Is it perspective or point of view?

Driving into town one day last summer I saw the pale moon hanging low on the horizon. I had to check the calendar later to learn it was a “waxing half moon”.

MoonSet

Then, after midnight on Christmas Eve, while returning home from a late candlelight service at our church I saw the half moon again. This time, however, it was a bright “waning half moon”.

XmasEveMoon

I’ve never studied astronomy… never thought much about waxing or waning. But I was curious enough to Google for lunar information. I learned that what I saw from my location in the northern hemisphere is not the same as a person viewing it from the southern hemisphere, but the opposite…

“Assuming that the viewer is in the northern hemisphere, the right portion of the Moon is the part that is always growing (i.e., if the right side is dark, the Moon is growing darker; if the right side is lit, the Moon is growing lighter). In the southern hemisphere the Moon is observed from a perspective inverted to that of the northern hemisphere, so the opposite sides appear to grow (wax) and shrink (wane).” [Wikipedia]

A friend’s recent Facebook post bemoaned the lack of doors in her home where previous occupants had knocked out walls to create an open floor plan. (Yes, this really does have something to do with the previous paragraphs.) She likes smaller rooms and likes being able to close off certain rooms. In the comments someone else said, “Love our open floor plan! It’s great for family gatherings and entertaining.”

It really IS all in the perspective, isn’t it?

For a time when I first began writing fiction, I thought perspective and point of view were the same thing. Eventually I learned that perspective depends on which character will tell the story, while point of view depends on how it will be told. That’s where First Person, Second Person, Third Person (Limited) and Third Person (Omniscient) points of view come into play. There are advantages and disadvantages to each but since this isn’t meant to be an in-depth lesson on POV, I won’t go into them.

On New Year’s Day I finally finished the rewrite/revision of my current work in progress. Although I’ve changed many things during my revision, point of view (POV) wasn’t one of them. A previous novel went through three POV changes before I was satisfied. What a headache that was! It taught me to make the choice before starting future manuscripts.

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Writers, when and how do you decide what POV you’ll use? And readers, does the choice of POV affect your enjoyment of a story?

Super Moon

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How does perspective affect mood in a novel?

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The word perspective has several synonyms including perception, angle, outlook, and viewpoint. Granted, each of them carries a slightly different nuance, but how often do we consider the importance of that when deciding which point of view to use in our stories?

After we decide on the main characters, there is always the question about first, second or third person point of view, and the appropriate tense. Sometimes the decisions are made very offhandedly, as if it doesn’t really matter as long as we choose one and stick with it.

What I’ve been noticing, however, is how the mood of a novel seems to depend on the personality represented by the point of view. Not only does each character have a distinctive personality, but so also does every narrator, and it is reflected in how the story is told.

This idea suggests we should know our characters well before beginning to write – not something that comes easy for me. I tend to develop my characters as I write, knowing them intimately only when I finally reach the conclusion. That might explain why I sometimes end up switching point of view and tense during my revisions. If I did more detailed character studies before I began I wouldn’t have quite so many changes to make later. (I tell myself that constantly, but when a character begs to have his story told I can’t wait to dive in. Does that mean I’m undisciplined? Oh, please don’t tell me that! I have enough problems.)

One of the reasons my first novel has been permanently shelved is because the protagonist is unsympathetic. She’s always discouraged or depressed, and no matter how I rework the chapters, they’re still going to reflect her personality. I’m pretty sure I need to replace her with a stronger, more upbeat character or rewrite the entire story from a different point of view, not something I want to tackle… at least, not yet. I have another cheeky character taunting me with her story.

 What determines how you choose the POV and tense for your stories? How would it affect the tone of your writing if you switched perspective?

 

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