First, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Have a wonderful day!
Now, for our topic of discussion: point of view. In this case, I’m referring to staying ‘inside’ one character’s head only, until there is a chapter or scene break, at which point you may switch to a different character or not. At this time, many writers and publishers believe in keeping to a very strict point of view, but it wasn’t always so. It wasn’t that way in many of the books I read growing up, and it certainly wasn’t that way in Jane Austen’s time. That puts us, as fan fiction writers, in an interesting position. Do we adhere to modern trends, or do we go with Miss Austen’s style?
Before we delve too far into the topic, I would like to share an image. I purchased this print at the World Fantasy Convention last month. When I picked it out, I didn’t look at the title. It wasn’t until I went to buy it that I saw it’s called Point of View. As I was already planning this blog topic, I decided it was only right I share an image which so serendipitously came into my life at the same time. It’s by Sarah Clemens and you can find her work at www.clemensart.com.
Back to the topic at hand, whenever I consider writing and publishing trends, I always ask myself why. Why have we moved to a strict point of view? I can think of several reasons.
Foremost is clarity. Maintaining a single point of view keeps the reading experience clean. It prevents confusion. I have definitely read works where a single point of view was not adhered to and confusion abounded. To the author, it may seem clear who is thinking or doing what, but to the reader, it’s a chaos of thoughts, emotions and actions that can’t be sorted through. That said, I have not once had that experience while reading Miss Austen. Does that mean that if you write well enough, you may take liberties with point of view?
The second reason I can come up with is the abundance of visual media. That may at first seem contradictory, but as an author I’ve thought long and hard about what books have to offer. While the whole of that would be a separate post, the relevant feature here is, with books, the reader is experiencing the world as the point of view character. The reader gets to be there, inside the person, inside the world. For all of the amazing media experiences we have now, there is still nothing that offers the full immersion a well-written book can. To my mind, keeping to one point of view capitalizes on this important feature.
The final reason I have to offer today is mundane: A lot of publishers ask for a strict point of view, and publishers still rule the publishing industry. However, I don’t believe their requirements to be arbitrary, though some seem that way. I believe that publishers are inundated with submissions and that necessitates rules. Rules to make their job easier and more efficient, rules based on what is most likely to sell well, and rules simply for the sake of rules. The last category is the one that seems arbitrary, but to my mind it is a sorting device. Does a publisher really want to put time and money into working with an author who can’t follow a few rules when there are plenty out there who can? Of course, as many Austen Fan Fiction writers self-publish, this can also be a moot point.
You’ll notice I didn’t give a reason as to why the second of my three points shouldn’t apply to Fan Fiction. That’s because it is the point I most strongly believe in and the reason I keep to a strict point of view in my work.
As Authors: Do you believe in keeping to one point of view at a time? If so, why? If not, why not?
As Readers: Do you prefer to read a book that keeps to one point of view at a time, or is it something you don’t notice or don’t care about?