Friday, September 3, 2010

Part VIII - Suspense and Point of View

The rules for point of view follows the same criteria as it does for most fiction. Point of view is the character through which the scene is viewed. The scene can only offer the sights, sounds, tastes, touches and smells that can be provided by the POV character. It is that character’s perceptions and attitudes that are reflected throughout that scene. The POV character can only assume what another character is feeling or thinking.

The POV character’s thoughts, the introspection, can provide a depth into the POV character’s struggles, goals, and motivation, but as in real life, the POV characters’ can skew their thinking at times. They think it’s real but it’s a deep cover for the true emotion they’re dealing with. Perhaps they know the truth, but they won’t admit it to themselves.

The most common POV for suspense in popular fiction is third person, past tense. He ducked into the dark room. And most often this POV includes multiple third person. This allows a voice for the criminal or antagonist as well as the protagonist. If the story has romance, it also opens the door for the opposite sex main character.

First person narrows the scope and adds intimacy to the story line since the reader focuses on one person. For detective stories, first person POV is a common choice. I ducked into the dark room, my hand on my pistol. This means that the story is told totally through the eyes of the detective. We see his personal life as well as his life solving crimes. This allows us to focus on his flaws and weaknesses which adds tension to the novel when we realize that he could fail in his attempts to catch the perpetrator as well as to resolve home issues because he cannot control his flaws or rise above his weakness. This adds a distinctiveness to the story because we cannot guess what others are thinking. We only see them through the detective’s eyes.

The novel Wait Until Dark by Karen Robards, also a movie and stage play, is a suspense written in first person POV. The story involves a blind woman and takes place solely in her apartment where she is terrorized by a group of criminals who believe she has hidden a doll used by them to smuggle heroin into the country. Unbeknownst to her, the doll is in her apartment brought in as a favor to a woman her husband met in the airport. This amazing story is totally through Suzie’s blind eyes.

To decide which POV is best for your novel, ask yourself who needs to relate the story for the greatest suspense impact. Does the story need multiple POV to show the total scheme of drama to the reader? Does more than one have the most at stake in various scenes? Will your antagonist have a POV? Is he or she known to the reader or do you prefer to have an unknown force behind the suspense issues? Your decision will come after much thought and weighing what is best for your novel. Remember first person is most intimate and only that character’s eyes will share the entire story. Third person limited can provide an intimate feeling, a story using he or she but again focusing on one character only. Or in third person multiple, a variety of characters can own their individual scenes as the plot line focuses on their concerns and issues in which they have the most at stake. This allows the antagonist to have his voice in the story.


RyanFortney said...

I have a question: In my novel, the entire story is told in first person, from the eyes of a man struggling to remember the fate of people that were close to him, in the past, before all things in the present culminate and destroy both everything he's worked for and himself -- and of course, he's also trying to find the answer as to why he can't remember anything.

BUT, at the end of this story, in the epilogue, I jump into the 1st person narrative, just once, to convey something through the eyes of a character you barely see in the 17-18 chapters of the book.

Is this alright? Or should I axe that?

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Ryan - Editors will frown at bringing in a POV character who is not a major player in the book. I would axe it or give the information to a more signficant character and have him/her relay the information if it's important enough to do that.

POV never comes from a secondary or walk-on character. Hope that helps.


RyanFortney said...

Thank you very much for the insight. :) I will take this into consideration with the final draft!