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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.


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Monday 23 November 2009
This is longer than usual because it is such a huge subject. We did touch on it back in August but the ABG members asked for more, so here it is. Some people don’t understand VP. Others didn’t know it existed. Others think it unimportant. Some are afraid of it. And the lucky few just do it without thinking. So, what’s on offer? Omniscient, is archaic and rare. It gives only the narrators POV. It can alienate the reader for there is a great risk of the voice that emerges being too authorial. However there are advantages in that there are no barriers to what is going on in other’s heads. . There is currently one which is fashionable - Deep 3rd which I don’t understand so I’m ignoring it – well it’s my blog! But in any case I think the conventional ones are sufficient for us. So, we have: 1st person single. 3rd person single. 3rd person multiple to chose from. Without doubt, choosing who is to have a viewpoint in your novel is critical. If you want to write a single VP is it going to be written in 3rd person or is it in 1st person? It’s important to consider if they can carry a whole book – for this character has to be big enough, interesting enough, empathetic enough to sustain interest through a whole novel. If you decide you would be better off with another VP joining – who is it to be? The same with multiple VPs, which ones? Ask yourself how am I to arrange them, how am I going to control them? The first thing I advise you to do is to sit down and think WHY have I chosen this particular one or two or three? Make a list - if you’re like me lists always help. Why do I think single will be better? Why 3rd person? Why am I afraid of single VP? Why multiple VPs? What seemed like a good idea might not be so and by working through you will have saved yourself a lot of bother and work and, if you decide to change half way through, a lot of complications. 1st PERSON NARRATIVE. Some think this is the easiest when it is one of the hardest. DISADVABTAGES. It is one person, who holds the story together, that person has to be strong and interesting to sustain the reader’s interest. Remember, it is one person’s POV. Therefore, nothing can happen in your book without that person being present. There is a big risk that the writer becomes the narrator instead of the character. ADVANTAGES. One can get to know this person in depth. There is no difficulty in introducing thought processes. Some writers worry that the ‘I’ will dominate the page when in fact they don’t. 3rd PERSON SINGLE NARRATIVE. We have almost the same disadvantages as 1st – however with the use of 3rd then there is less risk of the author becoming the narrator. And the same advantages exist. MULTIPLE VIEWPOINTS. This is the most popular for a very long novel. By using several characters and their VP you are spreading the load. You are noT reliant on one person to tell your story. But a word of warning. If you have too many “heads” you can make things too complicated, not only for yourself in controlling and balancing them, but too many differing VPs and the reader has problems identifying who is who. What do I mean by getting the balance right? With multiples it is very easy to favour one of the characters so that the second, or third, shrinks into insignificance, so we wonder why they have such an important role? Another thing that can happen is that you find you like writing one more than another and, when this happens, the consistency of your writing can suffer – for the simple reason you want to get back to the one you like the most. If you feel like this then your reader will too and there’s the risk they will skim the parts of the least favoured characters. If this happens you would be wise to ask why you have so many, and perhaps to drop one. ADVANTAGES. You are not restricted to how many. 2,3, 4 are common. (I’d advise no more than four, it needs a practised hand to deal with a crowd.) With several characters VP they can play off each other. It helps hugely with character development since they can tell us their opinion of others. The book can move into other places, your venues are not restricted . Multiples add interest. By spreading the load – the risk that your character isn’t really up to being a VP is lessened. DISADVATAGES. As I’ve said the risk of favouring. Too many making for confusion. Choosing the wrong VPs. Not making them different enough. There is a greater risk of switching heads in the same scene. OVERALL DANGERS. 1. Keeping to the POV chosen. 2. Switching VPs in the same scene. 3. Changing the main VP during the novel. 4. Not understanding that the VP is the characters and not the writer’s. TIP. If undecided what to do then take the first few paragraphs of work in progress and switch the VPs you have available and see how it reads and how it affects the characterization, the mood, the sense of the novel.


  1. Very informative and useful, thanks. I find this confusing at times.

  2. Thanks for this informative post, Annie. I have (as you know!) struggled with 'head hopping' within scenes and sometimes I don't know I'm even doing it. Your clear cut explaination of the principles makes tackling viewpoint seem much less daunting.