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Point of View
by Sandy Tritt
One of the most important decisions you will make in writing your story
is choosing which point of view to use. The point of view is the “head”
or “camera angle” from which the action will be filtered. When we choose
a point of view, we contract with our readers to follow a set of rules
in how we will present our story. The viewpoint is the particular
character’s eyes we will see through. This may change from scene to
scene, or, with restraint, even within a scene. The narrator can be a
viewpoint character in some cases.
Depending on which source you study, there are a variable number of
points of view to choose from. However, I have selected the five I think
are most often used.
• First Person Point of View - The narrator is “I” or “we.” Only things
that are heard, seen, thought or known by the narrator (who is the
viewpoint character) can be revealed: I knew I shouldn’t have let
Grandma go down there. She isn’t too steady on her feet to start with,
and then she gets those dizzy spells. But she insisted, and the next
thing I know, she’s tumbling down those stairs like a gymnast . . .
• Second Person Point of View - The narrator addresses the reader or
some other assumed “you”: You know how it is. You think you shouldn’t
intervene, you think she’ll get mad at you if you don’t let her do what
she’s always done . . . “You” in this case, is the viewpoint character.
• Third Person Point of View, Panoramic - The narrator sees all the
action, but doesn’t read minds. This can best be understood as being
like a movie camera—anything that can be seen or heard can be described,
but we are not privileged to see into any character’s thoughts. In this
point of view, the narrator always acts as the viewpoint character. Mrs.
Smith stood at the top of the stairs, her son John next to her. Clinging
to the handrail, she planted her trembling foot on the first step. But
the other foot caught on the carpet and . . .
• Third Person Point of View, Controlled Consciousness - This is
probably the easiest point of view for a beginning writer to use. Like
first person, we see all the action through the eyes of a single
character, and we can only see what that character—our viewpoint
character—sees. The difference is we use “he” or “she” instead or “I” or
“we”: John knew he shouldn’t have allowed his grandmother to go down the
stairs alone. She wasn’t steady on her feet and sometimes she grabbed
onto the nearest object when dizziness overwhelmed her.
• Third Person Omniscient - God-like; the narrator knows and sees
everything, and can move from one mind to another. John stood next to
his grandmother. He wanted to help her down the stairs. Mrs. Smith
looked at her grandson, her blue eyes sharp, and moved a strand of hair
from her face. She was determined to do this on her own, to prove she
wasn’t a helpless old lady . . . In this example, John is the viewpoint
character in the first two sentences, then Mrs. Smith becomes the
viewpoint character. Note that although the viewpoint character changes,
the Point of View (omniscient) remains the same. One word of caution:
although third person omniscient allows the most flexibility, it is
difficult to manage. Besides visiting the heads of different characters,
we can also see into the future or see things that none of the
characters can see.
Since point of view is one of the hardest things to understand, I’m
going to give another, more detailed example of a scene using different
viewpoints. First, I will present it in omniscient point of view, and
then I will present the same scene in third person controlled
consciousness from two different viewpoints. I will use green print to
show the lines that are from Gary’s viewpoint and blue print to show the
lines that are from Ray’s viewpoint. Additionally, in the omniscient
example, I will use bold print to show the word or words that prompts
the viewpoint change. In most cases, either a verb or internal dialogue
will move the viewpoint from one character to another. The trick is to
recognize when we actually enter the character’s head to see, hear, feel
or think something from the character’s perspective. Notice that once we
enter a character’s head, we stay in his viewpoint until something
prompts us to move elsewhere.
(continued next month)
(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved,
except for those listed here. July be reproduced for educational purposes
(such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in
conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt
for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.
Writing & Culture
by Nyankami Miroro Atandi
Looking at history, in order to
understand ourselves at this particular moment of our lives, we must be
ready to look back to see how we’re endowed, simultaneously, with the
ability to look farther ahead. Pleasant as it may seem that we’re tiding
along fine with the acquired cultural assumption that resources’re
plentiful, and their ‘presumed’ eventual scarcity’s mere hearsay, one
needs to reflect on the cause of this mental outlook.
In Physics there’s what’s known as the
Energy Equipartition Law; considering a molecule’s a combination of
atoms with discrete characteristics, then just like the atom, this
molecule has internal structure. The essence of Equipartition’s that the
available energy depends on the ambient conditions and thus distributes
itself equally to each of the discrete independent ways in which
particles – the molecule can be thought of as a rigid particle - can
absorb energy. And if all did spawn from the micro, or the fundamental,
towards the macro, then it inherently means that the latter observes,
and must indeed be seen to observe, the fundamental laws.
From a communal level, the dual
concept of good and evil, symbolized by positive and negative, its
corresponding state alternations breeds an ambience of checks and
balances; as norms that govern a society’s dynamism, they determine the
mutual web of morality among its inhabitants. Hence, the principle of
good serves as a positive aspect that shores and guards a society and
its mores, while, retroactively, evil’s that which promulgates that
which should be avoided, in the process providing a society with vigor
that gives it an inner tension, cohesion and creativeness expressed in
an awareness of limits of permissible possibilities espoused by - called
in Physics - Degrees Of Freedom.
Therefore, by a society’s individuals
pursuing ideals geared towards individualistic goals contrary to those
for the common good, a situation arises whereby the ethic’s one of
personal accumulation with the whims of the individual set in opposition
to the common good. Pertaining to this, we’re faced with an urgent need
to find a new morality and new ways of humanizing ourselves in this
global village as this contemporary culture indicates dangerous breaks
from traditional continuities; scientific ‘progress’ has given birth to
doubts about the values of these traditions without offsetting them with
the knowledge necessary to determine whether given norms’re
indispensable or not. Unplanned changes subsequently lead to cultural
deaths. Without wanting to sound like bemoaning the past, I am sure none
of us is rooting for that.
Thus said, the need’s urgent for each
one of us to take note and appreciate our cultural as well as our
individual differences and recognizing that they all should contribute
to the common good, as no man, in deed no society, is an island; just
like the fundamental laws, retrospectively, the differences in our
cultures varied in form and not in content.
In this regard, taking into
consideration the importance of writing as a tool that can be used to
enlighten others, I take it as an honor to be accorded this opportunity
to grace the introduction of this book with the message that the various
stories herein by a cross-section of diverse, talented authors, have
important values to impart if one was to take the time to sit back and
read between their lines. Thank you.
Critiques by Sandy
Unlike most editors, I consider my role
to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I
explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how
to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat
business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other
Treat you with respect and compassion.
All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to
improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.
Mark your manuscript, correcting
grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where
Highlight areas that are especially
well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.
Where appropriate, offer suggestions for
plot development, character development or other areas that could be
Return a two-to-four page written
analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting,
characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks,
etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.
If appropriate, recommend reading or
resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.
Answer any questions you have via
Provide my telephone number for a
personal follow-up, if you desire.
For Sandy's success stories, see
Write Sandy at
(See Sandy's article
All About Choices
A writing course is a must for anyone who is interested in writing
just for fun or as a possible career.
Sending your story into a publisher, and feeling good about what you
know and knowing how to put your words in the proper format, is
Writing the professional way is the only way.
After your course is completed, you must keep writing and reading
other writers’ works.
I recommend purchasing a very helpful book called NOVEL & SHORT STORY
WRITER’S MARKET SOURCEBOOK.
Here you can skim through trying to find a place for your story and,
after you’ve depleted all sources, then by all means check into finding
an agent. Their names are in the back of the WRITERS MARKET sourcebook.
I have checked into hiring an agent for my novella, but I have
decided against it at this time.
Last but not least, you can contact a publisher to get information on
I would not consider this way for children’s stories, but the novella
I have written is non fiction and it is about a business I owned, so it
may have a better chance to succeed.
Self publishing is an expensive way to get published, but if you are
in a hurry to publish, this is for you.
Finding a place that pays you for your story is the best way to
Getting paid is much nicer than having to pay.
A new writer’s pocket book is small.
I have had my share of rejection letters, but that is a small price
to pay. This is the part of the writing world, and it’s not about
your story. It’s just because you have not done your homework.
Studying their individual guidelines is a must.
Being a writer is an accomplishment, so I say to all…
"Rejection is not a reflection on you, so...
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Publishing New Writers,
July, 2005 (no. 607)
Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.
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