March Madness was so “mad” that Peter didn’t think of a post for Monday, as you’ve no doubt already figured out because you are all so bright. All he can say is, “Go UCLA.” Now, I think this is interesting given who he was pulling for in football, but I’m not going to bring that up. I’ve already given Mike a wide opening to hijack this blog if he weren’t so busy writing his book. But since he’s occupied, I’m safe.
Point of View. We talk about it a lot in writing, generally in relationship to two things: head hopping and what a POV character can know. So if you stay in one head per scene and don’t have your character do something like thinking about raking her hand through her glorious auburn curls and blinking her emerald green eyes (unless she’s a self-absorbed ego maniac), you’re good.
I’ve read two books recently that deepened my understanding of POV as a storytelling technique. The first was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. If you haven’t read it, it’s the story of a man who takes his family to be missionaries in the Congo on the eve of its independence from Belgium in the late 50s. The story is told through his four daughters ranging in age from five to fifteen. A couple of section intros are told from the mother’s POV after she’s in America looking back. But that’s it. Essentially, The Poisonwood Bible is four stories, one for each of the POV girls. It’s not really about the mother or the father, so their POVs are unnecessary, though on the face of it, you would think it would be natural to include their POVs. Through over 500 pages, you grow emotionally attached to these girls as they grow and live their lives. It’s their story, and you want to know what happens.
In contrast, I read a book (it shall remain nameless) that, while it kept the traditional POV rules, didn’t seem to know whose story it was telling. It starts out with the heroine and the hero. For about the first 30 pages. Then the heroine disappears and we have three other characters’ POVs. The heroine doesn’t reappear until around page 160. For one scene in her POV. There’s another later on toward the end. That’s it. And the book is supposed to be about her. The story felt disconnected and the characters felt distant.
When I sat down and tried to figure out what was wrong with this book, I realized the author didn’t really seem to know whose story she was telling. Every time we switch POV we start in on someone else’s story. The beginning was the heroine’s. Then it became about another woman. Then the heroine again. If we have five POVs in only 300 pages, and three of them don’t seem to add to the main storyline, then the reader isn’t going to know who to get behind, who to identify with.
This is why I think doing POV well is more than just refraining from head-hopping. It’s knowing whose story you’re telling.
So, what are your thoughts on POV? What do you consider when thinking about adding another POV? What do you notice about the POV in books you read?
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to toss my auburn curls (which I don't have) and pierce someone with my emerald eyes (don't have those either) while I think about it.