Monday, 12 October 2009

Whose head are we in?

In my workshops we often discuss creating and holding a point of view in fiction. Why is this important? David Lodge in 'The Art of Fiction', maintains that when the writer constantly shifts the point of view "the reader's involvement ..'production'of the meaning of the text, will be disturbed."

Jumping around, in and out of many character's heads, makes it almost impossible for the reader to settle down and enter the 'fictional dream' of the story. Put more simply, Tish Farrell,says, "Find the right narrative point of view (POV) and your story's voice will ring clear and true. But mix up your viewpoints and you risk losing both reader and plot."

So what should the writer do?
When writing any piece of fiction - short story or novel, it is important to decide
from the outset whose story you are telling. You may decide on one voice for your story or two or three. But once you have made this decision, these are the only POVs the reader should have to commit to. Switching viewpoints from paragraph to paragraph, simply because you cannot work out how to show something from the single POV,won't work. The reader will not trust your voice and will put the book down.
Almost anything a writer wants to show can be achieved by the single POV. It is not necessary to be inside a character's head to find out about them. After all, in real life, we are only inside out own heads. Yet we successfully interact with a huge range of people. This is because we weigh up others by their actions and their words.
Action and dialogue are two of the most important tools for the writer. These are the tools by which we 'show' our character, rather than 'tell' in long, boring info-dumps, all the details of their lives and characteristics.

Commit to a POV for your novel, step into your character's shoes and revel in the challenge of holding your POV for the next 50,000 words. Its a wonderful place to be.

1 comment:

  1. JO ROGGER, in one of my workshops sent this comment to me by email : "A very useful bit of information. Helpful because when you are satarting out it is not obvious whose voice you should used in a story. However, deciding whose voice to use makes a fixed point you can always return to."


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