Craft, Writing

What’s the point?

I have a dead zone in my brain. You know, that place where things you try to learn just won’t stick? If the formula for calculating percentages doesn’t dwell in mine, it’s definitely in the neighborhood. (Don’t tell my math teacher son.) Most tasks involving word usage reside in livelier areas, but one that doesn’t is the “point” referred to in the title of this post. That would be, Point-of-View—or POV if you’re into acronyms.

Oh, not everything about POV falls into my dead zone. I understand that it refers to which character tells the story and from what distance. I know the relevant terms: single, dual, multiple, omniscient, limited, unlimited, first, second, third, close. I’m aware of at least some of the advantages and disadvantages of writing in each, and I’ve written in all but one of them. Omniscient.

On second thought, I don’t remember everything I’ve written. I may have used omniscient at some point in my life, but probably by mistake. I’ve been told omniscient viewpoint was more popular in the past, so no doubt I came across it in the classics I’ve read. Today, literary writers most often use it. According to Elizabeth Lyon in Manuscript Makeover, it’s a viewpoint best reserved for use by “gifted” writers.

What I can’t retain is recognition of omniscient viewpoint—or maybe that it exists at all. Unless I’m forewarned, each time I encounter it I mistake it for an error, a POV slip by the author. (Revealing my ignorance today, aren’t I?) So, I go back and read about omniscient viewpoint and study the examples. I understand it. I think I’ll remember this time. Then whoosh, right into that dead zone it slips.

Maybe I’d have to use it in writing to make it stick in my brain. But I don’t want to. I’d probably do it wrong anyway. Lately, I’ve been looking at the characters in my WIP and wondering how long I can stick to my vow to write in single POV this time, but omniscient … nah.

Speak to me: What’s in your dead zone? Do you have any thoughts on omniscient—or any other POV? How’s the weather?

23 thoughts on “What’s the point?”

  1. I am a STICKLER about POV! And personally, I do not like omniscient pov. I just don’t. It makes me feel scattery and I can’t hone in on a character at a time as I like to do. Not that some authors can’t do it well but even then I’m not as happy as I am when there is a clear POV, whether that be first person, third-person-limited (not so happy about second person, either, though).

    My dead zone is what I call The Black Hole in my brain – where I can’t see things when i read or write: characters, descriptions. When I read, I “see” in my own way and enjoy books very much. When I write, I just have to start writing and let the black hole provide. Both things work themselves out, but the inability to capture images in my head is rather bizarre.

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    1. I agree with your reasons for disliking omniscient, Kat.

      The description of your dead zone seems familiar. You’ve blogged about that, right? I remember trying to imagine that condition. I’m not sure I could write if I couldn’t see the story played out.

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  2. For years I was frustrated because literally all the writing books (and my college english teacher) said never to use first person-especially if you are a first time writer. I fussed and whined because I kept trying to tell them that I think First Person is the natural way to write since that’s how we experience life. BUT I worked hard and Ive pretty much mastered the “regular” third person point of view. ONLY to have Harry Totter and Twilight BOTH become huge hits and BOTH by first time writers to be in first person! I am NOT a happy camper!

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  3. I really dislike books written in the omniscient pov (and the spelling of that word is definitly in my dead zone. Lots of spelling in my dead zone. Oh well, I’ve giving up on it to tell the truth.)
    I too think what the heck is going on here, one head then another? drives me batty. but that’s just personal taste.
    Weather? if you’re asking, it’s terribly cold, down to -16 today, with massive ice coverage everywhere – it’s hibernating time! lol

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    1. If it’s true that omniscient POV is out of favor, Jennifer, I wonder if that’s because so many readers dislike reading it or because writers find it hard to write well. Or maybe readers dislike it just because we’re unfamiliar with it now. Or maybe … 🙂

      Okay, you win. I won’t complain that I was cold sitting outside today. (It was 54°F.)

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      1. That’s one I certainly don’t want to win, LInda!! lol.
        Sitting outside…ahhh…I’m popping vitamin D to get my sun!!

        I’ve never written that pov, but imagine it would be very liberating in one a way. You know everything and can go anywhere whenever you want – I imagine it would be very restricting after to write in 3rd or 2nd pov. But maybe I’m wrong, and that could also be why it’s so difficult for writers to manage, just too much freedom.

        As a reader, I like constraints. They keep the environment controlled, and they keep me sympathetic with the mc. It’s also nice to wonder, and not know it all, they sense of discovery can be lost I think when reading omniscient.
        Just my thoughts…

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        1. I think you’re right about too much freedom, Jennifer. I’m sure you’d have to be skilled to handle that freedom well.

          I don’t feel as deeply connected to the characters in omniscient. I’m just an observer. I guess that’s why I usually write in first or close third.

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