Saturday, 7 June 2008

Point of View

Point of view is one of the most difficult things as an author to keep right...often times we start out a chapter in one POV and end in another...

Maybe sometimes we change constantly through out...

What is POV? What are the different types?

This article below can be found at

Most intimate is first person POV. The reader gets the closest possible link to the thoughts and feelings of the character but at a loss of wider knowledge. The reader cannot know anything that the lead does not.

In contrast, omniscient is least intimate POV but lends the widest overall understanding. And third person POV is very much a compromise between the other two.

Now let’s have a look at the pros and cons of each.

First Person POV

In this POV, the author and the reader are in the characters’ shoes. It is from the character’s viewpoint (he/she is telling us what happened) using words such as “I,” “me,” and “my.”

I walked down the road, my bag swinging with each step. I saw a stray dog. “Where is your home?” I asked.

The author cannot include anything not witnessed by the character. For example, the lead cannot know that the dog’s owners abandoned it that very morning unless she/he saw them doing it. This limits the readers’ understanding of the world in which your characters live and the events that happen there (plot).

Being only able to observe things through the eyes of the lead character can cloud “reality” so to speak. This can be both blessing and curse. It might hide your lead’s guilt and enhance a mystery but could also prevent the reader from having a clear understanding of the plot.

Remember, first person is the character’s story and is therefore heavily opinionated. Everything is seen and understood in reference to the character’s views, abilities, and disabilities (to a hallucinating man, sudden terrifying visions would seem to be reality-- the reader would have to dissect the real from the false-- of course, this could be a good thing! But watch out!).

A way around this “clouding” is to use first person point of view for multiple characters rather than a single lead. This is called first person unlimited. Using this, events can be seen from more than one perspective and the reader attains a more “real” view of your fictional world. Thus, one character’s views and prejudices are evened out by another’s opposing opinions.

First person unlimited is most widely used as a conveyor of relationships. The reader can see approaches and responses and understand why each character reacts the way they do. What one thought of as smart and amusing, another may see as silly and immature. The reader can understand how friendships form and trust builds.

However you structure your story, make sure each character is extremely individual. This takes much skill on the author’s part and if it is not done properly, the reader will find it hard to distinguish between your characters. Accentuate your leads’ views and make them as different as you can while still keeping to your story (it would not be a good idea to have two very similar friends as joint leads). Some authors put the lead’s name at the start of each chapter and (to avoid confusion) then write with that character’s voice for the entire chapter.

First person POV creates a potentially memorable and intimate story. But for it to work well you must:

· Create strong, interesting leads

· Remember you cannot include firsthand something that none of your leads witnessed

· Make each lead unique

Omniscient POV

Omniscient point of view is the least intimate but lends itself to an excellent overall understanding. In fact, from an intimacy standpoint, it is the opposite of first person. It’s a description from the outside. It is like watching the proceedings through a TV camera-- the reader can hear the voices and see the actions but not read the thoughts. There is no lead character but rather it is what a cloud would observe hovering above the scene.

The car raced down the freeway at a breakneck pace the cops not far behind. “My God!” exclaimed Josh.

In third person, I might write, “Geoff was thinking the same thing” but I cannot do that in omniscient POV. Instead, I might have to write:

A frown was on both their faces.

Omniscient POV gains perspective at a loss of intimacy. Author Renni Brown suggests the selection of omniscient point of view in Lonesome Dove was the greatest weakness in an otherwise successful novel. This demonstrates that even a strong plot needs a certain level of character intimacy.

So, in regard to this POV, be careful; these days, omniscient is way into left field.

Third Person POV

Third person is the compromise between intimacy and perspective. In many ways it is the “safe POV.” Most novels are written in third person simply because it offers the greatest versatility and appeals (as compromises do) to a wider variety of people. Third person is often used in the action and thriller genres. And as such, its popularity is not surprising.

The limited variety of third person is simple. The reader walks in a single character’s shoes but may know things that the character does not. Having a single lead like this allows your audience to get to know the character better.

The greatest trouble authors have in using third person unlimited POV is keeping the multiple leads constant throughout singular scenes. This is the “one scene, one POV” discipline that a lot of critics expound. However it is not essential: action author Matthew Reilly swaps leads with rapidity and his novels sell like hotcakes. Just remember constant changing of POV lowers the level of intimacy. Of course for an action book, this not so important.

If you do have to change POV within a scene, it is advisable to leave a gap before continuing. That way, it will be clear to your readers that the point of view has changed.

Whatever your choices, the more leads and changing between leads, the less intimate your story will be. Is the gain of perspective worth the loss of intimacy?


Even after all this, it still comes back to the same things: your story, your genre, and you as the author. Remember, points of view are interchangeable. You can start with first person, go to third, and then change back to first.

So as to the question, “What point of view?” the only constant answer is, “Whatever suits your story.” In the end, whatever others or I say, it is up to you. What do you want?

Think about it…

POV Checklist

Hopefully this checklist will help you decide upon point of view. Answer the yes/no questions and follow the instructions to find out which POV is most suitable for your story. Remember, this is a guide only!

1. Do you want to tell the story from a character’s point of view?

Yes No

If answer is ‘No,’ use omniscient POV

Otherwise continue to question 2

2. Do you want your audience to be in the shoes of that character?

Yes No

If answer is ‘No,’ use third person POV

If answer is ‘Yes,’ use first person POV

Continue to question 3

3. Do you want multiple leads?

Yes No

If answer is ‘No,’ use limited POV

If answer is ‘Yes,’ use unlimited POV

Copyright Callum Shakespeare 2005

Friday, 6 June 2008

Top 10 Rules for Mystery Writing

I found this article on the web...great for those writing the same genre as I...

Even more than writing in other genres, mystery writing tends to follow standard rules. This is because readers of mysteries seek a particular experience: they want the intellectual challenge of solving the crime before the detective does, and the pleasure of knowing that everything will come together in the end. Of course, the best way of testing the mystery writing rules that follow is to read widely in the genre. See how others use them or how and when they get away with breaking them.

1. In mystery writing, plot is everything.

Because readers are playing a kind of game when they read a detective novel, plot has to come first, above everything else. Make sure each plot point is plausible, and keep the action moving. Don't get bogged down in back story or go off on tangents.

2. Introduce both the detective and the culprit early on.

As the main character, your detective must obviously appear early in the book. As for the culprit, your reader will feel cheated if the antagonist, or villain, enters too late in the book to be a viable suspect in their minds.

3. Introduce the crime within the first three chapters of your mystery novel.

The crime and the ensuing questions are what hook your reader. As with any fiction, you want to do that as soon as possible.

4. The crime should be sufficiently violent -- preferably a murder.

For many readers, only murder really justifies the effort of reading a 300-page book while suitably testing your detective's powers. However, also note that some types of violence are still taboo including rape, child molestation, and cruelty to animals.

5. The crime should be believable.

While the details of the murder -- how, where, and why it's done, as well as how the crime is discovered -- are your main opportunities to introduce variety, make sure the crime is plausible. Your reader will feel cheated if the crime is not something that could really happen.

6. The detective should solve the case using only rational and scientific methods.

Consider this part of the oath written by G.K. Chesterton for the British Detection Club: "Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow on them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?"

7. The culprit must be capable of committing the crime.

Your reader must believe your villain's motivation and the villain must be capable of the crime, both physically and emotionally.

8. In mystery writing, don't try to fool your reader.

Again, it takes the fun out. Don't use improbable disguises, twins, accidental solutions, or supernatural solutions. The detective should not commit the crime. All clues should be revealed to the reader as the detective finds them.

9. Do your research.

"Readers have to feel you know what you're talking about," says author Margaret Murphy. She has a good relationship with the police in her area, and has spent time with the police forensic team. Get all essential details right. Mystery readers will have read a lot of books like yours; regard them as a pretty savvy bunch.

10. Wait as long as possible to reveal the culprit.

They're reading to find out, or figure out, whodunit. If you answer this too early in the book, the reader will have no reason to continue reading.