A Look at Point of View in Fiction

Pick up any book on writing fiction. You’ll find a section on point of view (POV). Open any novel and read the first paragraph or two. Look for the pronouns. Ignoring dialog, if you find “I”, the story is told in first person and the author lets the reader see things and feel emotions through the narrator’s eyes. Otherwise, a character, usually the main character, at first referred to by name but subsequently by “he” or “she” provides the point of view. The reader sees and feels what that character sees and feels. Some fiction relies on an omniscient POV, where the reader sees and hears things that no character can sense. In other cases the POV changes from one character to another.

Some writers treat POV with kid gloves, others are more casual about it. Every critique group has its POV maven.

How important is POV when you write a story? Are there rules to never break? What are the types of POV? What do the experts say and do? Can ignorance of POV destroy your story? To what degree does POV limit the narrative? Are there genres that must be written in one particular POV? These are some of the questions to guide us as we explore. Continue reading “A Look at Point of View in Fiction”

How many characters should inhabit your novel?

How many characters should your populate your story?

In a 2015 workshop sponsored by Houston Writers House, local literary luminary Ann Weisgarber warned to not have more than five characters appear in the first three pages of a story (short story, memoir, or novel). We did not take up the related question, what’s the maximum number a novel can support and how much does it depend on the number of words or pages?

That workshop came to mind recently while reading Julian Symons, A Criminal Comedy. I’d been working my way through the winners of the Edgar Award for best crime fiction novel and Symons was on the list, not for this novel, but for his The Progress of a Crime, which I enjoyed reading a few months back. I stumbled upon A Criminal Comedy and decided to give it a try. Continue reading “How many characters should inhabit your novel?”