Monday, July 20, 2015

Point of View and Viewpoint: How Hard Can It Be?

By Catherine E. McLean (Guest Blogger)

A couple of years ago, author and writing instructor Tim Esaias calculated there were 9,720 variations of Point of View (POV) and Viewpoint. I've seen the calculations. He's right.

It's also a fact that POV and Viewpoint are the most critical aspects of storytelling. So, if there's one piece of advice I would shout— no yell— to novice writers, it is to stop writing and take the time to read about, learn, practice, and master— yes, MASTER— Point of View and Viewpoint.

Why go to all that trouble? Because mastering POV and Viewpoint means fixing ninety percent of the problems in a manuscript. Doing so also means readers will turn the pages because they are engrossed and enjoying the story.

The second piece of advice, but which I would whisper to a novice writer, is the secret to comprehending POV and Viewpoint is realizing they are two separate things (despite the "experts" using the terms synonymously). Here are the simple and straightforward definitions:

POINT OF VIEW is the Storytelling Narrator at work relating the story to the reader. It answers the question: Through whose eyes is the story (or the scene) being observed?

Did you notice the words "narrator at work?" That's because when a reader reads, they hear a voice coming off the page, which is the "narrative voice." That voice will often be the story's "focal character," also known as the protagonist. Yet that narrator's voice could be the author's, one of the other major story characters, the story's storyteller (the voice-over guy), or omniscient (as either "god" or the "fly-on-the-wall"). In all instances, that Storytelling Narrator has a "very distinct voice" due to their diction, vocabulary, and syntax, which the reader hears when reading the story.

VIEWPOINT is how that narrator characteristically filters information and sensory perceptions, either consciously or unconsciously, while observing what's happening.

That narrator is highly opinionated. They can be accurate or inaccurate. Their judgment may be subjective or objective, or it may fluctuate between the two extremes. This makes the narrator of the story or scene open-minded or closed-minded, ethical or unethical— a coward or a hero.

Which means the narrator's opinions about other people, and how the narrator deals with those people in any given situation, will be compounded by the narrator's biases and personal prejudices. For example: Characters A, B, C, D, and E look at a glass of water on a table. Because the five can see that glass, they will report what they observe— they will narrate— but look HOW they relate what they observe:

A - "It is half full of water." (Optimist)
B - "Don't be an idiot, it's half empty." (Pessimist)
C - "That's just a glass with water in it." (Realist)
D - "Why do you humans concern yourself with a glass containing water?" (Baffled Alien Being)
E - Marsha couldn't believe the conversation had deteriorated to analyzing a glass of water. (Omniscient)

Each of the examples has a distinct voice because the writer conveyed the narrator's voice onto the page. If you didn't hear the differences that means you need to cultivate a better inner ear, which is another reason to master POV and Viewpoint.
Talent will take a writer only so far. It is craft that enhances and liberates talent. Best of all, craft can be learned. So, take the time to master POV and Viewpoint. Your readers will appreciate it.

And now, a bit about my latest book...

Hearts Akilter by Catherine E. McLean

Applicable genres: fantasy/sci-fi romance, romance, humor (lighthearted)

Length: Novella

Coming soon from The Wild Rose Press

Visit my website ( to enter to win a $50 gift card as part of the book launch.

Love, vengeance, attempted murder, and a bomb...No reason to panic.

When a medical robot insists he's having a heart attack, Marlee Evans, a pragmatic maintenance technician, has every reason to panic. There's a bomb inside him. Since Marlee can't risk the bomber discovering she's found the device, her only option is to kidnap Deacon Black, an unflappable bomb expert, and secretly convince him to disarm it. Things go slightly awry when Deacon sets a trap for someone who is trying to kill him, and inadvertently captures Marlee instead. Instantly intrigued by her refreshingly forthright and gutsy attitude, he's smitten. Unfortunately for Deacon, Marlee recently hardened her heart and swore off men, especially handsome ones with boy-next-door grins. But as Marlee and Deacon attempt to identify and prevent the bomber from detonating the device, they discover that love may be the most explosive force of all.

Available for Pre-Order Now

The Wild Rose Press:


The bomb. Right. Dismantle the bomb. In this lift? No, that was insane. “Marlene, if the bomb goes off accidentally—”

It’ll blow the station to kingdom come?”

He nodded.

Not to worry.”

She said that with such nonchalance that he found himself speechless. He cleared his throat. “Why not? Did you snatch the portable Bomb Disposal Unit, too?”


What’s better than a BDU?”

Garbage incinerators.”

What?” He glanced out into the darkness beyond the lift.

Giant machinery stood silhouetted and veiled in shadows. “Where are we?”

Deck forty-three, Ring D zero three. Relax. Don’t panic. They once accidentally incinerated a torpedo in number four, over yonder.”

She pointed to the left. “Nobody heard or felt it explode, and there wasn’t even a drail’s worth of damage done to the incinerator, or anything else.”
I don’t believe you.”

It happened three years ago. I was there, a deck above.
Never mind.”

Henry manipulated his finger appendage, grabbing and briefly tugging the shirt sleeve of Deacon’s good arm. “Marlee would never lie about anything so important.”

Does she lie about unimportant things?” He instantly regretted his caustic remark.

I do not know.” Henry spun sideways, facing Marlee. “Do you lie about unimportant things, Marlee?”

I have been known to tell a white lie now and then to spare someone’s feelings, but on the whole—” She looked away from Henry.

As her blacker than black eyes met his gaze, Deacon felt pinned to the wall.

About Catherine E. McLean

Besides Catherine being a wife and mother, she has ridden and exhibited Morgan Sport Horses. She's an avid clothing and costume designer, an award-winning amateur photographer, a 4-H leader, and a Red Hatter who loves bling.

She lives on a farm nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. In the quiet of the countryside, she writes fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal stories where a reader can escape to other worlds for adventure and romance.

Her short stories have appeared in hard-copy and online anthologies and magazines. Besides having two novels published, soon to be released is her lighthearted fantasy/sci-fi romance HEARTS AKILTER. Catherine also gives writing workshops, both online and in-person. A schedule is posted at

Catherine's website for writers is and she blogs at


And don't forget to enter her release contest for a $50 gift certificate at her website!


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Catherine!

Welcome to Beyond Romance. HEARTS AKILTER sounds like a lot of fun. I wish you luck with it. And thanks for the generous contest!

Catherine said...

The story is a fun read as attested by the Sneak Peak Reviews that have come in from readers (they're posted at my website). Also many thanks for hosting and I'm happy to chat with anyone with a question or who leaves a comment.

stanalei said...

Insightful tips on POV and Viewpoint, Catherine. Thank you!

Ashantay said...

You're right - POV and viewpoint are often used interchangeably, so your post was a refreshing change. Thanks for illustrating the differences! Best wishes for a successful book release!

Catherine said...

Thanks for stopping by and you're very welcome!

Catherine said...

Many thanks for commenting and for dropping by today!

Joanne Guidoccio said...

Excellent tips! Thanks Catherine :)

melissa crisp said...

This is a new type of romance for me. I kinda chuckled when I saw robot having a heart attack. It's a breath of fresh air. So many authors are writing the exact same story lines and it does get old. I will have to check this one out. Thanks for sharing it.
leighannecrisp @yahoo .com

Catherine said...

You're very welcome!

Catherine said...

Happy to hear you chuckled, I did too when the idea hit me of a robot having a heart attack. And,yes, if you write romance you're writing to an age-old archetype trope, one that readers of romance enjoy. And, yes, it's in adding the unusual, the twist, or the unexpected, or a lighthearted premise that takes a story beyond same-old, same-old. I've gotten a few Sneak Peak Reviews in at my website if you'd care to see what other readers had to say about HEARTS AKILTER.

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