Writing a novel- Mastering Viewpoint – Whose story are you telling?

Viewpoint is one of the most difficult aspects for new writers to grasp, and sometimes even established writers struggle with this.  Before you begin your short story or novel you need to decide whose story it is i.e. from whose viewpoint are you telling the story?  You might think it is fairly obvious that it is the protagonist’s story but is it his (or hers) alone, or do you need to switch to telling the story from another character’s viewpoint i.e. is it single viewpoint or multiple viewpoint?
Then there is the question of whether it will be written in the first person or the third person?  How do you make that decision?  Sometimes it is a matter of trial and error or rather experimentation.  When I wrote In Cold Daylight, a thriller, I originally wrote it in the third person. It was only when I had finished the novel that I knew it didn’t feel right.  It didn’t have enough tension, so I decided to re-write it switching to the first person and it worked much better. Thrillers are frequently written in the first person to give them a faster-pace.

Using first person viewpoint though does have its drawbacks in that everything must be seen through this one character’s eyes. The same applies if you choose to write the novel, or short story, from the singular third person point of view, as I have chosen to do in the DI Andy Horton novels, you cannot switch to another characters’ thoughts and emotions. Instead you follow the story through the main character’s eyes. On the plus side this can help the reader to identify far more strongly with that main character.

Writing from third person multiple viewpoint opens up more possibilities. You can switch to telling the story through other characters’ eyes, showing their thoughts and emotions. However care must be taken not to have too many characters telling the story and switching too frequently from one character to another because this will result in losing the emotional intensity of the story and irritating the reader.   Just when they’ve got inside one character’s head they’re pulled away to another.  If you decide to have more than one viewpoint it is best to switch character viewpoint at the beginning of a new chapter or passage, and every few pages, not on the same page and not too frequently.

Another question you need to ask, if you are telling the story in the first person or the singular third person, is are you writing from the male or female point of view.  

When I first started writing I wrote from the female character's point of view but as I continued I found myself far more attracted to telling the story from the male character's point of view.  When I created the flawed and rugged detective, DI Andy Horton, in the first of the Horton series, Tide of Death, I knew then that I had found my ‘voice’.  Everything began to fall into place. Many people ask me why I have chosen to write from the male point of view and the answer is I don’t really know, maybe it’s because I like male heroes.  I don't think it matters, it just happens to be my style.   That being said there are, of course, some strong females in my novels.

Finding the right viewpoint and your voice takes time and practice but if you enjoy writing then that's not a chore, on the contrary it's always a pleasure to experiment and experiment you must.

Where to buy Pauline Rowson's books

Pauline Rowson's books are available in a number of formats including, hardcover, paperback, large print, audio book and ebook format from all major retailers, independent bookshops and on line.

Also available on Kindle, Kobo and Nook and can be borrowed from libraries within the UK, USA and Commonwealth.

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