The Power of Point of View

A week ago, I started reading The Queen’s Vow by C. W. Gortner about Isabella of Castille.  If you’re not sure who she is, it’s time to dust off your history books or turn to Google.  In any event, I’m enjoying it immensely and am reminded, as I read the story, about how powerful point of view can be in a novel.  Point of view is that decision an author makes before pounding out 80,000 plus words — through whose eyes shall I tell the tale?

As a reader, you probably have a preference when it comes to your own books.  C. W. Gortner writes The Queen’s Vow in the first person — that is through the eyes of Isabella alone. It’s the “I” and “me” take on life.  I’ve only written one story with this point of view, which happened to be my recent contemporary, Conflicting Hearts.  All of my historical fiction and historical romance novels are written in the third-person limited point of view.  In my books I tend to flip in and out of minds with one person at a time switching in scenes and chapters.  I prefer that take rather than the omniscient view of the all knowing god-type author, which takes a bit of skill I think I lack. Third-person works well in a complex story, because it’s here you can tell the tale from everyone’s point of view.  It makes the story richer in certain circumstances.

As I read The Queen’s Vow, I am reminded that first person can be a powerful tool in a novel. In this instance, the author is writing about the life of Isabella from her childhood to adulthood.  Frankly, I don’t think I’d want someone telling me what she’s thinking, because I’m enjoying too much being inside the head of a young woman destined for greatness. Her thoughts and emotions are richly described, as well as her growth process into the woman she is to become. I don’t think any other point of view would make the book as powerful.

Take the picture up above. It’s a scene from Lost in Austen. There is Darcy, Bingley, and snooty Caroline, his sister standing together. Each are gazing at Amanda Price, and all of them at this moment have a distinct thought about the individual who is central to the story.  In this instance, a writer could say that Darcy frowned disapprovingly narrowing his eyes; Caroline gazed pathetically at Amanda making a fool of herself; and Bingley feels quite perplexed not knowing what to think of this woman visiting the Bennett’s household.

If we crawl into the head of one person, however, let’s say Darcy, we know that something more is brewing inside of him besides the disapproving frown on his face.  He’s going through an inward struggle at this point wondering why he is attracted to a woman who he also despises.  You could write the scene telling your readers what he’s thinking in the third-person point of view, but then you could also crawl into his head, look through his eyes, and exploit his emotions to such an extent it will make a lasting imprint upon your mind as a reader.

Once again, Miss Price has managed to make a spectacle of herself amongst our guests. Her style and mannerisms are so unladylike that I find her disgusting on many levels.  She obviously lacks the genteel character of a demure woman that I seek in a wife. I find her outspoken, boisterous, and brazen behavior a chilling reminder of our difference in class. Even my peers avert her presence as if she is carrying the plague. On the other hand, I struggle with an odd attraction toward her, which I find deeply perplexing.  

What could I possibly find alluring in this creature that I deem so vulgar in speech and conduct?  It cannot be physical attraction, for she is but a plain woman compared to the well-dressed, beautiful ladies that fill this hall.  These carnal inklings cause me to question my sound judgment that I pride. Has she bewitched me?  If I succumb to this demonic temptation, I shall become the laughing stock of society. My status as a respectable aristocrat will come to a ruinous end.

Nevertheless, there she stands. My soul aches with each breath that I take. My heart is laden with heaviness. For at this moment, I earnestly desire to take Miss Price into my arms and silence her wagging tongue with the power of my lips. Surely, it will be a bittersweet taste. Oh wretched woman, what have you done to me? 

Well, we may never know what the wretched woman has done to Mr. Darcy. However, I think you get the drift between the various points of views.  As a reader, do you have a preference?  Do you love the minds of many, or do you prefer the intimate voice of the hero or heroine instead?  I’m beginning to think after I finish my current third-person book, I’ll be back in the first-person mode.

Warm regards,

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