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Pardon me for using my blog to contemplate point of view

Pardon me for using my blog to contemplate point of view.

I wouldn’t bend your ear except that I’m a little nervous about changing up my normal bent: using third person limited. Normally I give voices (the cameras) to two or three characters in my novels. On one story I used five points of view…third person, limited.

Here’s a chart to show you the four types:

I’m about to leap into third person omniscient for my twelfth novel, When Winds Howl, third in a series about a small fishing town in British Columbia. When Mountains Fall and When Oceans Rage precede When Winds Howl.

You see, my new setting is a yacht, with four crew members and eight guests. It’s an Agatha Christie who-dun-it, a high school reunion, a yacht trip to view Alaska’s glaciers, gifted by an anonymous school mate. At the helm of this yacht is a woman making her virgin trip as captain. Already you can see the problem. If my heroine is directing the ship’s course most of the time, how can she observe her crew and guests to unravel the mystery? Another main character is a ship engineer. He should be busy in the engine room and other places on the boat that require fixing. How could either of them know what the guests are doing in their cabins? Don’t we need a bead on the personalities of everyone on board?

Presently I’m reading The Stand, by Stephen King, centered on a deadly virus killing off ninety-nine percent of Americans. (I know…isn’t Covid enough of a worry?) He’s an author with a keen understanding of human behavior and a rich imagination regarding dystopian scenarios. Third person omniscient is an apt device to use given the chaos of the time and the ‘dream’ factor that plays a huge role in raising the suspense quotient. The narrator is opinionated: we know which characters he likes and dislikes; we have a clear sense of his philosophy about what it means to be human.

A lesson learned from King: the narrator can hold a range of attitudes toward his characters, everything from neutral to highly disgusted. I need to determine the stance of my third person omniscient narrator and remain consistent with that approach.

Point of view is a key element to any story and as I move from my normal choice of limited omniscient to all-out omniscient, I take a risk. Look for the results of my efforts in When Winds Howl, in early 2022. And wish me luck!


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