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Archive for August, 2009

One story element I struggle with is Point of View. I’ve read lots of warnings about head-hopping, meaning the switch from one character’s viewpoint to another’s within the same scene. Since I’ve decided to rework my novel to include the viewpoint of a secondary character as well as the main one, I’ve done some research into how it should be done. Hopefully it will help me avoid that horrible head-hopping (don’t you just love using alliteration?). Here’s what I came up with regarding the three most common viewpoints for telling a story.

1. Omniscient (Third person unlimited)

The author tells the story through the perspectives of two or more characters, using third person (he/she), with shifting points of view. The author has unlimited knowledge of what is going on, and can interpret the behavior of any of the characters. The author can also comment on the significance of what happens in the story.

2. Limited Omniscient (Third person limited) 

The author tells the entire story in the third person (he/she), from the viewpoint of one character in the story. He tells us what that character sees, hears, thinks and feels. He may interpret that character’s thoughts and behavior but has no knowledge of what other characters are thinking, feeling, or doing. That character can observe what is going on, and make inferences based on what he/she sees, but the author can’t reveal anything other than what that chosen character thinks or knows.

There can be a switch to another character’s viewpoint in a separate scene or chapter, but never more than one viewpoint in a scene.

3. First person

The author steps into the role of one of the characters, who tells the story from his or her perspective (I). The reader can only know what the narrator sees, thinks, feels, knows, or experiences. The reader gets all information from the view of one participant in the story, and the author’s input in the events is eliminated.

I think I’ll go with limited omniscient for my novel. That will give me the ability to reveal a bit more about what is happening, and also make my secondary character stronger.

Edit 10/25/09: I found a great site that goes into more detail about point of view: http://research-writing-techniques.suite101.com/article.cfm/point_of_view_definitions_and_examples

 Edit 11/17/09: Agent Nathan Bransford has an interesting blog post on how to decide whether to use first person or third person point of view: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/07/first-person-or-third-person.html

Edit 4/23/10: I just read a post by Walt Shiel that does a good job of explaining the different points of view:  http://waltshiel.com/2009/05/21/avoid-mid-scene-point-of-view-shifts/

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What is the number of point of view characters you typically like to have in a book: one, two, or more?  If you’re a writer, which point of view do you prefer to use for your stories? Why?

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Back in May I wrote about the importance of opening a story with a strong hook .  Today I received a book to review for the Thomas Nelson program that hooked me in the very first sentence of Chapter 1 by grabbing hold of my imagination and refusing to let go. Because the hook was so effective, I’m breezing through this post so I can go read the book: Faces in the Fire, by T. L. Hines.

Here’s the sentence that I found irresistible:  The dead man’s shoes spoke to Kurt long before he wore them.

It may take me a few days to get through the whole book, but you will see my full review within my Book Reviews pages soon. In the meantime, I’ve posted the link to the first chapter in my sidebar. Got to go read now…

 EDIT August 16, 2009: I finished the book and posted my review. (It lived up to the first line, in my opinion.) I’m in the process of getting my kids ready to go back to college, but hope to be back to blogging regularly soon.

What are some of your favorite first lines? Do you ever choose to read a story because the first line caught your interest, or does it take more than that to hook you?

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