Like a photographer holding a camera. your point of view is the position where you stand when you tell your story. Readers naturally assume your position, either as an observer or as a participant.
- Create a Personal Experience for Readers.
A second-hand newspaper report isn’t as strong as an eyewitness account. To make your story even more captivating, rather than show video from an observer perspective, put the camera in the hands of your main character. Limit your words to what that character can see, hear, and feel. Hold rigidly to that point of view throughout the scene, both in space and in time, and readers will experience what the character sees, hears, and feels.
- A man wearing jeans and a t-shirt got out of a BMW convertible and walked toward her. (When thirty feet away, how does she know he’s wearing jeans before he gets out of the BMW?)
- This high in the mountains, the stars appear are brighter. (In the observers point of view, the stars don’t appear to be brighter. They are brighter.)
- He read until he was unable to hold back the tug of a restful sleep keep his eyes open. (In his point of view, he can’t know it will be a restful sleep until after he awakens.)
- The warmth of the fireplace spread throughout the cottage as everyone slept. (This is an omniscient point of view that is in conflict with a particular character’s point of view in the scene. How can the character know what was happening while he slept?)
- She was not prepared for what was about to happen. (She’s not psychic. She doesn’t know what will happen, so she can’t know if she is prepared.) She thought she was prepared for anything that might happen.
- His hand slipped into the wet sand and his fingers grasped a diamond ring. (In his point of view, he wouldn’t observe his fingers take action. He would do the action, so this wording gives his hand and fingers a mind of their own.) He slipped his hand into the wet sand and grasped a diamond ring.
- Watch for Point-of-Focus Shifts.
During filming, a videographer’s close-up shot remains focused in one direction until something else becomes important. In writing, that shift is represented by a new paragraph. For as long as the dialogue and actions are with the same character, keep the sentences together, in the same paragraph.
- She gave her kids a long, tight squeeze. “Don’t worry. This is our home, and we’re not leaving.” (The dialogue and action should be one paragraph.)
- Lukas pulled up a chair and sat down. “I suppose there’s nothing more that needs to be said.” Jane got up and walked away. (Who is speaking? Put a paragraph break before Jane’s action, and readers know the dialogue belongs to Lukas. Put the paragraph break after Lukas sits down, and the dialogue belongs to Jane.)
- Points of View Don’t Mix.
Never mix viewpoints within one scene. In a new scene, your main character may change, bringing a different point of view. To avoid confusion with the previous scene, be sure to establish at the beginning the new character and what he or she wants, making the viewpoint clear.
- Rain splashed on the hard-packed earth in the courtyard and lulled Susan to sleep.(Since Susan can’t observe herself going to sleep, the main character must be someone else—the observer.)
- Fear brought chills up Susan’s spine as the drunken assailant stumbled closer. (Since Susan is the only one who can feel the chills, the observation belongs to Susan, not from another character.)
- If the above sentences appear in the same scene, we have conflicting viewpoints that confuse readers, so they don’t know where they stand to experience the story.
- Reveal Life in Consecutive Time Frames.
Displacement of time is a common point-of-view error. A video camera cannot tape anything in the past or future. Real life exists only in the present moment, so that’s the best way to unfold your story.
- One day, the unthinkable happened. I turned on a channel I had never seen before. (To say it was unthinkable before it happens gives the narrator divine foreknowledge. It also ruins suspense, takes the fun out of life, and makes readers less interested because they already know the score.)
- Every day for the next week, the stranger came in the morning and had a cup of coffee. (It can’t be known that the period is a week until after the week is finished and he quits coming. We might say: For a week, the stranger came every morning and had a cup of coffee.)
- Make the Color Real.
Descriptions are overdone when they go beyond what is natural for your main character’s concerns at the moment. Since a man coming home from work wouldn’t pay attention to his furniture, it’s not appropriate to describe his leather sofa, the intricately carved buffet, and pictures on the wall. If those details are important, they must be given a good reason to exist—such as the man’s need to be sure everything is tidy because he is expecting a guest.
- Justin brushed the sweat from his brow with the palm of his hand and swept back the unruly locks of medium brown hair from his face.
- I hardly noticed the Persian rugs, the baby-grand piano, the light blue velvet sofa, or the big family Bible on the coffee table my surroundings. (If you hardly noticed, you can’t give a detailed description.)
- The fear that clouded his face and the avalanche of tremors that traveled down his neck and shoulders sent an icy chill through her. His fearful look made her shudder.
- Take a Direct View.
Avoid what’s called “filtering,” which takes readers through an unnecessary observation of the observer. To see examples, Click Here.