Well, I feel it’s time to make the first major decision about how I’m actually going to write my NaNo novel this year. What point of view do I want to present it from? Once again, my logline (and expect to be sick of seeing this sentence as this “Countdown to NaNoWriMo” series continues) is:
“A dissolute knight is possessed by a century old sacrificial victim to overthrow a cruel god.”
So, that’s the idea to keep in mind while considering the various point of view options. I think the four most common point of view choices in novels are:
First person: Typically, this is the point of view used where the main character is telling the story. There’s generally a lot of “I narration,” and the reader experiences the whole tale through the narrating character’s eyes knowing their thoughts, their opinion on everything that happens to and around them.
This viewpoint creates a great bond between the reader and the central character and really helps give that character a distinctive voice. The limitation is that anything that the character doesn’t directly experience must remain as opaque to the reader as it is for the character.
I don’t write much in first person, though I had a great time trying to do so in “The Bear of Albion,” and in the idea I have for NaNo, I need a way of clearly delineating the actions of the dissolute knight from those of the sacrificial victim acting within the same body and I don’t think first person allows me to do that.
Third person limited: In all the third person points of view, the narrator isn’t a character in the story, and typically will use “he” or “she” to refer to characters within narration. Third person limited is the form of third person most similar to the first person, in that it’s limited to describing what one character thinks, knows and feels. It does allow for a little more narrative distance than first person as the narrator can refer to some things outside the character’s viewpoint. A good example is J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit where everything is told from Bilbo Baggins’ third person view point.
Third person limited has very similar benefits and drawbacks to first person, and isn’t ideally suited to my NaNo for the same reasons.
Third person multiple: Similar to third person limited in scope and character connection, but the key difference (as the name probably implies) is that it allows for multiple characters to be used as the narrator’s viewpoint characters. The big key to coherency is to make sure switches between viewpoint characters are clearly marked by section or chapter breaks. George R.R. Martin uses this to great effect in A Game of Thrones where each chapter marks a switch in who the point of view character is.
This viewpoint would allow me to show the conflict and contrast between the knight and the sacrifice as the tale develops, and would be useful in fleshing out the world. This is the point of view I most often write in, including my last two NaNos. I’m leaning to this point of view for 2013, but there’s one more point of view to consider.
Third person omniscient: The narrator knows everything that’s happening to all characters at all times and is never limited by a characters frame of reference. This makes the narrator capable of telling everything to the reader, which I think weakens the writing overall, as it’s far too easy to break the first rule of good writing, “show, don’t tell” when utilizing omniscient points of view. It can be done well, of course, but I’m struggling to think of an example. I’m sure one of my readers will be delighted to correct that oversight in the comments (hint, hint).
On reflection, I think I’m going to be using third person multiple point of view for this year’s NaNo after all.
What point of view do you plan on using for your NaNoWriMo efforts? Why?
( Photograph by Loredana Bejerita)