You know that feeling when you walk into a room full of people and there are several different conversations going on?
Or when you come downstairs to find that your video game-playing teenager forgot to put on his headphones in one room while your spouse is watching football in the other room?
Or when your dog is barking at the FedEx truck outside while you are trying to have a conference call?
(Not that any of these things ever happen in my household. Ahem.) 😱
These situations are disorienting. Your attention is pulled in a number of directions and your auditory senses are overwhelmed.
I talk a lot about how the most important decisions you can make at the beginning of the novel-writing process have to do with the emotional journey of the main character and the key plot events that are going to get them where they’re going.
But that’s not the only thing.
➡️ Making an intentional decision about:
* who your narrator is (hint: it’s usually not the main character), and
* how much time and space is between the narrator and the events
goes a long way toward keeping the reader reading.
It’s the difference between having to navigate eight different conversations and a single one.
In this video, I’m talking about point of view in two ways:
- Who is telling your story? (including a quick delineation of 1st/3rd person and omniscient narrators)
And in the next post, I’ll share how to identify where your narrator is standing in time.
I hope you find them useful. If you have any questions, please comment below and let me know!
Hello Writers. Back in 1999, the movie The Blair Witch Project was released. It’s a horror film that follows three student filmmakers as they head out into the woods to research and document a local myth explaining the disappearance of several children years before. Did I see this movie? No, I did not. I don’t do scary movies <laugh>. But for those who love horror, this movie was exciting and new and made the events that much scarier, because unlike traditional movies where the camera is set way back from the action and takes in the scene with the long view, The Blair Witch Project was the first to be filmed entirely by the actors holding the cameras themselves. In other words, all of the action was seen through their eyes. The reason I’m bringing this up is because it’s a great example of how point of view can impact the way a story is told, and because it has such a big impact, it’s important to decide ASAP what point of view you’ll be using in your novel.
The way I like to approach this is by asking these two questions: Who is telling your story? And where are they standing with the camera? But before we dive into those options, I’d like to invite you to take the Novel Foundations Quiz. Knowing who your narrator is is just one small piece of a much larger puzzle when you’re first putting your story on the page. To make your first draft the best it can be, you’ll want to take this quiz. Not only will you get your best next step, you’ll also receive a customized toolkit of resources to help you along. Click the link in the description below and take the quiz today. So let’s talk about who is telling your story. In other words, what is the point of view of your story? Two things that I wanna distinguish from one another right here is the narrator and the protagonist.
The only time that they’re the same person is when you’re writing in first person. So if the entire story is being told strictly from the point of view of one character, and you’re using I/we pronouns, then that person in the story is the narrator. In all of the other circumstances, your narrator is someone different than your main character or any other character in this story. There are two options in a book. What’s most common in fiction is that you have one narrator. So you technically within one narrator have four choices. But I’m gonna say that you have three choices, because I’m not going to encourage you to use second person. It’s at the bottom of the screen here. This is when the narrator is essentially the reader, because the writer is using you/your pronouns. It’s notoriously hard to pull off. First person is when you are using I/we pronouns and the narrator is the protagonist, which I already talked about.
You are only in that one person’s head. You do not have access to anybody else’s thinking, anybody else’s feelings, anybody else’s decisions, until those things are expressed to the narrator, or the protagonist in this case. With third person, the narrator isn’t a character. He/she/they/them are the pronouns that you’re using. Now, there’s two options within third person; there’s third person limited or third person close. I usually use those interchangeably. They mean exactly the same thing. Now, third person close uses the same rules as first person, but you’re just not quite as close. It’s a very subtle difference. I like to think of this as that instead of the narrator being in the head of the protagonist, they’re standing behind the character looking over their shoulder. You still don’t have access to the thoughts of anybody else. The entire story also still belongs to them,
it’s just that the narrator is a little bit more detached. Now, third person omniscient has access to everybody’s thoughts, everybody’s feelings, and everybody’s decisions. This is what we picture when we watch a traditional movie. We have a wide lens and we can see everybody. Now, the thing you’ll have to be really careful about if you choose this option is the dreaded head hopping, which is when you go from one person’s point of view to another person’s point of view too quickly, which can be very disorienting for the reader. If you have multiple narrators, you have two options. You can do multiple third limited or close, which is most commonly used with multiple narrators in fiction. It also allows for the tone and voice to stay the same throughout the story, so it’s a little bit easier to write. Or you can do multiple first person, which means that you’ll have to change the tone from chapter to chapter to suit the character who’s telling this story. I suppose you could do a mix of those, but I would only recommend doing that if it’s for a very specific reason. I hope that this was helpful. If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments below and please subscribe so that you’ll have easy access to all of the writing tips here on this channel. And share this with any other writers that you know. I’ll see you next time. Happy writing.