I don’t know about you, but I spend a good deal of time thinking about my point of view when I’m about to have a conversation with a person. I consider our relationship. Is the person a friend I’ve known a long time? Someone I’d like to be a new friend? A potential business client? A town gossip? A child? Before we meet, I think through how we can be helpful to one another. Some situations might take just a moment of thought, and I make a few mental notes. Some run to the other extreme where I write on paper points I want to stress and things I dare not say. Thus, with each person, I create a customized point of view. From one person to another, my POV might change significantly.
I take a similar approach to writing. When Iwrite a resume, letter, or a creative piece, I try my best to continually remind myself of my audience, my potential new employer. We are all told to keep a resume to a page or a tad more, so we are forced to include only the very most important items. We want to be relevant. If we are applying for a job as “dog catcher,” we probably don’t mention we are taking a class for people afraid of dogs for a second time. In a letter or email, we stay on track so as not to lead our reader into irrelevance. Perhaps we keep our main points to three.
These two formats can be agonizing to edit to size. But, If we have problems, we can normally find someone who will help because these formats are short.
When writing longer pieces, like fiction or non-fiction books, things can be more difficult. With acres of wide-open paper, it’s easy to go off on tangents and grow a forest of unruly brush. Some readers are willing to walk around bushes and push springy branches out of the way while others put the book on a shelf. A friend recently told me he read a book by a writer considered to be “great.” My friend got so bogged down in the author’s description of a miserable situation, even though it was artful, that he quit the book. That writer lost my friend as a member of his audience.
I see, sometimes, where the writer has become fascinated by his ability to provide description. For example, if an intruder is standing in a kitchen, that type of writer describes everything from the wall color to the brand of tables and chairs, and a description of every knick-knack. The reader normally wants only to know the elements of a room that contribute to understanding the intruder, such as the dark lighting that makes him look crazy and the scruffy hair and ripped jacket that show he’s living a rough life. Or, perhaps, his ragged appearance is in sharp contrast to the fancy overhead lighting that shines down on his elbows, which, in torn sleeves, are leaning on a marble countertop.
What I do to keep maintain POV:
1) Establish my audience.
2) Picture a person who represents my typical reader and write for him/her.
3) Keep that person, or typical person of my audience, in mind throughout.
4) Picture that person or group as if they are sitting next to me as I write.
5) Ask people in my writing group to read my piece and tell me if I’ve stayed on track.
6) Sometimes start my piece to “Dear so and so” letter.