Who's Telling This Story, Anyway?

by: Cindy A Christiansen

I want to address another issue that beginning writers often have difficulty accomplishing. The Writing Perspective. Who the heck is telling this story, anyway? Is it the author, the character, more than one character at a time, or some unknown person that knows everything that's going on? In a lot of the entries I've judged, writers are using a combination of these perspectives which tends to confuse the reader. Pick the best option that works for your story and stick with it.

Below is a brief summary of the different types of writing perspectives. If you don't know or understand them well, please find a good book on the subject.

* First person includes the thoughts and opinions of one main character. This person is telling the story and is told from the point-of-view (POV) of 'I'. Example:

I danced across the floor.

* Third person with one character's POV. Example:

She danced across the floor, pain searing in her ankle.

* Third person with multiple characters telling their POV one at a time. In this perspective, you pick out 2 to 3 main characters and tell the story from each of their views, but not at the same time. A character tells their POV in a scene, it ends and the next scene begins with another character's perspective. Example:

She continued to dance across the floor, not sure whether she could withstand the pain searing in her ankle. The curtain fell as she collapsed.

~ * ~ [Scene change]

Bill rushed to Angie, knowing the pain must be excruciating. He knelt by her side, cradling her head in his lap.

* Third person with thoughts and feelings from two or more main characters at once. Also called head-hopping. Example:

She danced across the stage. Pain echoed up her leg and back down to her broken ankle. He knew she couldn't dance another step with a broken ankle.

* Third person omniscient includes a narrator who is a know-it-all. The narrator tells the story from everyone's POV. He knows everyone's thoughts and feeling. Example:

Angie danced across the floor. The pain tore through her ankle. Bill rushed up and caught her just after the curtain dropped. She fell into his arms, sweat beading her brow. He knew she had to be in a great deal of pain. How could he have known that the doctor switched the medications and injected her with cyanide?

There are a few other types of POV, but these are the main categories. As I said, new writers tend to combine these POVs, leading to confusion on the part of the reader. Here is an example of mixed perspectives:

[Third person/ one character POV] Angie danced across the floor, her ankle on fire with pain. The doctor had told her the medicine should have started working by now. What went wrong? The pain continued to radiate through her ankle, and she felt...odd. Her heart raced uncontrollably. She spotted Bill in the wings. If she could only make it across the stage to him.

[Third person omniscient] Angie didn't know that the doctor had exchange the vial of pain medication for a vial of cyanide. She had no idea that Bill's mother had orchestrated the whole plan because she didn't want Bill to marry her. When she reached Bill's arms, she collapsed dead.

Do you see how if you are in Angie's POV you cannot know what the doctor did or what Bill's mother had planned, or know that she was going to die?

In romance writing, the story is typically written in third-person with scenes in both the hero and the heroine's POV. First person is another perspective used a great deal in chick-lit romances. Multi-published authors can get away with head-hopping. I find it difficult to read, and it loses the voice of the character as they are telling their own version of the story.

Also remember to give each character their own voice. I'm not talking about accents and such. I'm talking about the way they might think in their head; more of a personality issue. I read a lot of books and entries where both the hero and the heroine think and sound the same. How many real people do you know that think and act alike? I'm sure you know that men and women think and feel eomtions in their own way. Try to remember this as you are writing the next best novel.

Give it a try. I know your characters will really come to life.


About The Author

Cindy A. Christiansen is a multi-published author and a member of Romance Writers of America. To find out more, visit her website at: http://c.a.dragonfly.googlepages.com

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