Although point of view has an immense impact on how a story is shaped and how it is read, many authors don’t often give it much thought. Why is this?
Most of the time the entry point into writing a story is made of concrete things like the characters or the plot. But as you start to write, you quickly run up against the bigger structural question of how you’ll get this material across. As soon as you create a character, you have to have a point of view, a perspective from which the story is told. And deciding on that can be very tricky. You can plunge in and hope it works itself out. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it doesn’t.
What is the most common mistake that emerging authors make with point of view, and how can they avoid it?
Probably the biggest one is not thinking about it enough. For example, if you’re going to write a novel in first person, you need to consider if the main character’s story is big enough to carry an entire book, and to think about how you’re going to bring other characters to life, because you’re not going to be able to narrate from other perspectives. On the other hand, let’s look at third person (she or he). If you’ve got a lot of main characters and you want to change perspectives, you need to consider how and when you’re going to do that. If you don’t get it right, you can cause the reader a lot of confusion, and end up doing tedious rewrites. If you get it right early on, things can go really smoothly.
Do you have a certain place where you work best, or are you flexible?
I have a day job at a university, and a family. I write when I can!
Dr Anthony Macris is one of Australia’s leading teachers of creative writing with over 20 years of experience. He has taught creative writing at Johns Hopkins University (USA), and as a faculty member at two of Australia’s best creative writing programs, the University of Wollongong, and currently the University of Technology, Sydney, where he is Associate Professor of Writing. His memoir When Horse Became Saw: A family’s journey through autism (Penguin 2011), was shortlisted for the Age Book of the Year and the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. His latest book is Inexperience & Other Stories.