Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vantage Point

When I mentioned to a Scottish writer friend that I was going to write about point of view, he immediately quipped: "It's an interesting topic--depending on which way you look at it.'"--Jane Yolen

Here's a view from my office window--a vantage point from which I can see the field next door, the road, and at times a host of animals passing by: deer, turkeys, bunnies, ground hogs, opossum. Once we saw a coyote. The other day when this picture was taken, the clouds in the sky were amazing.

Vantage point: A better position or condition; advantage. Thinking back on the history of the room where this window is located, I'm reminded that the tiny slice of space (it's only 5' wide, 13' long) has served our family from a number of vantage points through the years. First it was a nursery. Then a toy room, sewing room, or "computer" room, depending on what we needed it to be. Finally, it rose to the status of "office," a term that instantly elevated my work from hobby to serious business! It's all in how you look at it.

Chosing point of view for our stories is really nothing more than considering the best vantage point for telling the story. In fact, in defining POV, Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction, a Guide to Narrative Craft, says, "The first thing to do is to set aside the common use of the phrase 'point of view' as being synonymous with 'opinion.'...Rather (begin) with the more literal synonym of 'vantage point.' Who is standing where to watch the scene?"

Although there are a number of POVs to consider--first person, second, third-person omniscient, third-person objective--I've chosen third-person limited (limited-omniscient) for my WIP. Burroway explains that one of the advantages to this POV is in its immediacy. "Here," she writes, "because we are not allowed to know more than Jane does about her own thoughts and feelings, we grope with her toward understanding." She adds that although this form may seem restrictive, it in fact "has a freedom that no human being can be simultaneously inside and outside a given character."

I'm having fun viewing my story from this vantage point. Do you have a favorite view on yours?


  1. The quote at the beginning is fabulous. I'm writing my story in first because it's what suits this particular story best. Though sometimes I wish I could switch to third limited because my MC's bias sometimes leads to people getting impressions of other characters that aren't necessarily true at all.

  2. Good post. Hadn't thought of it quite like that. My blogging friends always make me think!
    Karen :)

  3. I never thought of it like that either. It helps with my perspective, for sure. I tend to write in first person but I may break out of that soon, and I'll need this reminder then!

  4. First of all I'd never get any work done! Thanks for making me think of POV in a different light! My view? The deep blue pacific. Oh and a few palm trees get in the way. ;)