TAP040, Writing From a Character’s Point of View
Now that you’ve chosen the right Point-of-View for your story, you’re finally ready to put pen to page and start writing or outlining your novel, right? No, there is a little more to Point-of-View than first, second or third person. And that’s what we’re going to discuss in this show.
When planning out season three of the podcast, I split the episodes covering Point-of-View into several parts. The first instalment, episode TAP039 discusses Point-of-View in writing fiction and the things to consider when choosing the right point of view for your novel. In this second instalment, I will discuss writing from a character’s point of view and share how to overcome the biggest mistake many first-time writers make. I’m not saying that I’ve mastered this technique in any way, shape or form, but I’ve made mistakes and learned valuable lessons that I want to share with you.
The Most Important Thing You Need to Know
If you listen to nothing else in this show, then pay attention to this tip. This is why I put this tip first because it’s the most important thing you need to know when writing from a character’s point of view. Everything in a novel is filtered through the point of view character. What the reader experiences is the point of view character’s opinion on the setting, events, and other characters. Nothing is written outside of this character’s perspective. As you’re writing, it helps if you can put yourself in your character’s shoes or see the world through your character’s eyes. And, as the author, you are never a part of the point of view.
Many first-time writers, myself included, tend to interject setting description because it’s important, and we end up trying to describe everything. Only describe the setting as it impacts or is relevant to the character. It’s crucial to describe something the character has an opinion on. For instance, your character might be a hardcore star trek fan and thus will probably have an opinion on a star wars mug or t-shirt. Believe it or not, that is important to describe. So, never disconnect from the point of view character. When you disconnect from the character, the reader will often feel as if there is too much setting, and you’ll often see these comments from first readers, beta readers, or in reviews.
The Truth and Biases
Yes, a writer, you’re limited, and that’s a good thing. You’re limited to what your point of view character sees, hears, touches, has emotions about, and knows. Let’s discuss the concept of knowing something.
Technically, everything you know is filtered through your perspective, and the same is true for your character.
So, if your point of view character was present at a murder, you can only share what they believe to have taken place. Not what actually took place. You can’t show the truth, only a perspective on what takes place. For instance, your point of view character might witness someone releasing their grip on the murder weapon, then leaving the scene, then conclude based on this information that this person is the killer. But in reality, that person discovered the victim, foolishly gripped the knife and considered pulling it out, then got scared and fled the scene.
Your characters are highly biased, not as a literary device, but in the same way you and I are in everyday life. And these things should naturally be filtered into the story.
Tell No Lies
While it’s natural to have a perspective on the truth, it’s actually important to not withhold information from a reader. It’s almost as if you need to become a magician like in the movie The Prestige. In the movie, nothing is hidden from the audience. Instead, you’re simply distracted by something else happening on stage. But all the information is present, and the reader is looking at the wrong thing. The danger in withholding information from the reader is you break that trust, and a reader might be less likely to pick up the following story.
However, this is different from having an unreliable narrator. The information is present with an unreliable narrator; it’s just distorted like with Gone Girl or Girl on the Train. I know I keep mentioning these novels but I don’t read a lot of novels with the unreliable narrator trope.
Write a 300 word scene in either first person, past tense or third person, past tense from the point of view of your main character. Practice filtering the story through a character. Only describe what your character, sees, hears, touches, has emotions about, or knows. Make sure you never leave the characters point of view. Don’t put any plot in the scene, just focus on anchoring the reader in the story—the information that’s necessary before you turn the characters world upside down. Include information about the character’s location, when the story takes place, and who is the character.
I hope this episode gives you a basic understanding of writing from a character’s point of view, and helps you avoid the biggest mistake many first time fiction writers make. As always, I have an important question for you.
- Did you do the writing exercise?
- Do you plan on doing the writing exercise?
- Would you like me to continue setting writing exercises like this?
I want to hear from you. Share your process or struggles with writing from a character’s point of view in the comments section below or over in the Am Writing Fiction Facebook Group. If you like, you can submit your writing exercise to me in the Am Writing Fiction Facebook Group.
In the next episode of the podcast, I will discuss and answer the age-old question “what is a scene?”.
Thank you for listening, and happy reading and writing, everybody.
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I’m Amelia. When I’m not hosting the Authorpreneur Podcast™️ and the Book Nerd Podcasts, I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Suspicion, the Lawn, and the Candidate.
On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process.
Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Suspicion, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.