3. Character Point of View
(i) LEVELS OF POINT OF VIEW
A novel takes a character’s point of view when it shows events from his or her perspective. There are different levels of point of view (POV), more or less immersed, more or less exclusive.
The loosest level hardly counts as POV at all—when author and reader accompany a character moving from room to room, street to street, one place to another. We observe as the character observes, but we don’t particularly observe through his/her eyes and ears. Following a character in this way comes naturally to all storytelling.
There’s a stronger sharing of perspective when we perceive through the eyes and ears of characters, yet not one character to the exclusion of others. Water dripping, an unpleasant smell, even racing heartbeats can be presented as experienced by all the characters in a scene. Logically, they wouldn’t have the same exact perceptions in the same exact sequence, but you can leave it vague as to who’s experiencing what when.
Point of view becomes more focused when you pin it to the exact perceptions in the exact sequence experienced by a single character. Will, Zoe and Trudy may all be present in scene, but it’s Trudy’s perceptions we share. What would she see, hear, smell, touch? … the old checklist comes into play again.
It’s a deeper immersion again when we get into thinking as well as perceiving. Perceptions start from the shared external world; thoughts connect with the thinker’s individual experience, not shared with other people. The more such thoughts delve into personal memories of the past, the more we’re enclosed in a unique and separate point of view.
A novel narrated by an ‘I’ voice is necessarily immersed in the point of view of the ‘I’ character. We’ll get the character’s thoughts and interpretations and maybe general reflections on life. At the same time, some ‘I’ voices draw on hindsight to transcend their perceptual limitations when narrating the moments of the scene.
More about the ‘I’ voice later.