Write Prose Like the Pros: Point of View

The three basic approaches to point of view (POV) when writing novel length works are: first person, third person, and omniscient. Before getting into those, second person is another POV, using ‘you’ and ‘your,’ but this POV works best for shorter works and I recommend not using it for anything longer than a short story. First person POV follows the main character and the reader is inside their head. The reader feels close and intimate with the main character. First person POV uses ‘I’ and ‘me’ and it allows the readers to see the thoughts of the main character.

Omniscient POV is the opposite of first person. The reader views the story as an outsider looking in as the action takes place. No one’s thoughts are seen. There is only action and dialogue. The reader feels detached from all characters. There is no intimacy. Third person POV is a combination of omniscient and first person. Third person POV uses ‘they, them’ and ‘he, her’ while following one character’s perspective. The reader may not see the main character’s thoughts but will see they action as that character does. The reader may never move beyond that character’s perspective. 

One thing I want writers to consider when deciding on POV is the validity of the narrator. Can the readers trust what the narrator is saying? Does the narrator have biases? Was their perspective influenced to see something different from everyone else? Are they hallucinating? Deciding who the narrator is, why they’re telling the story, and to whom they are telling are as important to deciding in which POV the writer wants to tell the story. If the story is written in the omniscient POV, who is the narrator and how can they see what’s happening with all these characters? Even if the reader never learns these things, it’s important for the writer to develop those ideas.

The best place to learn how to improve one’s writing is with Renni Browne and Dave King’s “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print.” If I were teaching a class on fiction writing, this is the book I would use as the course textbook.

The Elements of Poetry Part 4: Diction

For the final week of National Poetry Month, April, I will continue my brief introductions to the four elements of poetry. These four elements are Prosody, Rhyme, Form, and Diction. The last in the four-part series I will discuss on the elements of poetry is Diction. The simplest way to define diction is the words chosen for the poem. This includes what words a writer chooses for describing a person or place. I would argue it even includes what point of view of the speaker in the poem.

Metaphor, simile, and tone of voice are important things to consider in a poem’s diction. Modern poets often choose to ignore these rhetorical devices. They attempt direct presentation and explore tone. Surrealists often stretch rhetorical devices to their limits. Other elements of diction include allegory and imagery. Refrains can add to the effect of imagery, be it a small phrase or longer line. For example, Homer’s “rosy-fingered dawn.” Imagery in poetry describes things in different and unexpected ways. A writer should look for new ways to describe things readers have seen before. 

In my experience with my own writing, diction is often considered before from, rhyme, or rhythm. One should not be against trying different words or new descriptions of old things. Writers may consider writing from the point of view of an inanimate object. Or they may consider writing about an emotion through a metaphor of something physical. The one takeaway I want people to get from this four-part introduction is that anything goes. Writers should write what and how they want and write what they feel.