Point of view – POV
One of the issues that comes up most frequently when I’m looking at fiction is point of view, or POV. I’m going to go through in some detail about each different POV and its characteristics in future posts, when perhaps to use a certain POV and when to use another, but before I do that, I was just going to muse on the issue of POV generally.
Try and write immersive prose, is what I often find myself saying. Why? Why does it matter? Why all this fuss about making you feel what the protagonist feels? Why not just narrate the story?
Go back to basics. Why do we write fiction at all? The central aim is to provide an emotional experience for the reader. If you can write a book that makes people laugh, or cry, or be unable to sleep with the lights off for a month, you’ve succeeded. You’ve probably written a publishable book. But not everyone laughs at the same jokes.
Not everyone finds the same things horrific, or exciting. Why is that? Simply because all readers are different. Ideally, you’d like to write a book that everyone finds emotionally engaging. How, if they’re all different? How do you make all your readers have the same reaction to events and situations? By making them forget themselves. By making them become someone else. By making them become the same person. And how do you do this? You make them your protagonist. Now you have the reader in the palm of your hand. You determine how the protagonist feels. You determine what they say and how they react and what they do. The reader, all readers, are on the same journey. The reader could be a student in Calcutta, a retired firefighter in Milwaukee, or a mother of three in a farmhouse in Devon. No matter what their upbringing, their race, their sex, they’re all now your protagonist. They’re going to feel your protagonist’s pain, turn the same way at the crossroads, fall in love with the same girl, escape the same burning building. Immersive writing is a way of making the writing universally appealing. Instead of achieving this impossibility, you’ve made the reader universal instead.
This is good. I wish I knew this junk way back when my curser was blinking on a blank page. After working hard at removing MY voice from my ms, the latest agent rejection includes: “This is a fascinating character driven story with real potential. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with your unique voice as an author. Keep writing and you’ll find your voice.” Nooooooooooo. Nonononono. I spent an f’ing year taking all MY voice out. Ay yi yi.
Your posts are always helpful. Thanks 🙂