Blogger: Rachel Zurakowski
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Let’s start today by talking about point of view. In many films, the point of view shifts frequently. The audience sees a snippet of one character’s view, and then the film jumps back to the main character’s life. This often creates tension in a movie. An example of this is the new X-Files movie, “I Want to Believe.” I didn’t think the movie was very good, but scenes changed often, moving from Scully and Mulder trying to figure out the case to flashes of the captured girl’s struggle to stay alive in the clutches of the mad scientists. This allowed the audience to know that time was running out, and it heightened the tension.
If these same “flashes” occurred in a book, the reader would be confused constantly. Point of view changes can work fine in writing, but there needs to be an established rhythm to them. If the author is changing point of view multiple times in a single chapter, the reader feels lost and will quit reading. A good time to change the point of view is at a chapter break or a change to a new scene within a chapter. If you’re trying to create tension in your writing, don’t flash to a scene with characters the reader has never met.
Do you ever feel like just skipping a prologue because you don’t understand it? Super-speedy point of view changes create the same feelings. To heighten tension, end a chapter on a cliff-hanger and move the point of view to your other established main character for the following chapter.
Here’s another example of point of view changes in film. In the recent movie version of “Mama Mia!” the characters all have moments in which they sing about how they feel about the other characters. We learn through song that Pierce Brosnan still likes Meryl Streep, and soon after we learn that Meryl still likes Pierce. Perhaps it’s the other way around, can’t remember. During their songs, the scene often flashes to the other characters or to dancing maids. This wouldn’t work in a book. Let’s imagine it:
We are reading the story from PIERCE’S point of view. We find out he still cares for MERYL. We flash to a few scenes describing MERYL cleaning her hotel for her daughter’s wedding in the middle of PIERCE’S song or monologue. PIERCE finishes his declaration as he leans against the barn wall. Suddenly, MERYL declares her love for PIERCE. During her monologue, we switch to a scene with maids running around and dancing. As they dance, we hear MERYL’S song in the background. The writer describes MERYL singing her heart out as she leans against a wall. Then she starts dancing with the maids, and they all jump in the water. (I only saw the movie once, so no judging me if I confused a few of the details.)
I’m sure you can see why we can’t follow this film’s example for shifting point of view.
Just for fun, let’s finish up the day with “WALL-E.” “WALL-E” represents another significant difference between the big screen and a book. “WALL-E” is an almost silent movie. You can have an amazing almost silent movie, but there’s no way to replicate it in book form. As close as you could come would be to have an amazing illustrator and you see yourself “writing” the next The Snowman or Santa Paws. If you can only draw stick-figures, please stay away from “writing” books without words.
What books/movies have you read/seen with successful point-of-view changes?