Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Talkin' To Myself: What's Your POV?


Something strange occurred to me today, or maybe it isn't. After tearing apart a manuscript and re-writing it from the ground up, I've noticed something: It's all in one point of view.

Good thing or bad, that's the question. On one hand keeping the story strictly with one POV limits length. After all, with only one person's view, it cuts down on what everyone else is thinking, right? But then on the other hand, the reader might want to know what the other characters think.

Yet another dilemma writers face, at least, this writer. As if we don't have enough to think about already. Oh well. Such is the nature of the beast.

I never thought much about how many POV's to add to a story before, mainly because I used everyone. No wonder my manuscripts hovered around 150,000 words. And now that I think about it, if I revise any of them it might not be a bad idea to shave off a few POV's. But, I find that writing with only one POV is a lot like talking to yourself, which feels a little lonely in a weird sort of way for the character as if he's invisible to all the characters surrounding him.

This POV dilemma surfaced recently while reading Jeff Lindsey's "Dexter" series. Each one is in Dexter's POV only. I never got a strong grip of anyone else in the story. Showtime developed a series based on "Dexter" but the story was expanded to include the lives of other characters we met in the books. Of course, if they hadn't it might not be as wildly successful. It might not fill an hour every Sunday night.

But as far as writing the story, when does one know how many POV's to include? Now that I'm considering the question, other novels I've read recently come to mind that had only one POV. And now I wonder if editors might suggest eliminating certain character's POV as a way of making the story pace breeze along. I have to admit, the one I'm writing now does move along, but the question remains. How to decide what to do?In a way using one POV doesn't make the reader feel involved. And what if the reader doesn't care for the main character? They have no one to fall back on or otherwise endear them to the story.

I'm sure if I looked in one of my handy "How To Write a Novel" guides, I'd find the answer. But, this is more fun. I want others to consider the POV situation. Anyone write all their stories with just one POV, or do you alternate? One thing for sure, when writing in one POV there is no danger of head-hopping.

Thoughts?

10 comments:

Edie said...

I have written in one pov in the past, but most of my stories are in different POVs. I was going to start my last one in first person, which would have been one pov, but I ended up doing it in 3rd with multiples.

If one pov works for you, go with it! I would.

marciacolette said...

This brings to mind the movie Pulp Fiction. If it were written in book form (I don't know if it is), how many points of view would it take to make the story complete? I'm guessing the answer would be as many as it takes to capture the same riveting feel of the movie. If it's one, then fine. If it takes ten, great. Do whatever it takes to make your story riveting to the readers.

I'm sure many of the stories written today could be rewritten in first POV or third POV. Would it make them better? Who knows? I have yet to hear of anyone trying it. I'm sure they would either. No matter how good or bad a story, that's like deciding to paint over a Van Gogh.

Kath Calarco said...

Edie, although my current WIP has only one character's view point, it's in third person. That said, adding one or more characters' view point might make me tread the head hopping fence. (I've always had problems with it, but am learning to adjust. ha-ha)

And now I'm wondering if I'm confusing myself with the Point Of View definition. :(

Kath Calarco said...

Marcia, exactly why I used the "Dexter" example. The novels are in one point of view, first person, yet the show has all the other characters' view points.

I think changing a manuscript originally done in first-person, one view point, is a smooth transition. But, to take a story that's all in one view point, the writer needs to dig deeper into the other characters, which imo will increase the story length, but also more deeply endear the readers.

Jodi Picoult wrote "My Sister's Keeper" from several characters' view point, all in first person. I didn't read any other Picoult novels (because I felt cheated by the ending of "Sisters"), but the cool thing was that not only did the reader get each character's story, but each character had a different font. As a visually impaired reader, that helped. :)

*sigh* I need to do some heavy soul searching today, as well as researching the definition of POV, but it'll help erase the image of last night's debate from my mind.

robin said...

So far I've only written in third person with two primary POV's - my hero and heroine. (I have included a secondary character's POV in one, hoping to give him his own story one day.) But my next story is going to be in first person with one POV. I'm anxious to try it and this character is talking to me more and more so I'm excited to get started. I've never felt cheated by books with only one POV. One of my favorite series, The Dresden Files, is all in Harry's POV and I get a great sense of the other characters as well because I see them through Harry's eyes. Dialogue, gestures/mannerisms, actions, appearance, all lend themselves to a character without being in their head. So if done well, the story is engrossing.

Kath Calarco said...

Robin, great point regarding the Dresden Files. As long as the writer gives great insight into the secondary characters (their mannerisms, etc.) then one point of view works.

As far as my "Dexter" book form example, for me the other characters fell flat with the one character view point. I'd have liked being in the mind of the villains - Jeff Lindsey created some real creepy characters, ones whose heads I'd like to have been in for a bit.

Karin Tabke said...

Kath, when I write a scene the POV I use is the one of the character with the most to lose or gain in that scene. Also we need to ask ourselves, whose story is this? Generally that will predicate the bulk of whose POV we are in. If you write suspense the bad guy's POV when it's relevant is important.
If you write women's fiction with multiple primary characters they all get a POV, but IMHO I think when authors start to get into the heads of secondary characters it drags the story down. It's all about the protags and the antag.


And! Congrats on winning the Heart to Heart suspense category!

Karin Tabke said...

Kath, when I write a scene the POV I use is the one of the character with the most to lose or gain in that scene. Also we need to ask ourselves, whose story is this? Generally that will predicate the bulk of whose POV we are in. If you write suspense the bad guy's POV when it's relevant is important.
If you write women's fiction with multiple primary characters they all get a POV, but IMHO I think when authors start to get into the heads of secondary characters it drags the story down. It's all about the protags and the antag.


And! Congrats on winning the Heart to Heart suspense category!

Kath Calarco said...

Karin, great to see you!

And great point about predominate characters in scenes and the story. That has helped me greatly in deciding what to do with my WIP.

Thanks for the awesome input!

spyscribbler said...

I have to say, I've had this post in my browser all week and have yet to write a coherent comment on it, LOL. It's gotta stew some more.

I only use more than one point of view if I have to, either for structural or understanding reasons. Sometimes it's the rhythm, too.