March 16, 2017

Unconventional Uses of Point-of-View

In my last post, I talked about how to avoid abusing point-of-view.

I call it cheap writing because the author simply jumps from head to head. It is easy and takes no creativity. When forced to stay in one head or in the head of a particular character throughout a scene or chapter, it’s harder to create a full story. Authors must use creative means to do that. It’s more work, harder and much more enjoyable for the reader.

They do this with a subtle purpose, not just to be different. As long as the method does not distract the reader, it’s perfectly fine to try some of these unconventional techniques.

Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about.

In the book, Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult uses the first person point of view for four different characters. She introduces the characters at the beginning of each chapter with their names. But, the chapter is told from the first person point-of-view. So, when Jenna talks, she says, “I went to the school…” This is a very different approach to what might be more common–use the third person. When alternating points-of-view are told in a story, most authors chose the third person. It was a general understanding that first-person is only used when there’s only one point-of-view. That rule, however, is changing. Why might Jodi Picoult choose this method instead the third person? My guess is she wanted to bring the reader closer to those four characters. She wanted them to feel, hear, see, taste, touch what those characters felt, heard, saw, tasted and touched. And, the method worked.

Another example of a creative use of point of view was adopted in Clare Mackintosh’s book, I let You Go. In this book the author uses the first-person point of view for two characters, the protagonist and the antagonist. She uses the third person for the police. Again this is a very unconventional use of point-of-view, but it clearly adds tension in a suspenseful book. The reader is kept at a distance from the police (where the reader ordinarily feels safest) and is brought in closer when put in the minds of the victim and the perpetrator. When things get the hottest, most scary, Mackintosh has the reader where she wants them, in the mind of the one being pursued. Very clever. And, again it worked.

My last example comes from The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. This book is told from the point-of-view of Death. Here we have an omnipresent point-of-view, one of my least favorite, but it’s done in such a creative way that the reader never believes the author is talking to us. Instead, we hear from the characters, in their points of view with the occasional asides from the omnipresent Death. For me, as a reader, it made the difficult times easier to bear. It made telling a harsh story easier to stomach. I can’t imagine how Zusak came up with the idea of telling the story from the point-of-view of Death, and my hunch is the first editors he sent the manuscript to, rejected that method. But, thankfully, he went with his instincts because this is an excellent book told in a masterful manner.

Creating the plot, characters, setting and overall story aren’t the only choices authors must make. How to tell that story is another important choice.

What are some examples of the use of point-of-view that you’ve found to be unconventional but effective? Share those with us!


I’ve Been Accused of Reading Like a Writer–Examples of Lazy Writing

When I said I didn’t find the story believable nor the characters likable, they said, I read like a writer. Perhaps I do.

I notice little slip ups that I try to avoid. Nonetheless, I do not believe we should think that our readers (who aren’t writers) won’t also notice these examples of lazy writing.

What are examples of lazy writing?

Number 1: When the writer says, “Melinda didn’t know it yet, but she was going to marry that man.” Okay, so if you’re in Melinda’s head and if she doesn’t know something, then you can’t either. This type of writing is inexcusable. The writer decided to toss in a statement like this rather than use good solid foreshadowing.

But, good writers know how to do it. Whenever I see a statement like the above (and I’ve seen the best writers get lazy and do this), I tend to lose respect for the author.

Number 2: Do not create solutions that at impossible.

 That was one of my chief complaints with Gone Girl. The solution (if you can call it that), just wouldn’t work. The author clearly didn’t know how to resolve the book, so she resorted to the impossible. Authors try to put their characters in impossible situations. That’s the mark of a good writer. But, we also have go get them out of those situations with clear, believable solutions.

Number 3: Make your characters multidimensional.

 When we resort to perfect people or people who are too villainous, we create cardboard characters. I recently read I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. Her protagonist was flawed. The more I read, the more I understood her flaws. Her decisions were sometimes good and other times not so good. I have to say, the bad guy was very, very bad. It was hard for me to see anything redeeming about him. But, I cheered for the good guy even though she was flawed. As writers we want our readers to understand the motivations of our characters. We also want them to see themselves or people they know in those people we create. When we develop realistic characters with strengths and weaknesses, we create real people.

These are a few of the instances where I’ve caught authors getting lazy about their work. Have you seen others?

Take a peak at this book trailer. My characters are real, sometimes flawed and my solutions possible. Do you agree?



My #Review of a Book Full of Twists–4 Stars


Click to order on Amazin

It doesn’t describe the story and instead misleads the reader. Otherwise the book was a fun read. I enjoyed the characters. Many reviewers didn’t like the main character because she was so unreliable. But, unreliable characters are becoming the thing. I realized right away that she was not trustworthy because her choices seemed way off. But, later as things became clearer, her reliability increased.

It’s hard not to give too much away in this book. First, it’s a mystery. Something terrible happens in the beginning which sets off the chain of events. There is not a dead body in the room. That means it’s not a typical mystery. Nonetheless, the reader is constantly wondering what is going on. The police are on a chase for the perpetrator and their frustrations become the reader’s.

Second, I found myself rooting for Ray, the main policeman. But, when he nearly strayed, he became less likable. Integrity is something I like in the main law enforcement characters, whether it’s a policeman or a detective. I didn’t feel as if Ray had much integrity.

The author shifts from first person with the protagonist and antagonist to the third person with the police. That shift helped me know who was talking. But, I wondered about writing the entire book in the third person. Personally, it was creepy being in the mind of the antagonist.

There’s a lot of suspense in this book. [Tweet “If I hadn’t spent lots of money getting manicures, I’d have bitten my nails to the quick” @claremackint0sh] As it was, I nibbled on my cheek and kept turning pages. The reader isn’t terribly surprised by the bad guy, but what keeps us in suspense is what will happen to the protagonist. I can’t tell more without spoiling the suspense.

My only complaint and the only reason I would give this book 4 instead of 5 stars is that the ending seemed strange. Was the author trying to keep the suspense going or creating a backdrop for a future book. Either way, it didn’t work.

And if you do read it, share your views here with me. I’d love to hear what you think.

Wanna read another book full of twists with an unreliable narrator? Try this one.