My Favorite Points of View / Author Bill Hopkins

In the animated movie by American songwriter and musician Harry Nilsson, The Point!, the main character Oblio encounters a “pointed man” in the Pointless Forest. The “pointed man” has a few heads with pointy chins, and there are arrows jutting out of his hat and suit. He tells the oval-headed Oblio that “a point in every direction is the same as no point at all.” This is what comes to mind as guest blogger and author Bill Hopkins takes on the topic of points of view. Nailing down a point of view, or views, in your work is elemental to the writing process. And being strategic with your point of view will give your work pointed direction.

Happy reading!

Clay Stafford

Clay Stafford,
Founder Killer Nashville,
Publisher Killer Nashville Magazine



Bill HopkinsMy Favorite Points of View

By Bill Hopkins

What is a point of view? One definition I like from Literary Devices is this: “Point of view is the angle of considering things, which shows us the opinion, or feelings of the individuals involved in a situation. In literature, point of view is the mode of narration that an author employs to let the readers ‘hear’ and ‘see’ what takes place in a story, poem, essay etc.”

There are several different ways to use point of view. Here are my two favorites.

FIRST PERSON

This is a story that is usually narrated by the protagonist. If you use this, then your first sentence–or certainly your first paragraph–should make it clear. “Sally whirled around and slapped me in the face.” You know that someone (the narrator) has incurred Sally’s wrath and he or she is going to tell the reader about it.

Advantages: First person allows the narrator to develop a distinctive voice that no one else in the story has (or should have). The reader will learn to like or at least understand why the narrator acts the way he does. He can ramble on about relevant points inside his own head without anyone else but the reader knowing what he’s thinking. The reader also witnesses the stress placed on the narrator and how that causes him to act in a certain way. The reader learns about the world of the narrator quickly.

Disadvantages: The narrator must be in every scene or he and the reader will be subjected to a lot of retelling by other characters concerning what happened off-stage. But even that may be skillfully handled so that the narrator doesn’t appear to be just a listening post where different folks come to tell their tales. Also, other characters and not the narrator must describe him or the narrator must slip in hints at his appearance. “Sally slapped me so hard that I thought my scrawny mustache had been knocked off my face.” And, please, avoid the cliché of having the narrator look in a mirror and telling the reader what he sees. Finally, avoid as many “I’s” as you can. “I went to the store. I bought some eggs. I took the eggs to Sally.” That soon becomes boring.

THIRD PERSON CLOSE

Bloody Earth, Bill HopkinsThird Person: An unknown narrator is telling the story. Generally, the narrator is never identified. Writers and readers have an unspoken agreement that this is a “willing suspension of disbelief” that someone witnessed and is able to tell the story. There are different kinds of third person. What makes my favorite version of third person “close” (other people have different terms for it) is that the narrator is in only one character’s head at a time. “Sally slapped him.” That would be the first line of a book written in third person (close or otherwise). Further on in the story, the reader realizes that the narrator can see into only one person’s mind. “He felt the stinging blow and didn’t like the look on Sally’s face.” In fact, third person close is almost a first person viewpoint using different pronouns.

Advantages: You can describe your character in the narration. As a reader of fiction, I rarely remember what a person looks like while reading the story. As a writer, my descriptions of people tend to emphasize oddities of their appearance or perhaps one or two nods to a physical description. Another advantage that draws me to this point of view is that you can still show the direct thoughts of the person. “Sally slapped him. That’s the second time she’s done that to him!” or “Sally slapped him. That’s the second time, he thought, that she’s done that to me.”

Disadvantages: You must be especially careful not to get into anyone else’s head. You must show us what the other person is doing to determine his reaction to what is going on or, of course, have the other person say something that presents his state of mind. This sounds easy, but it’s tricky. In one story, I had written about the protagonist and two companions doing something like “trudging dispiritedly” (it wasn’t really that bad). My most heartless editor (my wife, Sharon Woods Hopkins) pointed out that I was expressing the thoughts of the other two people as well as the protagonist, which, of course, I was.

Play around with different points of view. See what fits your protagonist the best. You’d be amazed how a character changes when you change that character’s point of view!


If you would like to read more about Bill Hopkins’ books please click here.

Bill Hopkins is retired after beginning his legal career in 1971 and serving as a private attorney, prosecuting attorney, an administrative law judge, and a trial court judge, all in Missouri. His poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications. He’s had several short plays produced.

Bill is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dramatists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Missouri Writers Guild, SEMO Writers Guild, Heartland Writers Guild, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. Bill is also a photographer who has sold work in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

He and his wife, Sharon Woods Hopkins (also a published mystery writer), live in Marble Hill, Missouri, with their dogs and cats. Besides writing, Bill and Sharon are involved in collecting and restoring Camaros. COURTING MURDER was his first novel and his second novel RIVER MOURN won first place in the Missouri Writers’ Guild Show-Me Best Book Awards in 2014. His third novel BLOODY EARTH was published in November 2014. Visit him at www.judgebillhopkins.com or www.deadlywritespublishing.com


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