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. POV, it can be a struggle at times but i just read a book where the author changed POV constantly, sometimes on the same page, and it drove me crazy. It was good story otherwise but too confusing. I found your book did a great job of POV and I liked how well you divided it amoung the characters. My dead zone is alive and well. It contains numbers and sometimes spelling. The weather is colder than we are used too so we are trying to keep warm. Good reading in front of the fireplace weather!


      1. It felt like head hopping to me (perhaps she thought it was omniscient). It is amazing how the spelling of some words just stay in the dead zone forever! Reading time is so wonderful, in front of a fire, at the beach, on the bus, in the tub……..


          1. I believe if it is done well, it is a good POV. Some writers just don’t do it well. I am not sure if I would be ready to try it myself. Sounds like you had a good lunch conversation.


  2. Weather – warm but windy, with an expectation of cooler/colder temps next week. Snow prospects are unknown.

    POV – didn’t know there were so many sub-classes. Writing from a single POV is the easiest for me, and always in the first person.

    The Dead Zone – you don’t want to wonder around in that clutter. 🙂


    1. I should caught my typo. It should be, “you don’t want to wander around that clutter.”

      An example of the dead zone.


    2. Our mountains could use some snow, David. And the valley here could use rain. This is supposed to be the middle of our rainy season, but we’ve only had one good rain so far.

      Always first person? I tend to use third more often. I’ve never written a novel in first, though I’ve started to more than once.

      Maybe a great zombie tale will rise from your Dead Zone, better hurry though, I hear the trend is fading.


  3. Many of us have a dead zone. Or maybe an unfertile zone. In Florida they want all kids to have mastered algebra 1 leaving the 8th grade and upper levels then begin in 9th. They insist on having everyone on the college track. Many kids can’t learn it and poor math grades prohibit them from getting a 2.0 and inability to pass the math part of Florida test means they can’t graduate and they are increasing the drop out rate. I taught history for 33 years. Have a BA and two MA’s. Guess what ? I can’t do algebra 1 and that almost prevented me from having a productive career for thousands of teens teaching them history and how to read and write. Those who run our education systems have the dead zone. I suggested to then governor Jeb Bush and 30 state house and senate members to make book keeping and accounting math credits. At least the kids would learn a job skill not hypotheticals which they will use only if they work for NASA. Not a single one responded.


    1. Your idea sounds reasonable, Carl. Too bad they didn’t use it. Although an AA, or even a BA, is now what a high-school diploma used to be, it’s unreasonable to expect all students be on track for college.


  4. Ah, omniscient – the POV I may attempt someday. Scott from the Lit Lab writes absolutely beautiful omniscient stories. I don’t know how he does it, but they work and they’re brilliant. Wish I could do that! I keep sticking to third person limited. Short stories, sometimes first, sometimes present tense. Just depends. But I have never, ever tried omniscient. It scares me, but that probably means I should try it sometime.


    1. Does it tempt you, Michelle? I recently made my first attempt at writing in second person just to see if I could. I don’t know if I’ll ever try omniscient, but I do think we need to challenge ourselves, if only to keep our writing from becoming formulaic.


  5. POV is my weak spot too! But, quite honestly, I don’t really understand the fuss about each scene must be in one POV etc. I’ve read books where the author effectively conveyed the reactions of both characters in teh same scene, by slipping frm one to another. Admittedly, other times I felt like I was watching a tennis match – I suppose it’s all in the execution: some authors can break the rules and still make a story compelling.

    Judy, South Africa


    1. That’s my question, Judy, how is omniscient different from head-hopping (the tennis match thing)? One of the books Elizabeth Lyon cited as an example of a skilled author’s use of omniscient is the same book that irritated me because of that. I disliked that book because I felt the author kept the characters at a distance. It should have been an emotional story, but it felt flat to me.


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