Chapter 3 of “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers”

In chapter 3 we get a lesson on point-of-view–but somewhat more advanced than simply outlining the three primary kinds of POV: first, omniscient, and third. In fact, the bulk of the chapter is spent talking about “narrative distance.”

Narrative distance describes the concept of closeness to character. How intimate with a character’s thoughts is the text? Typically, more intimate is better, since this builds believable and engaging characters.

The more intimate the POV, the more the character’s personality and mood can affect description. This keeps the flow going. The closeness to the character should affect word choice and syntax throughout the text.

No doubt, POV affects narrative distance, and typically a POV should be selected and stuck to for any given scene. First person is closest to the character. Omniscient the most distant. Third person ranges across a spectrum and can be close or far.

If you’re going to switch between two viewpoints a single scene, you’d better know what you’re doing.

Personally, I’ like to stick to one POV. I don’t feel expert enough to switch back and forth within a scene. If I need to switch POV, I do as the book suggests: break the scene, shift the POV with a linespace, and start a new scene from the new POV.


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