Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Craft Book of the Month: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Week 2: Point of View

I am loving this book. It's a must for your bookshelves, everyone.

In Chapter 3, we are introduced to the concept of Point of View:

Some writing books distinguish as many as twenty-six different flavors of point of view, but there are really only three basic approaches: first person, third person, and omniscient.

Each of these is elaborated upon. Here are the things I highlighted:

Of first person: "In order to succeed... you have to create a character strong enough and interesting enough to keep your readers going for an entire novel."

Of third person: "If first person invites intimacy and the omniscient narrator allows for perspective, the third person strikes a balance between the two."

So, the writers ask: "What degree of narrative distance is right for you?"

Answer: Broadly speaking, the more intimate the point of view the better. One of the most vital and difficult tasks facing a writer is creating believable and engaging characters, and an intimate point of view is a terrific way to do this. When you use your characters' language in your descriptions, you not only convey the sights and sounds around them, you also convey their history, their education, and the culture they live in without any additional effort."

Finally, here's a tip close to my descriptively-challenged heart:

Allowing your characters' emotions to steep into your descriptions also lets you use description more freely. When your descriptions simply convey information to your readers, they interrupt the story and slow the pace down. To avoid this, many writers pare description down to a base minimum, often leaving their writing sterile and their pace overly uniform. When description also conveys a character's personality and mood, you can use it to vary your pace or add texture without interrupting the flow. The description advances the story.

There's so much more in this book, but there's only one more Wednesday in this month. (And happy equinox, people.) Next week's topic: Voice.


  1. Thanks for the comment, Suz. First person is definitely a very popular point of view. I have experimented both with it and with third person.

    Keep up the good writing!

  2. That sounds very useful indeed! I wish I could get to a writer's group from here but haven't found one yet.

    I like writing in first person, but reading in third. Hmm...

  3. Thanks for commenting, Susan. My writers' groups are worth their combined weight in gold--or whatever precious metal fetches the most in the market nowadays. I hope you find a good one soon.

    Interesting about your writing vs. reading preferences!


If comments be the food of love, comment on. Give me excess of them... (With apologies to The Bard)