My personal goal in taking a close look at Hills’ book is to show how the lessons it contains apply to all forms of storytelling, and how those lessons are useful to writers at all skill levels. You can follow the literary trail Hills blazes all the way to rarefied art if you want, but it’s not necessary. If you love writing genre fiction or simply want to write from the heart, nothing Hills talks about will preclude you from doing that. Yet the quality and effectiveness of your work will almost certainly improve.
This short section is a case in point. If every would-be and established writer were to read only these few pages, fictional false starts and ponderous wanderings would plummet. Here’s the first graph:
Beginning writers often choose to tell their story from the point of view of a character who is not central to the action — a “bystander,” so to speak, “a friend of the hero,” or something like that, not directly involved. This is thought to make exposition easier: the reader is able to learn the facts of the situation along with the narrator. But the need for exposition is seldom sufficient to make up for the sense of consequencelessness that often results from uninvolved narration.
There are multiple points of view you can adopt that allow readers direct access to your central character’s thoughts: first-person, third-person restricted, third-person omniscient, and so on. If you want no intermediary between reader and character, first person is the best choice. If you want to include the thoughts of others, or even your own authorial comments, a variant of third-person offers that functionality without granting point of view to an in-story intermediary. Despite all these vital choices, however, authors — and particularly novice authors — keep giving point-of-view to characters that are of little or no narrative consequence. [ Read more ]