This week: Point of ViewEdited by: Robert Waltz
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Style is the perfection of a point of view.
You cannot live your life looking at yourself from someone else's point of view.
Nothing's beautiful from every point of view.
A discussion of literary point of view is appropriate for al genres of writing, but as Fantasy tends to involve much longer stories and a multitude of characters, and since I often seen it handled poorly in fantasy stories, I decided it would make a decent topic for a Fantasy editorial. So here we are.
I think of point of view as having a role similar to the camera in a movie: it directs the reader's attention to what the writer wants them to see, away from the things they don't, and emphasizes some aspects of the scene over others.
There are plenty of articles online about handling point of view, and judicious searching can bring them up. What I'm doing here is just a brief overview.
First Person: This may be the easiest to handle. As the writer, you're inside someone's head, describing everything from their point of view. "I walked to the door and heard a clanking noise." "His eyes widened as I showed him the painting." You have access to sensory inputs -- sights, smells, body language, facial expressions, etc., but not the inner thoughts or emotions of anyone other than the narrator.
Third Person: There are several ways to handle third-person point of view. Two of the most common are "limited" and "omniscient." I like to think of limited third person POV as akin to the movie camera: impartial, recording only those things that would be obvious to an outside observer, because you, the writer, are the outside observer in that case. Unlike in a movie, though, you're not necessarily limited to sight and sound.
A variation of this is to assign a point of view character in limited -- this acts in the same manner as first person POV, but with third-person pronouns instead of first-person. Say you have two characters, Alice and Bill. If Alice is the POV character, you might write, "Alice unveiled the painting for Bill, watching him. Bill's eyes widened." On the other side, if Bill is the POV character, it might read thus: "Bill felt Alice's gaze upon him as she whipped off the cloth covering the painting. Surprise shook his body."
With omniscient point of view, the writer may have access to the internal workings of all the characters' minds -- this, however, can get confusing to the reader unless it is handled carefully.
I should note that, in Fantasy, it is possible that one or more characters have telepathic abilities or something similar, in which case it would make sense for a POV character to have access to the internal workings of another's mind. This should, in my opinion, still be handled with care: "Alice felt a strong surge of shock from Bill as she unveiled the painting," rather than "Alice unveiled the painting, and Bill was shocked."
Second Person: Normally, I'd bypass this one entirely. It has only limited use in most fiction. But most role-playing games are associated with Fantasy, and you often have gamemasters saying things such as: "You can see that Alice is about to uncover the painting."
In my opinion, the best, least confusing way to handle POV is to keep a single POV character -- or none -- for a section of writing (a section being a chapter, or a portion of a chapter separated by some indication that there is a POV shift going on; this is commonly accomplished with an extra line return or some sort of symbol indicating the scene shift). Going back and forth with POV in a single scene can quickly become confusing as you're jumping around from one mind to another.
But it's okay, especially with longer works, to have more than one point of view character, switching between them in different scenes and chapters.
As with everything else, handling point of view takes practice. Different points of view have different purposes, largely having to do with what exactly you want to reveal to the reader -- and what you want to conceal, at least for the moment. The important thing is to keep on writing, keeping these tips -- and any others you might come across in research and reading others' fiction -- in mind. Watch for how other writers handle POV. In addition, pay attention to what your reviewers might be saying about your handling of point of view, and your skill at handling it will certainly improve.
Some fantasy for your December viewing:
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Last time, in "Taste." , I talked about describing taste.
TJ-dodging Cupid's arrows : Id have to say it tastes like Voxer, a small football sized, scaly tree dwelling animal that hails from Tipple, the third moon of Azourus. Azourus is a barren, lifeless planet like it's other two moons, but Tipple is a lush, tropical paradise, just do not go in the water.
Okay, now what does Voxer taste like?
So that's it for me for 2020 - happy holidays to all, and we'll see you next year! Until then,
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