Friday, January 25, 2013

Let's talk about point of view

Or, better yet, let's listen to Linda Urban talk about point of view, over at her blog, Crooked Perfect.

What I especially love about Linda's post from yesterday is not that she discusses what the different narrative points of view are - first person, third person and omniscient. She pretty much assumes that you know what they are.

No, what Linda is addressing is WHY a particular point of view is best for a particular sort of story, using her three books as examples. It just so happens that her first book, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, was in first, her second book, Hound Dog True, was in third and and her third book, The Center of Everything, which comes out March 5th, is omniscient. (It is also spectacularly good, and I have long held the belief that it ought to win the Newbery. No sh*t.) I know she didn't set out to write in those points of view just so she could write one of the best posts I've ever read about WHY an author might want to use a particular point of view, but it sure was good of her to have such great examples.

Speaking of examples, here's a sampling from her post:

I wanted [A Crooked Kind of Perfect] to feel as if Zoe was telling a friend a series of these stories and I wanted the reader to piece them together into something bigger — a process that is replicated by Zoe herself as begins to see that the world is a bit larger and more complicated than she initially imagines. So, first person helped me demonstrate character development, too, as Zoe’s stories reveal more detailed and sympathetic descriptions of the people around her as the book progresses.

* * *

Hound Dog True is told in very close third person throughout the novel. It feels like first person, really. It uses language and sentence structure that replicate Mattie’s voice and thought patterns. We are given no information that Mattie does not possess, but the sliver of distance between narrator and Mattie, and reader and Mattie, allows for a bit of perspective checking.

* * *

[The Center of Everything] could easily be told in first person or third, but one of the major themes of the book — the connections we make in a life– led me to consider an omniscient narrator, one that could go backward and forward in time, could explain town traditions and legends, could jump into the heads of characters other than the main character, Ruby. An omniscient narrator could make those connections — big and little, known and unnoticed — clear, in the way that a twelve-year-old girl puzzling out the intricacies of wish-making could not.
She sure is smart. And the full post is even better than these cherry-picked bits.

Go. Read it.

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