your magical storyland.  A sudden, jarring shift in perspective will rocket your reader from Victorian England or Planet Xenax right back into his living room, faster than the Starship Enterprise. Without revisiting fifth grade English, let’s look at the basics of point of view and how to avoid the POV slip-ups that can send your potential readers running for the hills…or at least the next e-book on their reader. Despite attempts to classify point of view into discrete categories, like first person, third person omniscient, third person limited, etc., there probably are as many variations on perspective as there are authors of fiction, and that’s one of the beautiful things about this art form.  The key is to deliberately choose a perspective style that you are comfortable writing in and that will work with your story, and then stick to it.  It is the sloppy shifts in perspective that you want to avoid. Flavors of POVFree eBooks From how many different points of view can a story be written? At least as many as the product of all these variations, plus all the ones I haven’t thought of.
  • Person — First or third. Quite simply, first person means narrating with the “I” and “we” pronouns, while third uses “he”, “she” and “they”.
  • Tense — Present or Past. Your narrator can speak in the present tense, as though the story were unfolding at precisely the moment the reader is hearing about it, or he can tell all or part of the story as though it happened in the past.
  • Perspective — Limited or omnisicent. With limited perspective, the reader will be seeing only through the eyes of a single character for the duration of a given scene, chapter, or the whole book. In omniscient, the reader has approximately equal insight into all characters at all times, and may even see or hear things that no character has access to.
  • Count — Single/Multi. You can tell the whole story from the perspective of just one character, or you can use multiple character/narrators, each in turn.  Note the difference between count and perspective–you can have limited perspective (one person’s view), but have multiple narrators, by giving each character a “turn” at the helm. For example, many romance novels have as their narrators both members of the soon-to-be happy couple, each giving their perspective on events, perhaps in alternating chapters.
  • Narrator — Are your POV characters major or minor actors in the story, or completely uninvolved observers? Most writers choose one or more major characters as narrators, since they are naturally present for the action, but it is possible and sometimes necessary or just fun to allow a minor character or even a non-character to tell the tale and offer their more objective insights into the events.
  • Intimacy — A spectrum from very close to completely objective. Intimacy is not a 0/1, but rather a conscious decision on the author’s part about how far inside the head of the narrating character the reader will be taken. Will the reader hear a constant running monologue of every thought that passes through the narrator’s head, or will the narrator simply report objectively on what he is witnessing? Free eBooksIntimacy is something you can play around with, offering more or less, as parts of the story dictate, without completely alienating the reader. When the conversation or actions in a scene pretty clearly indicate what the narrator is thinking, inner dialogue is redundant and patronizing, but if your character is saying one thing and thinking the exact opposite, the reader needs that insight–unless you are deliberately keeping him in the dark!
  • Fourth Wall — In either first or third person, you can allow the narrating character to speak directly to the reader. This isn’t common in fiction, but is a device some authors use to strengthen the bond between the reader and his narrating characters.  In most cases, narrating characters speak as story-tellers without apparent awareness that anyone is “listening”, but if you want to break down the fourth wall, you can allow your narrator to acknowledge and directly address the reader through the use of the pronoun “you”.
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll take a closer look at some of the ins and outs of using first person POV.

Word Usage: Two, Too, To

I am continuously amazed at the otherwise intelligent, articulate people who misuse these three homophones in their writing.  C’mon, folks, we learned this stuff in what–the third grade?  Take a minute to refresh your memory. kindle helpTwo always refers to the number: “We are number two in our division.” Too is a synonym for also (“I’m hungry, too!”), or it is used as an adverb, which means it modifies a verb or an adjective (too hungry, too smart, too doggone tired). To is (almost always) a preposition: “Let’s get to it!” or “I’ve got work to do.” If those distinctions don’t help you, look for something in this list of examples that matches your situation:
She had two children.Motherhood was too much for her.She took the children to her mother's.
There were two gloves in the pair.They were too small for his hands.The judge asked to see them.
Two is not the loneliest number.Can I go, too?We will travel to the moon.
When I was two, I could not read.I was too young.Eventually, I learned to read and write.
I counted off his good qualities: one, two, three.He was sweet, kind, and funny, too.Someday, I hope to marry him.
We two are joined at the hip (meaning, "the two of us are joined").We, too, are joined at the hip (meaning, "like you, we--any number of us--also are joined").To join these people in Holy Matrimony...
It was just the two of us.She was too close for comfort.I could never get used to that.
Did the game have two periods, or three?They were too near the goal line.The score was five to seven.

Word Usage: Lose vs. Loose

In today’s word usage tip, I want to strike a blow at the heart of one of my biggest semantic pet peeves: lose vs. loose. I see this pair confused probably more than any other combination in the English language. For those of you who can’t keep it straight, here is the dope: The word loose rhymes with noose, and refers to something that is not tight or well controlled. It might help you to remember those two words together: If I were in a noose, I’d prefer it to be loose. The word lose, on the other hand, rhymes with booze, and refers to not knowing where something is, or to no longer having possession of it: If you drink too much booze, your license you may lose. Okay, poetry may not be my forte, but word usage is. Here are a few more examples:
She went on a diet in order to lose some weight.Afterwards, all her clothes were too loose.
Somehow, he managed to lose the incriminating evidence.He was no role model to follow; his ethics were rather loose.
He was afraid to lose their confidence.There was no way to loosen his grip on the committee.
She did not want to lose the election.Her compensation was only loosely tied to her performance.
He may have won the battle, but he would surely lose the war.He really cut loose at the victory celebration.