Point of View in writing.

Point of View


Instead of a dry recitation of what the different types of point of view are, I will just write about uses of point of view. Besides, this isn’t a college lecture hall and I’m not a professor.

In writing, a point of view is what a character sees, thinks, does, or feels. For that matter, it is what a group sees, thinks, does, or feels. For example, let’s look at our old friend Jack. Here, Jack is a garbage man. He’s got a dirty job.

The trash was there in the can, and judging from the smell emanating from it, it had been sitting there in the hot sun for several days. Probably put out right after the last garbage run had come through, Jack thought. This stuff gets old. He opened the swing top lid and gagged at the scent that punched him in the stomach. He saw three bags in the heavy duty can, the kind that was supposed to be able to hold an astounding amount without ripping. The thick black plastic was stretched tight over the trash inside it, and Jack grimaced. Why couldn’t they get one of the new trucks like the guys on the north end had, the ones that lifted the can and dumped it without anyone having to touch it? He knew it was his job, and he was glad to have it. Still, there were times like now, he wished he didn’t have to touch it.

He grabbed the first bag and heaved it in the back of the truck. It was pretty heavy, but the plastic held. Jack wondered what it was. Whatever it was, it was good quality. He grabbed the second bag, and it was just as heavy. It landed with a dull thud and a squish of the bags underneath. Jack turned back to the rancid can and steeled himself to lean into the deep cavernous depths for the third bag. It seemed to be the most tightly packed and the bottom was filled with liquid. He hated those. Every time he got one of these heavy ones with liquid, he had to grab the bottom of the bag to throw it in the back of the truck.

Cursing under his breath, he grasped the knot tightly and lifted straight up. Jack grabbed the bottom of the bag and felt the plastic mold to his hand. He wound up to throw the bag as far as he could, ticked off at the homeowner.

The bag ripped halfway through his swing. Blood came out of the bag, and so did an arm. Jack watched in horror as a severed head bounced out and rolled under the truck, coming to rest against the right front tire. The eyes glared out at the world.

Jack screamed.

Oooooo. Poor Jack.

Now, since Jack rides in the back of the truck, somebody’s got to drive it, right? Let’s shift the point of view here from Jack to the other guy.

Odell laughed. He was in the air conditioning of the truck. He saw it as his due since he had been the one on the back of the truck in the hot sun for eleven years, day in and day out. Never missed a day, either. He was proud of his perfect attendance, but he didn’t talk himself up. He liked Jack, and worked well with him, but Jack had just started a few months ago. As far as Odell was concerned, the boy had to put in his time. Plus, drive better. He had a bunch of speeding tickets and Odell had never gotten one.

Before he’d turned the A/C on, he’d had the window rolled down to air out the cab. That beef and bean burrito hadn’t agreed with him, but the smell of that can they’d just got to was many times worse. He rolled the window up, turned the dial to full blast, and watched the kid in the mirror.

He did feel bad for him. Odell watched as he gagged from the smell. The driver shook his head and tsktsktsk’ed as Jack struggled with the first two bags. Those had to be heavy from the way he struggled with the awkward angle, and he knew Jack was no weakling. Odell was getting a little concerned, since the sound of the bags traveled through the body of the truck and somehow it didn’t sound right. He’d thrown many a bag in the back of quite a few garbage trucks.

He looked more closely at Jack’s reflection in the mirror. His horrified eyes watched as the bag ripped and blood cascaded over the younger man, and caught a glimpse as a head dribbled its way under the truck. He was already rushing out of the truck as Jack screamed.

Man. I don’t think either one is having a good day at work.

So, the point of view could allow for a story to be told differently in many ways. In one example, we see Jack and what he thinks. In the other we see Odell, and how he sees things. Often a different point of view will allow for an author to reveal things about a main character (in this case, Jack) that otherwise didn’t get revealed. For instance, he’s just started his job, drives crazy,and fairly strong.

In writing, you could use the point of view to do this, or make your story go somewhere else.

Point of view can also be used in reverse, as in a good guy, bad guy fight. Let’s say the good guy is rescuing the damsel in distress, and the story is focused on him. He sees the bad guy reach behind him, and decides to frag him. Bad guy has the cure for the hero’s narcolepsy, but dies before revealing it.

This way, the reader could see that there is something there that the hero missed, and watching as he reacts to this discovery is anticipation.

Another example of point of view – Harry Potter’s POV versus Professor Snape’s POV. Personally I like Severus Snape. He had a lot of conflict that he tried to keep hidden, and at the end of the series the POV that he had was flipped in some ways.

So, use your point of view, but I suggest no more than three or four. Otherwise it gets confusing.

Happy writing!

-JB Steele

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