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What's Your Angle?

The point of view you choose is like a verbal camera recording everything that happens in your scenes. The character or narrator you choose determines whether that lens is close up or remote.

A scene should be told from one camera angle. Stories are usually told from one camera angle. Each camera angle serves a different function.

How close or how far your camera angle/POV is determines the level of intimacy between your reader and your characters and the dimensions of the stage they perform on.

The omniscient narrator is an observer distantly recounting the story from his lofty box seat. He can be sympathetic or snarky. He can follow whatever character he chooses and have an opinion or be completely neutral. 

The third person remote point of view is distancing. The reader experiences your story from the nose-bleed seats at the back of the theater. The advantage is being able to see the entire stage from left to right. Your reader can take in everything that is happening. She can focus on stage left or stage right. The camera can relate what each character is thinking or feeling. The danger lies in moving the camera too abruptly. You don’t want to make your reader dizzy or confused.

Third person close up narrows the focus to a specific character. The reader is drawn to either stage left or stage right and the action that particular character is involved in. The camera angle is narrower. Things may occur on the opposite side of the stage, but the reader isn’t privy to them. The camera can follow different characters in each scene, but the action is still presented through the lens of a specific character. The danger here is accidentally inserting the third-person narrator's viewpoint. Each point of view character you follow dilutes the reader’s emotional connection to the story. If you veer away from the stars to follow the secondary characters too often, you risk losing the reader. 

First person is placing the camera on the shoulder of the character. The reader steps on stage and shadows the character, hearing what they hear and seeing what they see. This is the most intimate way to tell your story, but it limits your angle to the action happening in the spotlight. The danger is veering off to the author as narrator or other characters. Picture  home movies where the camera is trained on a specific event and the cameraman swerves for a second to follow someone else then jerks back to the main event.

Third person works well for mysteries. First person works well for YA. If in doubt, examine the books you’ve enjoyed in the genre you write and consider the point of view used. If most of the books are written in third person, how would using a first person camera angle affect the flow? Can you or should you change it up?

Unlike movies where camera angles can swoop and cut, the key to successful fiction is consistency. Consistency keeps your reader engaged in your story stream and that is the kind of page turning you should aim for.

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