These thoughts started out as notes to clarify my own thinking on the fundamentals of writing fiction. They developed a bit more of a structure when I taught a creative writing class at the local art gallery - it was a fun thing to do, but when the gallery closed the class did too and so I thought it was about time these notes found another outlet....
The Point of View (PoV) is the eye (or eyes) that the reader sees the story through - deciding on the viewpoint is one of the fundamental choices that you will make about your story.
The Different Points of View
Omniscient Narration - the writer tells the story, and can tell the reader whatever they want about the thoughts, actions and feelings of any character at any time.
• Advantages: flexibility, you will never get stuck unable to explain something, and you can show the reader how characters misunderstand each other - this can be really useful for comedy. It also allows the story to be told much more quickly - so if it's a saga or epic story, this is a good choice.
• Disadvantages: it can distance the reader and make it difficult to engage with any particular character. It's much more obvious to the reader that they are being told a story, and harder for them to feel within the story, that they are right there, experiencing it with the character.
A Single PoV - this is the opposite of Omniscient Narration. The story is told from the point of view of a single character. The reader only has access to the thoughts and feelings of one person.
• Advantages: it's very easy to engage with and feel empathy for the viewpoint character. If you want to provoke emotion in the reader (and you should) this is the best way to do it. The reader really experiences the story through this character.
• Disadvantage: the whole story must be visible through their eyes, and this can make plotting much more difficult.
Multiple PoV - the middle route between Omniscient Narration and Single PoV, where the story is told from the viewpoint of two or more characters.
• Advantages: plotting problems can always be solved by switching viewpoint, and it's still easy to engage with and feel empathy for the viewpoint characters, so long as you don't use too many.
• Disadvantages: it's harder to find a distinctive interior voice for several characters, and to control the writing so that they remain distinctive. It's also possible to confuse the reader, if they have to follow the experiences of too many characters. If you solve a plotting problem with a new viewpoint, then you will have to use that viewpoint elsewhere, it can't be there just for one scene.
Use the absolute minimum number of viewpoints that you need to tell the story. There was a scene that I loved in Powder Burn that I had to cut, because it was the only scene from that characters point of view (another rule, kill your darlings). Funnily enough, it ended up in this blog too...