Point of view in fiction

Well. My little hiatus has lasted two months. But I’ve been practicing Rule No 1, applying the seat to the chair. And how did this novel start? With an image. A man arrives in Monterey, California, at three o’clock in the morning, to study Arabic and French, and gets lost in the fog. “You would think a man who could read the signs of the most barren of landscapes, a slight indentation of sand marking a wadi in the distance or the barely visible outline of a dwarfed tree or strata of sandstone, could decipher the roadways of such a small town.” Distracted again, back to Rule No 1.

Character opens a world for the reader, and once interested enough to keep reading, he will want to know more. The closer you can bring the reader to empathize with a character, the more deeply into the world of your story the reader will fall. This requires you think not only about how to develop your character through detail such as physical attributes, likes and dislikes, history and intent, choices, action and dialogue, it requires you consider how you can lure the reader into the character’s head. You want the reader to become so immersed in the character that he, the reader, doesn’t realize their identities, have merged.

A good way to merge reader and character is to filter description, surroundings, objects, details, and other characters, through that character’s point of view. What this means is that instead of describing something, such as a room, let the character (s) whose point of view you’re writing from take note of the furnishings or objects in the room and how she perceives it. Filter the actions, choices and emotions of others through the character. Point of view should mirror the way the mind works. Put as few barriers as possible between character and reader, and eliminate filters such as “he thought” and “he felt” etc. Once a character’s point of view is established, you don’t need to do it again.

Writers such as Alice Munro and Hilary Mantel use third-person point of view so skillfully it appears as if the authors are writing from several or many viewpoints, from an omniscient point of view, when they’re not. At the same time that the reader begins to identify with one character, the world of the story grows broader because the reader comes to know other characters in depth, perhaps without being highly conscious he’s viewing them from a single point of view. The reader enters the fictional world.

Filter point of view

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