Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another Point of View on Point of View

It’s Debby this morning, pondering Vicki’s and Rick’s thoughts about point of view. Charles, was it you who said that writing a novel was about organization? That statement resonated with me, and I believe it applies to point of view as well as a dozen (hundred?) other aspects of writing. I also heard another statement that struck me (can’t remember who said it), and that is that an author enters a contract with a reader. The readers are looking for entertainment and insight, among other things. (That topic could be a whole new blog.)

Since an author is spinning this entertaining and insightful tale over hundreds of pages, he or she has to maintain a firm grip on continuity, where the story is going and why. As a writer, this is one of the challenges I love. Doesn’t mean I’m always good at it, but it’s one of the things that keeps me trying to write a better book each time. It also includes the sense of discovery we’ve discussed before.

So it’s all in the writing, isn’t it? If the POV skips around so much that the connection between reader, character, and plot is eroded, a reader will have little chance of finishing the book.

Recently there’s been a thread on DorothyL about the likability of characters, and it’s been fun to follow because of reader’s differing thoughts. It appears that compelling characters don’t have to be likable, though there’s a wide range of acceptance. Something like readers’ willingness to accept quickly changing points of view, perhaps.

Which reminds about a film my husband and I recently saw called The Hurt Locker. Wow, what a movie! I thought it was terrific, though not easy to watch. The main character is complex, with very good points, but as a likeable human being? Not sure, and that’s the point. There’s a lot going on in this film, including some jerky camera movements and several points of view. Though I often wanted to, I couldn’t look away.

It’s all in the writing, isn’t it?


Anonymous said...


John Corrigan said...

Regarding POV and shifts within a novel, I've heard it written various times in comments here that multiple POV shifts now seems the norm. If that is so, and if one only switches POV because it is 100 percent necessary to tell the story, are more complex novels being written?

Vicki Delany said...

Good Point, John. Certainly Careless in Red, which I mentioned as an example, is very complex. Rather than being a book about 20 suspects for a murder, gathering in the library so to speak, all seen through the detective's eyes, it was about 20 people who had all sorts of complex interwoven relationships that might have lead to murder.

Rick Blechta said...

I think a lot of novels are being written today (some by very accomplished authors) that are extremely hard to follow. I don't mind a bit of a challenge, but I do mind being confused unnecessarily.

Remember all the characters and arcane terms in Dune? I wonder how many people bailed from that book because they simply couldn't follow it and didn't want to be flipping to the back of the book to find out what the hell the author was on about.