>Mistake Number 12

>I can’t help feel that Bickham is a bit rigid in the way he states this rule. On the other hand, until a writer is comfortable with point of view, getting too tricky with it can lead to problems. So the message here is that the author should figure out whose story he’s telling and keep it in that character’s point of view, whether in first person or second person.

Now Bickham does allow that a story might have multiple points of view, although sometimes in a short story jumping around can make the piece seem disjointed.

“Changing viewpoint in a short story, where unity of effect is so crucial, usually makes the story seem disjointed. In a novel, there may be several viewpoints, but one must clearly dominate.”

He even goes so far as to say that 70% of a novel should be in a single viewpoint. I’m sure not everyone agrees with this, but I believe I do (with important exceptions). And it is similar to advice I received in a workshop with Russell Banks. Both another writer and I had work with shifting points of view. Mine was a short story that went back and forth between the boy and girl in a young couple. The other writer was working on a novel about sisters and did the same thing. In both cases the suggestion was to decide whose story was being told and stick with that person’s point of view. I revised my story to do that and I do think it is stronger for having done it.

#12 Don’t Forget Whose Story It Is

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