All the POVs in the world, and you had to walk in to mine.

“It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.” – Carl Jung

Point of view is a great tool for spicing up writing. A plot might be a totally different story from a different perspective. The classics are third and first person.

My preference is for a first-person or third-person limited point of view. I’ve never been a fan of omniscient narrators. They don’t connect well to normal life. I stick close to a specific character and let the audience learn what drives him. Other characters are more interesting when viewed through the eyes of someone with their own prejudices.

A limited perspective allows the reader to learn with the character. When the protagonist says “Aha!,” the reader says it, as well. When a character is hurt by his failures, hopefully the reader understands.

That, in essence, is the basis of fiction. Writers chronicle the failures of a character to make a reader understand the character better. It is possible to do that with an omniscient narrator, but not as fun for me.

Omniscient narrators know too much. Sometimes they say things like, “If Johnny had known what Doris meant, he would have never gotten out of bed that morning.” I see it fairly often in novice writing, and even in some professional work. I’m not a fan. It adds nothing to the moment except to set up false suspense.

Some writers might love those lines, but I think they rob two moments of their drama. Instead of being with the characters in the moment, thinking what they think and feeling what they feel, readers anticipate what happens later. Then, when the payoff comes, it isn’t as much of a surprise. Potentially losing impact in two different scenes in exchange for one line doesn’t seem efficient.

I want my writing to be as powerful as I am capable of making it. Whatever perspective serves that best is my favorite perspective. In fact, I am going to go against what my colleagues may say later this week and strike a blow for second-person perspective.

Did you ever have a friend that is annoying, brutish, and egotistical, but you don’t have a problem with him? That is second-person perspective. This friend tells YOU what YOU should think. He pushes YOU to do what he wants, in total disregard for anything YOU actually want to do. But, you can’t help but love the bastard.

I have successfully used second-person, but it requires finesse. I can’t imagine using it for an entire novel, but it can work in short fiction, especially flash fiction. The trick is hiding the subject, which can lead to passive writing. The simple sentence structure that provides the backbone of writing proves to be the enemy.

Since the subject is “You,” a strong word with no real pronoun, the number of “you’s” can become overwhelming and distract the reader. “You enter the apartment. You wonder how long she waited. You smell her favorite perfume mingling with the scent of blown-out candles. ” YOU get the point.  Instead, you have to work around the subject. Perhaps, “Entering the apartment, you wonder how long she waited. The scent of her favorite perfume mingles with the smell of blown-out candles.”

I reduced the number of “you’s” from three to one. I try to get rid of any of them I can. I might leave the occasional you in during the topic sentence, just as a reminder, but the rest will disappear, if possible.

Try it out. In fact, try out all the perspectives. The only way to decide what works best is to find out what doesn’t work at all.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at www.jackcampbelljr.com.

1 Trackback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.