How to Write a Novel to the End: Which Point of View Should You Use in Your Novel?
Which point of view to use in your novel is one of the biggest decisions every writer faces. It’s not easy to figure out sometimes, and reading trends can make the decision even harder. Should you follow the wide road of popular opinion or forge your own trail? The good news is that with point of view there is no right or wrong. However, you can usually determine a best choice based on the story you’re writing. We’ll take a look at that, but first, let’s define point of view.What is Point of View in a Novel?
Simply put, point of view is a window looking into a scene or story from the mindset of a character. Tweet this. The same story can vary widely depending on the particular window(s) and character(s) chosen by the author.
How Many Viewpoint Characters Should You Have?
The simplest form of a novel is to have the protagonist as the viewpoint character. Having the reader see everything through the eyes of a single character creates intensity and intimacy. It also limits the reader to what the character knows. This can be good or bad, depending on the story’s needs.
Many novels contain more than one viewpoint character, and for good reason. For a more complex story, a single viewpoint character becomes difficult to manage, creating the need to convey information through messengers, letters, and phone calls. In such a case, consider adding additional focal characters to flesh out the story. Epic novels usually call for a large cast with many point of view characters.
How many viewpoint characters should you have? I have heard numbers bandied about, but there is no hard and fast rule. Having as few focal characters as possible is a best answer because dividing the action between a lot of viewpoint characters can become chaotic and confusing. When done well, though, it’s an effective way to add cohesive layers to a story.
Which Viewpoint Characters Should You Use?
We writers put a lot of emphasis on defining our writing voices, but we can sometimes overlook story voice, also known as tone or mood. It’s interesting to note that a story has a voice, isn’t it?
Because of my musical background, it’s natural for me to see similarities between timbre in music and the voice of a story. Without getting too geeky, timbre is caused by overtones heard when a note is played by an instrument. These overtones are unique to the resonating body of the instrument, which is determined by its composition. Put simply, a cello sounds nothing like a flute, even when each plays the same note, and no two cellos sound exactly alike.
In much the same way, the viewpoint character of a scene or story helps determine its tone. Tweet this. This makes choosing wisely imperative. Besides the protagonist, other possibilities include a love interest, side kick, and the antagonist. It’s best to avoid using minor characters.
Certain conventions exist, but writers are the sort who buck them. Still, while you are learning, it’s not a bad idea to observe them. For example, romance novels usually call for both the heroine’s and hero’s point of view to be present in the story. Suspense novels often heighten tension by using the point of view of the antagonist. If you don’t know what these conventions are for your story, spend some time reading top titles in its genre.
Each story is different, and writing a novel is in part a journey of exploration. When it comes to choosing focal characters, use your mind but trust your gut. Tweet this.
For more on how to develop a character to reinforce your story’s tone, read Defining Your Characters (Or Who Are These People Anyway?)
Next Installment: Which Point of View Should You Use in Your Novel? Part 2
Care to share your thoughts on how to use point of view effectively in a story? If so, the comment link is at the top of the post below the title.
©2014 by Janalyn Voigt