Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Great Christmas Read, and a Viewpoint Question

By Lynn R. Hartz

Lydia was burned out by her work as a midwife until destiny called her to be an aid to the birth of Jesus. A moving, beautifully-written book about a witness to one of the most important periods in religious history.

Question from the e-mail:  I'm still confused about viewpoint.  I remember you said in class that it was the hardest thing of all that you had to learn. My current teacher keeps saying, "Whose eyes are you seeing through?" But all the people who are present can see the same thing.

Answer: A short story should always be told from only one viewpoint.

In novels if you are in first person, the viewpoint character is always the "I" narrator. 

If you are writing a novel in third person, the the viewpoint can change at chapter and scene breaks.

Writing teachers often say, “Whose eyes can see that?” But that confused me for a long time, too. The best explanation I’ve found is: Whose body are you inside? If you can imagine yourself inside the character's body, that is your viewpoint character. You can only tell the reader what that character sees with his eyes, hears with his ears, and feels with his heart.

If you want to tell the reader what someone other than the viewpoint character thinking, then you can have the viewpoint character see his reaction on his face or in his body language. What you can't do is tell the reader what that Other character is thinking and feeling. Only the viewpoint character can have thoughts and feelings in a particular scene.

I didn't make up these rules and I know many authors ignore them. Many successful authors ignore them. But critics will always notice...

The viewpoint character should always be the first person mentioned in a new scene or chapter. IF you name first someone  whose body you are not inside, then you will confuse the reader.

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