A Little More on Point of View

Okay, okay – mea culpa.  I neglected to mention using multiple points of view.

There are several schools of thought on this, and I’ve read everything from “absolutely don’t do this,” to “absolutely do.”

Multiple points of view is not the same as Omniscient.  With Omniscient POV, the writer switches between characters at any time.  The writer might choose to shift from the protagonist to the antagonist mid paragraph, or even mid sentence.  Omniscient POV gives the writer the freedom to decide at what point that additional information from a different character is needed.

Multiple points of view, however, does not switch so seemingly randomly.  In fact, if you are writing for children, the standard advice is to switch at logical breaking points, such as at the end of a chapter or the end of a scene within a chapter. 

Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked” and numerous books for kids, uses Omniscient POV better than just about anyone.  In his series for kids based in Hamlet, Vermont, the story is presented in Omniscient POV, and I think one of his best examples is the book “Three Rotten Eggs.”  I also like “Six Haunted Hairdos” as a good example.  Here the narrative flows easily between characters the way that Omniscient POV should flow.  The reader is not jarred about or tossed from thought to thought.

As for Multiple POV, there are a number of books I like.  “My Angelica” by Carol Lynch Williams is a delightful middle grade novel that is told from two different points of view.  I’m also a big fan of Dean Koontz, and in particular his book “Dragon Tears” which is told from the POV of seven or eight characters, including a dog.  It is the most convincing writing, too, and I use it as examples of POV in class regularly.  In fact, the sections narrated by the dog are some of the most well written and entertaining in the whole book.

The key with Multiple POV is to be certain that the story isn’t lost or bogged down by the POV switches.  How many characters really need to be involved in the telling?  Whose POV is most critical to the story?  And even though a character may be funny, entertaining, or have a great voice, does that character really need to be front and center for that much of the story?  Asking these questions will help to determine if, indeed, Multiple POV is the right direction to move, and if so, how will the story be told. 

So here again, Miss Muffet and the Spider in Multiple Point of View:

      Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet to enjoy a nice bowl of curds and whey. 

     A spider, who had been hanging out in the chandelier, noticed the young girl and became curious about the bowl of lumpy white stuff she was eating.  He decided to drop in and investigate.

     Noticing the spider noticing her, Miss Muffet was startled.  In fear, she leapt from her seat and flew out of the room, spilling her breakfast on the carpet.

     The spider, bewildered at the sudden departure of the girl, slowly climbed his thread and returned to his web to wait for a near-sighted moth.

I hope this clarifies, and I apologize for the missing bit of information. Now, go write something!

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3 thoughts on “A Little More on Point of View

  1. Cliff Burns says:

    P.O.V. is a good discussion to have–it’s so easy to muck up. Recently I’ve been experimenting with a more omniscient or, as I put it, “cinematic” point of view, trying to escape the confines of first person, the tighter narratives it demands. It’s still a work in development but I do like the freedom of the expanded p.o.v., the different perspectives it allows me to introduce. Good post…

  2. kwjwrites says:

    I believe POV depends greatly on what you hope to achieve as a writer. I still prefer first person myself, but I’ve also played with multiple points of view and omniscient point of view. I still am fond of the emotional closeness that first person offers, but I have story in mind where I don’t think it will work as well.

    I’m eager to read “So Dark the Night” when you get it loaded onto your site! Thanks for the note!

  3. Cliff Burns says:

    SO DARK THE NIGHT (plus lovely cover art by Ado Ceric) is posted on my blog as we speak. A supernatural mystery and occult thriller all rolled into one. And it only cost me three years of my life to write…

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