This Thursday’s Child–Tools for the Craft 2

Last Thursday, I cut short my post during mention of POV, point of view. In all my reading before taking up fiction-writing, it had never occurred to me that POV was anything other than first-person present tense, or third-person past tense. I don’t ever recall it being explained by my school teachers or college professors.

The circumstances of learning that I didn’t understand POV were almost as embarrassing as not having had the savvy to pick up the knowledge by osmosis.

Suffused with neophyte enthusiasm at having typed “the end” onto my raw draft, and confident that the story was as engrossing as my friends claimed, I was inexperienced enough to pay a fee and enter it in the only contest I found that allowed a category for novels of its extreme length.

Reality is a hard gift when it arrives as statistics showing that your tale finished in the bottom three percent of all entries. Only one judge’s comment held out any hope that I could notice: “When you learn point of view technique, this story will sing.” Well, I grabbed onto it like a lifeline shot down to the water by rescuers in the helicopter of publishing savvy.

There was just one problem. The lifeline had come loose from the drum of the winch. I had no way to contact the judge and ask him or her what point of view technique meant, much less what I needed to do to fix the error.

To find help took another two years. When I joined American Christian Fiction Writers, I told my first critique group about my confusion. Those ladies set to work. It was a long, unattractive struggle. Not only did I head-hop (work from multiple perspectives) during dialogue, I found subtle ways to slide the same flaw into passages of description, writing in something that was neither third person perspective limited to one character, nor a classic omniscient point of view.

My comprehension came when I read an analogy from the film industry. The characters in your novel, like cameras on a set, are your readers’ source of all information. Although film-makers use several cameras to capture various perspectives, they never use footage from all of the cameras simultaneously. Avoid writing a dizzying mess; choose a character’s perspective for each scene, and stick to it.