Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Words Come Alive

What’s the Easy Way to Understand POV?

Your character walks through shadows in a narrow alley. But you may feel a distance as you watch him, or you may sense his anxiety. Part of that difference comes from the point of view (POV) of the character.

Most books are written in the third person, and mention the words, “him” or “her”. The first person use of “I” occurs rarely. However, the third person can come close with the first person by using the third person internal POV.

So what’s the difference? Think involvement by being inside the character’s head. Internal POV also means more emotion with each statement. Notice the difference —

Megan walked across the room to confront Sammy who expected her anger.

Megan clenched the note in her hand from Sammy as she walked across the room. “How dare he try that!” she thought. Why was Sammy simply standing there, not even blinking, as though he anticipated her reaction?

Notice the change. In the first example, the reader is aware of both people. Yet in the second, the reader is drawn into Megan’s mind. Sammy’s thinking is only guessed by her because the reader exists in her internal POV.

Using POV avoids the omniscient third person where the narrator knows all. For many writers, the goal helps place the reader as a participating voyeur, sneaking peeks into the heads of others without being in danger of discovery.

Yet it’s more than that. The device helps to set up mysteries. Often a narrator-told omniscient style leads the reader to think some marionette player sits above the plot, moving the characters. For some stories, that might be the approach needed. You might want to have readers see above the fray where a vast assembly of characters loom. However, when you want to let the characters chart their own course, the internal POV is another tool that a writer can use.

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