This month’s Round Robin question is about Viewpoint. How do we as writers tell the story, show the characters’ emotions and switch between them?
My normal mode is 3rd person character. That means, I am in one head at a time, but as the author. I don’t find 1st person easy to write. I enjoy reading author omniscient, but haven’t found it attractive enough to tempt me. I’ve never written anything in 2nd person where you might have used 1st, but are allowing a bit of outside observation and comment.
Generally, my novels will employ two central viewpoints. They will normally be the hero and the heroine. I enjoy pitting an attractive couple against one another and I like to see the same problem from two perspectives.
So, in Mariah’s Marriage, Mariah is determined to save Arabella from her brother’s violence, but Tobias is equally determined that doing so would put Mariah herself in danger.
It’s a conflict of opinion. We, the reader, see Mariah enlist the help of her maid to outwit the considerable obstacles Tobias has placed in the way of her leaving the house. Eventually, we understand why Tobias has acted the way he has and, tension mounting, we’re in his head as the drama unfolds.
I think that’s why I find 1st person difficult. There just seems to be so much more needed by way of comment when that single voice has to keep filling us in. Things like ‘Of course, I didn’t know at the time, but Tobias thought I was dead.’ – are well enough, and often skilfully handled, but I prefer to be in Tobias’s head while he’s doing that thinking; while he’s doing that sufferring.
Maybe it’s because I used to write plays…
The serial I wrote for People’s Friend in 2016, A Traveller’s Life, had several voices. I enjoyed that a lot. It was liberating to leave the (self-) imposed discipline of two voices and allow one or two more to take centre stage. Again, the dramatist in me loved hearing what all these people thought. However, it’s not unbridled by any means. People’s Friend like their serials presented in ‘chapters’ so each one had a central Viewpoint. I was not head-hopping.
So, here’s the divide – what is head-hopping and why do some editors permit it?
Head-hopping is where the author allows everybody and his auntie to have their say – in one chapter, sometimes – I’ve seen it done – even in the same paragraph.
Personally, I find that way of writing too confusing for words. I want to know who I’m rooting for and whose story is the one being told. The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott is a modern tour de force and some of it tells the same story over. However, Scott uses different books to do this and that’s not a luxury offered to all.
I have a short historical story in a new anthology by Capital Writers, Capital Stories. It’s available for your kindle and a wee snip at 99p/$1.37.
There are other opinions on this fundamental writing skill and you’ll find some of them here:
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ag
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Anne Stenhouse https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.co.uk/
I agree that head-hopping is annoying which is why I can never understand that my first drafts come out that way!
Hi Victoria, I think I can understand it. I found the switch from writing drama – where everyone speaks – to writing prose, very hard. So, it is difficult to avoid allowing everyone their say until you get down to editing. anne
I like third person character for the very things you have explained, although I often have more character viewpoints, but it depends on the genre, too. Good post Anne.
Hi Rhobin, thanks for dropping by. This was a great topic to set and lets our readers glimpse the difficulties of sorting everyone out, Anne
It’s a long time since I read Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet, Anne. I read it a long time before I thought of becoming a writer, and so I didn’t have that separate voice in my head analysing his technique. (That voice can be annoying at times!) The main characters and some of the scenes are still fresh in my mind after all these years, though, which is the sign of a really great story-teller. I enjoyed your post!
Hi Helena, I studied Eng Lit and Lang – so I suppose I’ve always had one eye on a person’s technique. The better the writer of course, the less you’re aware of that technique. I think we’ve all enjoyed this topic. Anne
Definitely agree on the head-hopping. It’s confusing to start with and also creates distance between the reader and the characters who matter most.
Hullo Skye, Actually that’s a point we maybe need to make more of – ‘creates distance between the reader and the characters who matter most.’ When I taught creative writing, I did try to make beginner writers understand how the reader likes/needs to know who they’re sympathising with – in accessible fiction. Rules might be a bit different for the literary brigade. Anne
I enjoyed the post and think you did a good job explaining 3rd person. And I believe head-hopping can be very confusing, unless really well done.
Hullo Beverley, Thanks for dropping by. I think we all agree over head-hopping – display of unity. Anne
Love your post, Anne – and am interested in how your experience of writing plays has affected your approach. I tend to have between 2 and 4 main viewpoints but never ‘head-hop’ within a scene. It amazes me that publishers still seem to accept this! Anne
Hullo Anne, thanks for dropping by. Yes, it is surprising – maybe we’re old fashioned not being as wholly from the texting generation as younger writers/readers? Anne
Hi Victoria! Coming late to the party. I think you have very valid reasons for not using first person (a romance needs two viewpoints) and of course omniscient voice can be a mess and is out of favor, at least in the US right now. Your story sounds exciting! I like his-hers alternating chapters. Gives the reader something to think about.
Gaa! Sorry Anne, I called you Victoria. My bad! Forgive???
Hi Judy, Don’t worry. It was so nice of you to drop by and thank you for your comment. Anne