POV or Point Of View is from who’s perspective a story is told. There are a lot of fine points that go into deciding on how your POV is written. It’s all about the nature of your story, who your POV character is and how are you going to put this on paper.
In the next few weeks we will take a look at the different aspects of POV.
Things such as who’s your POV character? Will you tell the story in 1st, 3rd or the odd 2nd person? What is deep POV?
For now though I just want to cover the importance of deciding on POV and give you a few basic principles.
When you are in an argument the words ‘point of view’ means someone share with you their perspective on something. They don’t simply share with you what happened, they share what they thought happened, what thoughts followed the action and how they felt about it.
This is what you should do in your writing. Your POV character shouldn’t just show what happened. They should show what they think happened, the thoughts that ran through their head and the feelings that they felt.
I’m going to make up a scenario her to show you what I mean. A man and a woman have an argument. The man insults the woman and she slaps him.
Let’s start with the thoughts your POV character had.
When one character slaps the other, each one will think something different. The man being slapped would be surprised. He would realize he had just crossed some sort of line. His head might rerun what just happened.
The character giving the slap would have different line of thought. It will probably go like this.
To far now buddy. You deserved that. O my what had I just done? It doesn’t matter, he had it coming.
So you see when you put different characters in a situation their personality’s means that they won’t be thinking exactly the same thing. In writing you only show what your POV character is thinking which means showing a situation in a certain light for your readers.
If we move on to how characters ‘feel’ in the same situation, then again they won’t match.
The man who receives the slap might start out confidant. Followed by surprise. Followed by shame.
The woman who gives the slap would probably have a little more mixed up set of emotions. They might start out angry. Then slap the person and feel relieved. Then they might feel a little guilty but would shake it off and be angry again.
Now you’re no longer simply showing a situation in a certain light you are pulling at a reader’s emotions.
Now we get to the really fun part of different POV’s. You get to hide things from your reader.
Your POV character only show the reader what they think happened. This is fun because this means you can hide things from your reader simply by hiding it from the POV character.
You see the guy who receives the slap thinks he is confronting the girl about cheating on his friend, based on the fact that he saw her kissing some other guy earlier. He tells her off not expecting her to do anything but then she slaps him.
You tell the story like this, your reader won’t like the woman. They would cheer for the guy, then gasp as the woman slaps him.
Now the thing is she never did cheat on his friend. What he saw was some drunk force a kiss on her. Luckily afore mentioned friend had come to her rescue but as you can imagine she is still pretty shaken. So now she is told that first off, this guy had seen the drunk kissing her but actually thought she was cheating. She feels offended, embarrassed and of course angry so she slaps him.
If you tell the story like this then the man is the one giving a bad impression. The readers will be angry side by side with the woman because they were shown the situation the way she saw it.
Now all of this means that you can throw a situation or a character in a certain light and have the reader think what you want them too, then if you feel like it surprise them later on.
A good example of this is Snape in Harry Potter. Harry was the POV character, we saw everything the same way he saw it, and because of it we all hated Snape. Then in the end we see what had really happened. We see the behind the scenes and we learn that Snape wasn’t so bad after all. (Personally, still not really a fan of Snape but that’s for another day.)
Some well known tips on picking a POV character.
A POV Character doesn’t always have to be only the main character. A lot of stories have multiple POV characters. If you’re new to balancing multiple POV characters then a good limit is under three.
Even if you are experienced than keep it beneath let’s say 9. Readers actually want to spend time getting to know your characters so if you keep jumping from head to head then the readers won’t really have time for that.
When picking your POV characters you should keep in mind who plays the biggest roles in the story. These are the character’s who’s POV you want to writer because your readers want to be right in the middle of what is happening not simply watching from the sidelines.
When you have more than one of you POV character’s in a scene and you need to decide from whose POV to write then ask yourself who can tell this in the most interesting way. Or ask yourself who has the most at stake in the scene? Who will lose the most?
A mistake a lot of new writers make is thinking that each POV character should get the same amount of scenes. This is wrong. Only write a scene if it’s necessary, and tell it from the perspective that is the most interesting. Don’t let the point of your story go because you feel bad leaving character’s out. It doesn’t work like that.
So there you have it, my most random advice on picking a POV character.
I have a little challenge to go with this and it’s a challenge I give on this blog a lot.
Choose two characters completely different from each other. Now put them in a place and circumstance and write a scene for each of them. Each character will notice something different, describe thing different. So pick a scene and simply make them observe it and make sure that each character’s POV is different.
So what do you guys think? What else is important about picking a POV character?