Saturday, February 19, 2011
Point of View
I had a serendipitous moment the other day. I was listening to a lecture on Paolo Ucello, a Renaissance artist, and the professor was discussing this painting, Sir John Hawkwood. The painting is meant to commemorate Hawkwood's military success in defending Florence, Italy, when he was a hired mercenary.
Anyway, the professor pointed out that the artist used TWO differing perspectives--two different points of view. Often writing teachers would have you believe that you can only use one POV in a novel, and that you must be consistent, but if Ucello had done that, this painting wouldn't work.
Look at the bottom of the painting. The point of view is that of an observer--you--standing at the base of a towering statue. You can see the underside of the table, correct? If Ucello had remained in that point of view, all we should be able to see of Sir John Hawkwood would be the soles of his feet and his horse's belly! But no, we look at Sir John as if we are standing directly across from him, from a completely different perspective.
So that's why I never make a big deal out of POV purity--the book doesn't have to be all first person or all third person or whatever. The writer should choose what he or she needs to use, and be consistent with that pattern throughout the book. (Example: protagonist in first person, everyone else in third). It makes a better picture.
Caveat: Obviously, Ucello was a master of his craft, having mastered the principles of perception. So the writer who utilizes differing points of view had better have a firm grip on the principles of POV. :-)