The Thrill of Point of View.
Let me start with a resounding ‘Yes! Point of view can be thrilling.’ No, wait . . . it’s always thrilling.
Though I would never attribute the overall quality of a thriller to any one particular writing skill, I find that POV is often overlooked as the essential element that it is. We all know must have interesting characters, a suspenseful plot and a writing style that is hopefully great, but at the very least good! POV is something that must exist – it’s truly impossible to tell any story without it – and yet it is so often forgotten about. Maybe that’s because it’s so essential . . .
Still, POV is often what makes a thriller . . . well, thrilling. Imagine the book told from the serial killer’s point of view. From the first moment, you know who he is. Likely why he does what he does. Who he’s stalking . . . etc. Now imagine your lead detective knows all this, too. And so do the next three victims. Thrill: gone.
It’s what you don’t know that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s the fact that you are stuck there with the detective . . . with a profile, a handful of suspects and kill-pattern knowledge. You know someone is going to die – but you don’t know quite who, and you don’t know how to stop it. You only know that you have to. Yes, it’s two AM and you are still reading. And that’s because of the point of view.
The author always has to make decisions about characters and their POV. I’d wager a lot of it isn’t done consciously. The writer may just have a feel for what makes a suspenseful read, just like some people feel the beat of music and others have to count it out. Other times, POV decisions are made very conscientiously. What’s revealed and when to reveal it is exactly why you are still up at two in the morning when you have to go to work the next day. And if the POV is played right, it’s worth every minute!
In addition to deciding if the reader knows what the police officer knows, or what the victim or killer knows, the author has to decide how much to reveal of what each character knows. So, in addition to singular or changing POVs, there’s an omniscient POV (where you can see inside all the characters’ heads) and there’s also partial POV. At least, that’s what I’m deeming it here, because I haven’t heard it talked about before.
Partial POV is this: though the author has put you in the head of one of the characters, you still don’t know everything that character knows. I worked hard at this in my latest book, God’s Eye. Though the demon and the angel both clearly know which they are, the POV doesn’t ever reveal it. So, while you are in Allistair’s head, you see what he sees, and you may examine things along with him, but he isn’t thinking about what species he is. And though he thinks about what his goal is for Katharine – the pawn in this otherworldly tug-of-war – Allistair doesn’t think in terms that reveal what he is, just what he wants.
The other benefit of POV is that the reader can know more than the characters know. The reader gets the benefit of sitting in his chair and seeing what’s coming, even when the character doesn’t. With a single POV throughout the whole story, this is limited, but the more eyes we see through, the smarter we get, and the more exciting it is as we put the pieces together.
Because of this challenge of POV, the thriller becomes a thinking man’s book. The POV has to reveal the story in a way that gives you enough information, yet hopefully keeps you from putting all the pieces together until the end. In the best cases, you learn the answers along with the characters (or maybe just a moment before they do!) And you find, when you solve one piece of the puzzle, that you had all the clues to put it together already in your hands.
POV is the way the author hides those clues. It’s the biggest and most overlooked element of suspense writing. It’s what truly separates books from television and movies and the good writers from the great.
So the next time you are up at two in the morning, still turning pages, ask yourself this: whose eyes do you see through and what is the author hiding there?
Wow! Thanks so much A.J. for joining us here at The Happy Booker today!Want to know more about A.J. Scudiere? You can find out more at these websites:
Author homepage: http://www.ajscudiere.com/
Audio Movies: www.AJsAudioMovies.com
Newest title, God's Eye, out October 2011: www.GodsEyeTheBook.com
Sounds amazing right?? It sounds like an angels & demons paranormal romantic thriller with some kick!! A.J. is generously offering one lucky reader a signed copy of God’s Eye!! For those who don’t want to wait around for a giveaway, remember, the ebook format of God’s Eye will be available for just $2.99 from Amazon and Barnes and Noble beginning on 10/24 until 10/31!!
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