"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: Your Point Of View In Writing

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Your Point Of View In Writing

Dear Fellow Writer,

The season is changing. It's time for new goals, new hope and improved results.

Getting things done is about focus. Because you get what you focus on.

Want a better life? Focus on that.

Want to write more books, faster, and make money writing? Focus on those goals.

What could be simpler?

Keep writing!


Your Point of View in Writing

Your Point of View in Writing

The issue of how to deal with point of view in writing presents problems for many new writers. However, the principle is simple to grasp.

Here's a mental exercise for you:

You are you. You know who you are and you know what you think. Fine so far.

Imagine you walk into a room. There's someone else there. You can see her: what she looks like, whether she's nice or nasty looking. You can hear her talking. You can smell her perfume. There are all sorts of things you might describe about her.

But what is the one thing you cannot do?

Easy. You cannot know what she is thinking. 

You cannot know what motivates her unless she tells you. You cannot know anything about her background unless she shares it with you. Got that?

Now, when you're writing, the character who's telling the story is the same: a person with limited, or nonexistent, psychic abilities. Therefore, your point of view character CANNOT KNOW what is inside the head of any other character.

New writers often make the mistake of telling a story from one character's point of view and then, because they want to be thorough, or explain things, they start describing other characters' motivations and back story - all things the point-of-view character cannot know.

Only God knows what everyone is thinking. And the author is not God. You are a mere writer who must write via a point of view character.

Authorial omniscience tends to throw the reader out of the fictive dream.

More simply, one character knowing what's in another character's head feels wrong to the reader and the reader therefore stops believing the story.

This is because omniscience implies there's an author telling the story, instead of a character. And, as I've said many times before: the author has no place in a story.

Once readers get a whiff of the author, they lose interest in the story because the fiction is no longer believable.

The fact is, nobody wants to know what an author thinks.

This may be a hard concept to grasp but ultimately your writing is not you.

It is a reflection of you, yes, but through a lens, in the same way that an actor is not a person but rather the character he or she is playing. Do you see the difference?

Your writing is not YOU.

Your written pieces are artificial constructs designed to inform, entertain or to challenge.

But the work you create will always be separate from you, the person.

Bearing this counter-intuitive fact in mind should actually make your writing easier. It certainly helps when it comes to editing. Because when you lose your personal attachment to your work, you become more able to see whether the words are working effectively. You begin to see your writing through the eyes of others, which can only make you better.

One of the other essential things to remember is that when you're writing, you're NOT creating sacred texts.

Not everything you write will be usable or publishable.

Indeed, around 80% of your writing output will probably never see the light of day.

Even the most successful authors have vast reserves of writing that will always remain unseen, hidden away, not for public consumption.

Much of a writer’s output will be average, disposable, words on pages, the writer filling in time, experimenting with different writing forms or with attempts at developing certain ideas and/or themes. Lots of writing that really has no place outside of the author's computer or filing system.

But this is good news because it takes the pressure off.

It means that at any one time the likelihood of the thing you're writing RIGHT NOW will be in that 80% is fairly high, almost guaranteed in fact.

Most successful writers will have at least one million words written that will always remain hidden from the world before and after they get published. This is as it should be.

Writers whose every word is genius is a myth. Having everything you write published is never going to happen - and you wouldn't want that anyway. And just like being a carpenter, nobody gets to see all the chairs you've ever constructed, only the good ones get you rich, famous and appreciated.

Really, it's okay to dump entire novels. It's okay to write several drafts of a book, a short story or an article. It's okay to work for months on a screenplay that never gets off the ground. That's what being a working writer is about.

Because here is the true secret behind being a successful writer:

Not being motivated by what writing can bring, but being entirely happy with the writing process itself.

You should write purely for the love of writing. Period.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

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