Sunday, April 13, 2014

Don't Know -- Don't Tell

POV Ping-pong

I'm reading a good romance by a bestselling author right now. It's an older one that was on sale, so I jumped on it and I'm glad. As I expected from this author, it's a great story with interesting characters and wonderful phrasing and dialogue.

It's been a while since I've read this mega famous writer's books and she does something that most writers get slammed for -- she pops in and out of character viewpoints and often leaps into "God's viewpoint" or omniscient. I find this extremely vexing, especially when I read a sentence like this:

"Neither one of them heard the front door open and close."

Okay. So, why write that? What good can come from jerking your readers out of the book and telling them something that no one in the story knows? It's just plain asinine. Yet, this famous author does it in almost every book she writes.

She also leaps from viewpoint to viewpoint -- and not just between her main characters. Nope. She hops into secondary character viewpoints, too, for a paragraph or two. Totally pointless.

For instance, the main couple will kiss and gaze longingly and tenderly at each other and Bang! We're in a secondary character's head (and sometimes it's not even a secondary character but a "walk on" character or "sword carrier" as they say in the acting profession) and we are told that this character is touched by the scene and hopes the two people make a go of it. Really? You jumped viewpoints to tell us that? Like we can't, as readers, experience this on our own? If the scene is powerful enough, then readers will be thinking or feeling this. Jumping into a character's viewpoint for two or three sentences to "tell" us something that was just experienced by us through the main characters is utterly pointless -- and jarring.

Luckily, the author is skilled enough to not confuse us too much about who is thinking and feeling, etc. as she leapfrogs from one point of view to another. Lesser skilled writers can give you whiplash with such maneuvers and make you read passages again to try to figure out what's going on.

I admit that I'm a point-of-view purist because it was hammered into me by every writing teacher I ever had and was also demonstrated to me why point-of-view should be handled skillfully and sparingly. So, it's surprising to me when I read a hugely bestselling author and find POV ping-pong games. It's especially annoying when I read that characters didn't feel, didn't know, didn't see, didn't taste, didn't hear something. That's just wrong. It's simply bad writing -- lazy writing -- pointless writing. And it doesn't matter if a multi-millionaire author writes it or a never published writer pens it. When I read it, I roll my eyes, gnash my teeth, and find myself thrust out of the fictive world. If that was the writer's intention -- mission accomplished.

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