Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 10, 2018

ASK DIANNE – POV

Q: What does ‘point of view’ really mean? How does it affect the way I write my story?

A: Great question! There are many good books on writing fiction that explain the answer to this question in detail, and I’ll include some good ones at the end of this post. But for the sake of getting us started thinking in the general direction of a story’s point of view (POV) let’s review a few key points.

First, choosing POV is a key story-telling decision whether you are writing a picture book or a novel, or any fiction format in between. Even if your writing project is what is now called narrative nonfiction, you as a writer will benefit from choosing a POV from which to tell the facts to your reader.
Many of us think of POV only in its narrower, most simplified technical definition as expressed in writing manuals, summarized below:

Point of view is divided into three voices, or three groups of pronouns known as First, Second, and Third person narrative viewpoints. First Person POV uses the “I” narrator. Second person POV is generally only used in instructional writing and is told from the perspective of “you”. Third person is the most commonly used POV, employing a “he/she/we” narrator.

But Merriam-Webster dictionary offers us this additional definition: “a position or perspective from which something is considered or evaluated”. As fiction writers, we can use this definition deftly to craft a compelling story using the chosen POV as our compass.

If you, for example, wish to tell a story from First Person POV, this choice goes way beyond simply using the “I saw” versus the simple “she saw” versus “he/she/we saw” or “you saw” language options. It’s a global choice to choose first person viewpoint for your story, one affecting all the narrative aspects of setting, dialogue, action and emotional resonance. It means your storytelling is automatically limited to using all, but ONLY, the inner thoughts, emotions, plot knowledge, dialogue, action, and interaction in which your Main Character is privy to. This may intensify your story’s impact because it is so close up and personal for your reader, but it also may limit the scope of what you can show/tell in the story. Depending on your theme, your takeaway message, the nature of the fictional format you’ve chosen and your unique writing style, writing in first person POV may be a good choice. Or not.

There isn’t one that is always or absolutely right. It is, however, a choice to be carefully thought out before choosing for each story you want to tell. But please, don’t wait to write before you’ve chosen! Try writing the first drafts of shorter pieces or key scenes in a variety of POV’s first to test the waters. Read them aloud, read them to others, put them aside…and then decide. I’ve even reviewed a manuscript at mid-point or beyond, and made the call to re-cast it in a different POV because the story needed it. At any point, if the way a story evolves as you draft it shifts the story’s needs for a particular POV, don’t be afraid to go back and change it. Remember: the story is BOSS.

As for the recommended books I’ve promised at the end of the blog post, I’ll limit it to one this time around. It’s the best I’ve found over the years for general writing instruction: The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, written collectively by the over 30 instructors comprising the New York Writers Workshop. It’s covers every aspect of the craft, plus detailed literary reading lists and writing exercises. In August, I’ll point out other titles I’ve found helpful along the way. Meanwhile, as always, happy writing to you! Dianne.

DIANNE’S BIO:

Dianne Ochiltree is a nationally recognized author of books for the very young. Her books have appeared on numerous recommended reading lists, classroom desks and library shelves. Her bedtime book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE, was a selected for the Dollywood Foundation’s childhood literacy initiative, Imagination Library in 2007. Her picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! THE LEGEND OF MOLLY WILLIAMS AMERICA’S FIRST FEMALE FIREFIGHTER, received the Florida Book Awards (FBA) Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012 and was chosen for the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list of feminist literature for girls. Her picture book, IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT, won the FBA Silver Medal in 2013. Her 2015 title, IT’S A SEASHELL DAY, was given the FBA Gold Medal/Gwen Reichert Award as well as the Gold Medal for Florida picture book from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. For more information about Dianne’s books, go to http://www.dianneochiltree.com.

Dianne, thanks for sharing your expertise with us. Another great article.

REMEMBER: To send in your questions for Dianne. Use Kathy(dot)Temean(at)gmail.com. Please put ASK DIANNE in the subject box.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Saw on Facebook it’s Dianne’s birthday – Happy Birthday Dianne! Hope you are enjoying your day!

    Like


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