Sweetie by Kathryn Magendie

When Not to Give an Interesting Character a POV

This week’s video provides a different perspective on choosing the right POV characters.

Video Transcript:

One of the toughest decisions for any book is which and how many characters should be given a POV. A lot of writers seem to just dive in and write whatever POV is handiest for any particular scene, without giving a lot of thought to how this will affect the book as a whole. One of the tip-offs of a savvy author is his control of his POVs. If it’s obvious an author has specifically chosen his POVs, rather than just writing whatever’s handy, you know he’s knows what he’s doing. As we’ve discussed in previous videos, there are many factors to consider in selecting POV characters. One of those factors is usually, “Is this character interesting? Does he have a good narrative voice?” And this is absolutely a great rule of thumb. But sometimes you’re actually going to want to resist giving POVs to your most interesting characters.

Why? I mean, on the surface, that sounds idiotic, right? But I promise there is a method to this madness. And here it is: the reason you may want to consider restricting POV from an interesting character is to give readers a little distance from him. Sometimes strange or fascinating characters lose a little of their magic—their mystery—if we get too close to them.

Kathryn Magendie, in her haunting coming-of-age story Sweetie, chose to do exactly what we’re talking about. The title character is easily the most fascinating person in the book. But she isn’t given a POV. Magendie lets readers view her only through the lens of the first-person narrator, who is Sweetie’s best friend. The result of this clever choice is that Sweetie gets to maintain every last bit of her ethereal strangeness. If we had gotten into her head, a lot of that would have been explained away—or, at the very least, severely mitigated. So before you jump right in and give a fascinating character a POV, consider whether you might capture him better by filtering him through the lens of another character’s perspective.

Tell me your opinion: Have you ever opted to restrct POV from a particularly interesting character? Why?

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Wow, it´s an excellent advice :O
    I will definitely have this in mind, but I think it is also possible, and fun, to play along with what the character really is and what the other characters see thorugh. Personally, I love doing that 😀
    Hugs,

  2. Oh, definitely. There are so many angles to explore. The one we choose has to come down to what’s best for the story and what, precisely, *we* want to explore in our characters.

  3. True, sometimes it´s just so diffcult *head desk*, but I guess you´re right, it depends on what we explore.
    But it´s still an interesting idea to keep your character misterious o.O BUT, on the other hand,I think it makes it way more diffult to expose the character´s inner motivations

  4. Which is really the key. If you want to expose the character’s inner motivations, then this is probably not going to be the right technique

  5. Yeah, it all comes down to the particular piece. But in some cases it can be the perfect move 🙂

  6. Toni Morrison is absolutely a master of this. I absolutely recommend reading just about anything she writes, but “Love” is one that provides a good example of this.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.