Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Choosing the Best POV

As discussed last week, point-of-view (POV) offers quite a few options and even options within the options. You may not know what's best for your story or you may tend to default to a certain POV. So let's review some ways to get around these issues.

Go With Your Gut
A lot of writing decisions seem to be made instinctively. There is no calculation. Things come about because they feel right and a lot of times we don't question it. Sometimes instinct knows better than we do and the first choice is the best choice. So if the POV feels right, then you may already have your answer.

But what if the first choice is really just the safe choice? It might be instinct because it's what we're comfortable doing. If so, let's see how we can spice things up.

Test the options. Go ahead and start the story with your gut POV. But don't necessarily settle for it. Rewrite it (or part of it) in a different POV. In fact, go a little nuts and try more than one by using variations on the different points-of-view. For example, if you initially wrote it in first person try third person limited omniscient. Have fun with it. See where things go. While you may be more comfortable writing in one POV you may discover opportunities exploring a different one.

Making a Choice
So you've gone with your gut and you've pushed personal boundaries and experimented with POV. Now what? Stand back from your writing for a second and ask these questions: How does the POV help the characters? As a reader, are they easier or harder to get involved with? Do you feel what they feel? Are their personalities more or less distinct? How does the POV affect the storytelling? Is it flexible enough? Can you show what you need to or are you too limited? Or maybe you're not limited enough?

Ultimately, think about what's best for the story. Don't limit your options because of fear. Experiment. Enjoy the process of finding your POV. Something may happen in the middle that changes everything. And isn't that one of the joys of writing?

Get Writing!
Take a story you've already written or are working on writing. What POV are you using? Pick the opposite POV and write at least one page. What happens to the story? Do you see things emerging that didn't with the original POV? Are your characters showing sides you've never seen? Your goal: Go outside your comfort zone and see what the alternatives have to offer. Even if you stick with the original, you may learn some things that will serve you well later. Plus, you may find a new POV to use for another piece.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent advice. POV can make so much difference in a piece.


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