Yesterday I mentioned how understanding what constitutes a point of view character can be difficult for a new writer to grasp. A story that has one primary protagonist often does well with the story being told through their eyes, whether it’s told in first person or third person.
Omniscient viewpoint gets into all the characters’s heads simultaneously. This can confuse the reader if not done skillfully. Before resorting to this, make sure it’s really necessary and the most effective before using it. If you need to get inside other characters’s heads to describe their motivation and/or show their contribution to the plot, this can be done with separate chapters and/or sections. That way the reader can keep it straight more easily.
One way to get a handle on describing what other characters are thinking or feeling is to pay attention to what you see on television, whether it’s a drama or a sit-com. Very few get into their actual thoughts through voice overs. However, unless the actors are entirely incompetent, their expressions and body language tell you exactly what’s going on in their head. The next time you watch your favorite show, think about how you would describe in words the various ways the actors portray the character’s emotions. This is what you want your reader to visualize, what they would see if your novel were a movie or TV show.
Another thing that can be a real challenge for new fiction writers is the concept of point of view. Even if you’ve read a thousand novels in your lifetime, until you start to write a story yourself there are certain things that don’t come naturally. One of them is point of view, which is the person who is telling the story, or through whose eyes it is being observed.
Consider point of view carefully. If you really want the reader to relate to your protagonist, the story should be told through their eyes, even if you’re using third person narrative and not first person. If you have a single viewpoint story, then your main character is the only person whose head you can get inside for their opinion or feelings. The opinion or feelings of anyone else can only be expressed through what the main character observes, i.e. their physical reaction.
Understanding what it means to stay within a character’s viewpoint can be difficult for new writers. Bear in mind that all narrative, including the vocabulary, that relates to the POV character can’t be anything s/he doesn’t know or understand.
There are a few exceptions, but they need to be noted, such as by using a qualifying statement, i.e., “He didn’t know it at the time, but…” The main thing is not to give a character with a high school education the vocabulary of a literature professor. Unless, perchance, he’s a genius in disguise, or there is some explanation for it.