As a fiction editor, I read a lot of manuscripts by beginning fiction writers that fall flat because they haven’t settled on a clear and consistent point of view for their story. In my experience, many new writers take point of view for granted, focusing instead on plot, character, and world-building. While those elements are important, too, point of view, in my opinion, is one of the most crucial (and complicated!) elements of storytelling. Simply stated, if you don’t have a clear point of view, you don’t have a clear story.
But if you’re struggling with it, don’t worry! Point of view can be difficult and take a long time to master. To get you started, here are 6 questions to answer for yourself about the point of view in your story. (If you’re writing with multiple POV, you would want to ask these questions for every POV character in the story):
1. Who speaks?
Is it a main character? The town gossip? The dog? The author? God?
2. To whom?
Who is the narrator speaking to? A reader? Another character in the story? Their dead mother, to whom they are writing a letter (e.g. if the story is in the epistolary form). To the judge and jury?
3. With what tone or attitude?
Sarcastic? Earnest? Deceitful? The narrator’s personality as well as how they view the assumed listener/reader and how they view themselves will inform this. Think about how different the tone of Lolita would have been if Humbert Humbert were writing to Lolita herself about the events, rather than to those who accused him of a crime. If the story is told in past tense, is there a difference between how the narrator viewed the events while they were happening versus how they reflect upon them now?
4. In what form?
Is this narrative a diary? A journal? A steam-of-consciousness? A straight-forward story? A verbal account? A dispatch?
5. At what distance?
Consider intimacy as well as how much time as passed since the events of the story. Is your story told in the present tense, with the narrator revealing every single thought and emotion to the reader? Or is your narrator keeping the reader at a distance and not revealing too much about their inner landscape? If your story is in the past tense, have the events of the story happened 5 years ago? 25? 100? Yesterday?
6. With what limitations?
Whose interior thoughts and feelings does your narrator have access to? Only their own? Every character in the story? What other limitation might they have in their perception of the story? Perhaps they are 95 years old and their memory is fading. Maybe they are a child. They could be sick and unable to leave the house. Or they could be neurodivergent, like the narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. What limitations does your narrator have in terms of what they can see, hear, do, perceive, and thus report to the reader?
Hope this helps! More writing advice and other literary nonsense @bucketsiler
Just while we’re on the subject of spelling and grammar, I do appreciate when people point things out to me. Sometimes I do make mistakes, sometimes it’s autocorrect. Other times it’s a pun (forever the curse of a pun lover) and it goes over other people’s heads. Other times I’m writing something off the cuff and in rapid fire and I’ll miss things here and there in the quick scan I do before moving on to the next thing I need to do on here so it feels like I am not ignoring people.
But here’s the thing, people sending me “wow you’re an editor and you type like that? lol” messages? Is a dick move for several reasons and I’ll tell you why…
First of all: I am not at work when I am on tumblr. I might as well be my second full time job at this point, but I am not in actual fact on the clock when I am here.
I am not at work when I am texting someone unless I am texting them as a client. I am not at work when I am having conversations with people online, unless they are my client.
You can correct my grammar or my spelling if you want, but don’t make some derisive comment about me being a writer and an editor and not being able to type and make it into a thing like “wow I guess could be an editor too if it’s that easy” just because you’re being pedantic with someone you are having an informal conversation with.
It takes more than the ability to spell and get your grammar right 100% of the time to be an editor. It is not an easy job to be an editor. Which is why when I am not at work, my typing goes to absolute shit because I don’t have the excess energy to expend on that level of concentration when I am not working. Or sometimes just plain don’t give a shit. Like, I do not care. My typing is imperfect when I am talking rapid fire, sometimes with multiple people over multiple platforms at once. Woopdiedoo.
And when you’re mean about it? When you say? “I can’t help it, I know it doesn’t matter but it annoys me when people can’t spell”?
You’re not only admitting that you don’t care enough to regulate behavior which you know is rude to others, you are also being ableist and quite possibly racist as well.
Not everyone finds it easy to write, and I don’t mean that in the creative sense, I mean that in the very basic sense that some people with learning difficulties struggle to read and write.
This does not make them less intelligent than you. It does not make them less brilliant than you. It does not mean they give any less of a shit about something important than you do, or are any less deserving of your respect and civility than some asshole who is an asshole but who knows how to use an em dash correctly.
I’ve dropped clients who had good grammar and spelling, but I just plain couldn’t deal with their attitude, and stuck with the people apologizing over and over for how much work I have to do on their manuscript because they know. They know they’re not as good as everyone else and the social stigma around it is so overwhelming it undermines everything they will ever do.
Other people may also not come from the same culture as you, speak the same languages as you, or have had access to the same opportunities you have had. If their way of communicating is understood but doesn’t conform the views of intelligence, quite frankly instilled by White Nationalism and Colonization and you tear them down for not conforming to your limited world view of propriety? They’re not the problem here, you are.
Someone’s ability to spell does not indicate their value or worth, or even the time they have put into something. I see so many rebuttals on this hellsite and on other places, where people go out of their way to invalidate the words of other people simply because they mixed up “your” and “you’re”, even though it doesn’t stop their meaning from being understood (and honestly it’s most likely auto-correct and you know it), but hey I guess it’s just way easier to tear someone down based on an arbitrary and false idea of assigned intelligence and societal worth based on their use of English grammar than it is to come up with an actual rebuttal. Boy aren’t you a hero.
So just…like…I get it, I get you see something and it’s incorrect and part of you may niggle at it and yes there are times when “perfection” is not only expected but required and spelling and grammar is important (or else I wouldn’t have the job I am very good at). But just, I dunno, quit being a dick to people because you’re a pedantic asshole who wants to feel superior.
At the end of the day we’re all just sentient atoms hurtling towards the same unknown. The least you can do is be kind.
4Kids censorship editors: Y’know, this season hasn’t been so bad. I mean sure we’ve had to cut a few shots with obvious corpses and add glowy effects to a few bottomless pits, but on the whole there hasn’t been anything too difficul–
Zorc: *appears on screen for the first time*
4Kids censorship editors: oh fuck. oh fuck. ohhhhhh f
This was Joe Simon. He was adorable. Look he’s got a Cap rubber ducky!
He created Captain America with Jack Kirby in 1940 (the first issue was dated March 1941). He was the first editor of Timely Comics, which later became Marvel.
He died in 2011
the same year that Captain America: the First Avenger came out. He’s not in it. Stan Lee is. No one knows why.
ETA: I’m lying. We know why Stan Lee is in the movie. It’s because they think it’s funny to put him in cameos in everything. And he did create the Howling Commandos, Peggy Carter and a lot of other characters in the movie. I just get salty when people say he created Captain America because he 100% did not. He didn’t start working for Marvel until like a decade later.