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Writing a crime novel - mastering viewpoint


Pauline Rowson, crime authorViewpoint is one of the most difficult aspects for new writers to grasp, and sometimes even established writers struggle with this. Whose story it is i.e. from whose viewpoint are you telling the story? You might think it is fairly obvious that it is the protagonist’s story but is it his (or hers) alone, or do you need to switch to telling the story from another character’s viewpoint i.e. is it single viewpoint or multiple viewpoint?

Then there is the question of whether it will be written in the first person or the third person? How do you make that decision?

In Cold Daylight a crime novel by Pauline RowsonSometimes it is a matter of trial and error or rather experimentation. When I wrote In Cold Daylight, a crime thriller, I originally wrote it in the third person. It was only when I had finished the novel that I knew it didn’t feel right. It didn’t have enough tension, so I decided to re-write it switching to first person and it worked much better.

Thrillers are frequently written in the first person to give them a faster-pace.


Undercurrent a DI Andy Horton crime novelUsing first person viewpoint though does have its drawbacks in that everything must be seen through this one character’s eyes. The same applies if you choose to write the novel, or short story, from the singular third person point of view, as I have chosen to do in the Inspector Andy Horton novels and the Art Marvik marine based thrillers. Here you cannot switch to another characters’ thoughts and emotions instead you follow the story through the main character’s eyes. On the plus side though this can help the reader to identify far more strongly with that main character.


Writing from third person multiple viewpoint opens up more possibilities. You can switch to telling the story through other characters’ eyes, showing their thoughts and emotions. However, care must be taken not to have too many characters telling the story and switching too frequently from one character to another because this will result in losing the emotional intensity of the story and irritating the reader. Just when they’ve got inside one character’s head they’re pulled away to another.

If you decide to have more than one viewpoint it is best to switch character viewpoint at the beginning of a new chapter or passage, and every few pages, not on the same page and not too frequently.

Are you writing from the male or female point of view?


Tide of Death, an Inspector Andy Horton Police Procedural by Pauline RowsonWhen I first started writing I wrote from the female character's point of view but as I continued I found myself far more attracted to telling the story from the male character's point of view. When I created the flawed and rugged detective, DI Andy Horton, in the first of the Horton series, Tide of Death, I knew then that I had found my ‘voice’. Everything began to fall into place.









Silent Running, an Art Marvik marine based mystery by Pauline RowsonI also decided to write my new series of crime novels featuring Art Marvik, an undercover investigator for the UK's National Intelligence Marine Squad (NIMS) from the male point of view. 

Many people ask me why I have chosen to write from the male point of view and the answer is I don’t really know, maybe it’s because I like male heroes. I don't think it matters, it just happens to be my style. That being said there are, of course, some strong females in my novels.




Finding the right viewpoint and your voice takes time and practice but if you enjoy writing then that's not a chore, on the contrary it's always a pleasure to experiment and experiment you must.


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Available from all good booksellers in paperback, as an ebook, Large Print and as unabridged audio book and for loan in libraries in the UK, Commonwealth and the USA.

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.

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POSTED BY: PAULINE ROWSON
JUNE 15TH, 2017 @ 6:49:04 BST
 
 


Comments

RE: Writing a crime novel - mastering viewpoint


Character viewpoint is definitely something I`d like to `play around with` until it clicks. Generally I`m used to reading from third person POV. I have however read a few stories in the first person. As you say though, it can be a very limiting experience and all well and good if you really connect and enjoy following the main character. But one book I read with this POV, was brilliant in terms of historical detail (setting and the like) and the atmosphere the author built was fantastic.

But I realised that I actually didn`t really care for the protagonist all that much (for various reasons). And considering I was stuck with him throughout, it sometimes made for difficult reading.

COMMENT BY ADRIAN MIDDLETON, SEPTEMBER 26TH, 2014 @ 11:38:14 BST

RE: Writing a crime novel - mastering viewpoint


Character viewpoint is definitely something I`d like to `play around with` until it clicks. Generally I`m used to reading from third person POV. I have however read a few stories in the first person. As you say though, it can be a very limiting experience and all well and good if you really connect and enjoy following the main character. But one book I read with this POV, was brilliant in terms of historical detail (setting and the like) and the atmosphere the author built was fantastic.

But I realised that I actually didn`t really care for the protagonist all that much (for various reasons). And considering I was stuck with him throughout, it sometimes made for difficult reading.

COMMENT BY ADRIAN MIDDLETON, SEPTEMBER 26TH, 2014 @ 11:47:47 BST
 

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