Lew's AUTHOR BLOG

* POV and voice

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 26, 2012

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

  • omniscient narrator, able to show the inner feelings of all the characters
  • at least once the narrator speaks in his own voice … (beginning of Ch 3) … “Faber … Godliman … two-thirds of a triangle that one day would be crucially completed by … David and Lucy”
  • the narrator thus provides a foreshadowing, setting the stage and piquing the reader’s interest.

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

  • an omniscient narrator, who sometimes interjects into the story … “nor can I discover …”

Silence in Hanover Close by Anne Perry

  • Perry gets us into the heads of all three of her major characters – Pitt, Charlotte and Emily – and the omniscient narrator POV allows this easily and smoothly.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

  • the narrator is omniscient, knowing things that were not known at the time
  • this narrator, who is never introduced to us, gains our trust when he says that what the people of Lima have come to believe about Dona Maria is not true, and “all real knowledge”
  • also when he corrects Dona Maria’s impressions of the Perichole … “It was … untrue …”
  • in the conversation (p 24) between Dona Maria and the Perichole, the narrator reveals the inner thoughts of both.
  • the Abbess has “fallen in love with an idea several centuries before its appointed appearance in the history of civilization.” The idea is the modern role of women, and the way it is disclosed reveals the perspective of the narrator, and places him in the 20th century.

The Instrument by John O’Hara

  • O’Hara uses an omniscient narrator.
  • Had he used 1st person (Yank) he would have been forced to write a far more interesting story.

The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte

  • inconsistent narrator.
  • How can Boris Balkan, the knowledgeable narrator of the Dumas part of the story, continue to function as narrator after the April 1 meeting of the Club Dumas, when the story now switches totally to the other narrative, in which he is not involved and knows nothing?
  • the narractor seems to be a minor character who interacts with Corso, so he is really telling the story from what Corso has told him. Why not have Corso narrate in 1st person? I wonder if Perez-Reverte thought of doing it that way.

Write Away by Elizabeth George

  • must be clear about point of view in each scene
  • Objective viewpoint ·  writing is journalistic, like a reporter; provides facts, but not thoughts and feelings of characters – tough to carry off well
  • objective narrative can create an aura of intrigue about a character or a situation – precisely because the reader does not know inner thoughts or feelings, but it also minimizes the reader’s intimacy
  • Omniscient viewpoint. · Must be adept to remain truly omniscient and not just slip in and out of different characters points of view
  • the omniscient narrator knows, sees, hears all  ·  the narrator enters into the mind of every character
  • the viewpoint of the narrator is not necessarily that of the author
  • the omniscient narrator is a story teller; the reader sinks into the story; the narrator is not confined to the time or place of the individual scene (like a reporter would be) but can provide history about the characters as well as what’s in their hearts and minds
  • Character viewpoints … Reveal only what the chosen character would see, know, think, feel in each scene in which the character is participating
  • First person … Stay with one narrator throughout the novel … be in that character’s head and none other. Terrific intimacy, authenticity. BUT this one character must be in every scene, which is a challenge to plotting
  • Shifting first person. Multiple first character viewpoints. Each section or alternating chapters told by a different first person narrator. Challenge: each “I” must be utterly distinct
  • Shifting third person. NOTE: no viewpoint shift within a scene
  • can combine first person with shifting third person (that’s what I did in A Good Conviction)
  • too many narrators slows down the pace of a novel
  • the narrator can be reliable or a devilishly clever liar, likable or not

What Makes Sammy Run by Budd Schulberg

  • The entire story is about Sammy Glick, but everything is told through the eyes of Al Manheim. When something occurs that Schulberg wants the reader to know, but Manheim wasn’t there, he has the person who was there (usually Glick) tell Manheim what happened. These sections are in italic.

Write Away by Elizabeth George (voice)

  • voice is the tone that comes through the narrative when the point-of-view character is on stage
  • voice comes from the character analysis you’ve created; if you’ve designed characters who come to life, highlighting the salient aspects of their personalities allows their voices to emerge
  • a character’s voice comes from his background, education, position in society, personal and family history, prejudices and biases, inclinations and desires, belief system, what he wants for his life, his agenda in an individual scene, his arching purpose, his core need
  • voice: use of language, vocabulary, attitude
  • we’re inside his head, living the scene through him
  • attitude reveals character
  • reader can recognize connections to a character or can recognize that the character is very different (curiosity piqued?)

The Spooky Art by Norman Mailer

  • in the 1st person, you gain immediacy but lose insight, because you can’t move into other people’s heads.
  • in the 3rd person, you are God, ready to see into everyone’s mind, enter into every character’s consciousness.
  • 1st person cannot be as free as the separation between author and protagonist offered by the 3rd person.
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