A thorough, illuminating, and entertaining guide to crafting point of view, a fiction writer’s most essential choice.
Who is telling the story to whom is the single most important question about any work of fiction; the answer is central to everything from style and tone to plot and pacing. Using hundreds of examples from Jane Austen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Leo Tolstoy to Stephen King, novelist and longtime MFA professor Lisa Zeidner dives deep into the points of view we are most familiar with—first and third person—and moves beyond to second-person narration, frame tales, and even animal points of view. Engaging and accessible, Who Says? presents any practicing writer with a new system for choosing a point of view, experimenting with how it determines the narrative, and applying these ideas to revision.
Novelist Zeidner (Love Bombs) delivers an accessible guide to fiction writing in this welcome antidote to fusty academic didacticism. Zeidner argues that making decisions about narration in fiction is "critical," and she dedicates a chapter to each point of view. She covers godlike omniscience ("the one we all know instinctively"); first person, which can sound the most "authentic"; second person and third person; and even child and animal points of view (wherein she warns against leaning into "faux-na f"). Zeidner samples generously from the texts of such authors as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Marilynne Robinson, and Leo Tolstoy, and expertly explores such quandaries as "authorial presence," or how much the author's voice and the voices of their characters should merge. She also warns of the perils of trying to weave too many points of view in a single work of fiction, as doing so offers less space to develop characters. Zeidner writes in accessible and passionate prose, and exercises round things out and help put her advice to practical use. This is an indispensable supplement for any creative writing student.