Using Point of View Correctly

11:30 AM

using point of view correctly, examples, narration, style


Anyone can tell you that good writing flows easily from beginning to end without reminding the reader that there is a writer behind the words. Unfortunately, many beginning writers sometimes ruin that flow by constantly reinserting their point of view character back into the narrative. Once you've moved the reader into the story, you don't want to yank him out again by placing your character in every sentence. 

Kristen Johnson Ingram, an author of over twenty books and instructor for WritersOnlineWorkshops.com, calls this the "viewpoint intruder." 


"He noticed..."


In the book Crafting Novels and Short Stories, Ms. Ingram provides us with several great examples of viewpoint intrusion. The first one she mentions is the use of the word, noticed. She provides an example:

The others were laughing and talking as they sat down at the table. As Kirk reached across the table for the bread, he noticed his hands. His fingers were long and brown, and he noticed how the light gleamed off his wedding ring. 

In this example, Ms. Ingram points out that the writer has inserted not one, but two intrusive "notices." He noticed his hands and noticed the gleam on his wedding ring. The scene would be smoother if she wrote it more like this:

Kirk reached across the table for the bread. His fingers were long and brown, and light gleamed on his wedding ring. 

Here's another example, this one from an essay:

I looked over at Jenny propped up on the hospital bed. I could see her bright smile, but I knew she was in pain. 

"I looked" and "I could see" are both unnecessary intrusions (and we might even include "I knew"). The point of view character has been in the hospital for some time, thinking about Jenny's circumstances. So all she needed was, "Jenny was propped up on the bed. She was smiling, but I knew she was in pain." Or even, "Jenny was propped up in the bed, smiling in spite of her pain."

Use Your Senses

Ms. Ingram also talks about how easy it is for the viewpoint intruder to take over when we are writing about sensory impressions. She gives us another example:

Rob opened the door. He could smell fried chicken and onions, and he heard the butter crackling in the skillet. His mouth watered from hunger. 

Rob's senses are great but you can use them better by implying, not reminding us of, his presence until you need it:

Rob opened the door. The aroma of fried chicken crackling in the skillet with onion made his mouth water. 

Stay Vigilant 

Try not to be too hard on yourself when you catch your point of view character creeping into your narrative. It happens to the best writers. We just need to stay vigilant and keep a look out for those moments when we've allowed viewpoint intrusion to take over and then we just have to get rid of them. With practice, we'll get better and better at weeding them out. 

Have you been letting your character's viewpoint intrude on your narrative? 

Until next week!

Kelly

Kristen Johnson Ingram's Author Page on Amazon



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