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3. Character Point of View


A novel takes a character’s point of view when it shows events from his or her perspective. There are different levels of point of view (POV), more or less immersed, more or less restricted.

The loosest level hardly counts as POV at all—when author and reader accompany a character or characters as they move from room to room, street to street, one place to another. We observe as they observe, but we don’t do the observing through their eyes and ears. Following a character or characters in this way comes naturally to all storytelling.

There’s a stronger sharing of perspective when we perceive through the eyes and ears of characters, yet not one character to the exclusion of others in the same scene. Water dripping, an unpleasant smell, even a racing heartbeat can be presented as experienced by any of the characters in the scene. Logically, they wouldn’t all have the same perceptions in the same sequence, but you can leave it vague as to who’s experiencing what when.

Point of view becomes more focused when you pin it to a single character in a single spot. Perceptions are given through Will and not Zoe or Trudy, even if Zoe and Trudy are there in the same scene. What would Will see, hear, smell, touch? … the old checklist comes into play again.

When we also get into what Will thinks and feels, and how he interprets what he perceives, then we’re at maximum immersion. Perceptions are external as well as internal, but personal thoughts are purely internal.

It’s easy to move into an individual’s point of view, not so easy to move out again. Once you’ve given the idea that this is Will’s experience, the reader tends to understand everything as coming through him. The basic principle seems to be that the deeper you’re into a POV, the harder to climb out.

So, there’s a problem if you want to swap from Will’s thoughts and interpretations to those of, say, Trudy. You can do it by section break or chapter break, but, otherwise, it’ll need a lot of non-Will material before the reader forgets his strongly established point of view.

Levels of perception are more flexible, especially as between individual perceptions and group perceptions. You can show something that Will perceives, slip across to something that anyone and everyone in the scene perceives, then dip into perceptions that belong specifically to Trudy. It needs doing smoothly, but it can be done.




Other Characters Topics

1. Creating Characters

2. Physical Appearance




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Richard Harland.