In the email, Kristen asked:
What do you think about all the changing POVs?
The story follows a party of people on safari in Africa. These people include a record producer, his two kids, his young girlfriend, two bird-watching ladies, several African warriors, an English guide, a musician, an actor and assorted peripheral characters.
The story, of some 3,000 words, seems to float between the POVs of five characters. I say seems, because there's actually only one POV, that of the omniscient narrator that hovers out of sight above the scenes, listening to what's going on in the heads of various characters. The proof of this narrator's existence comes in offered through three pieces of evidence:
1. The narrator occasionally offers his/her opinion, as in this exchange:
Lou puts his arm around Rolph. If he were an introspective man, he would have understood years ago that his son is the one person in the world who has the power to soothe him.
There's no way Lou can know what he doesn't, which leaves only the narrator.
2. Occasionally the narrator drops in his/her opinion via definitions that are obviously made up and biased, though the language gives the appearance of academic neutrality that riffs on the sexy girlfriend's supposed quest to earn a PhD in anthropology:
Structural resentment: The adolescent daughter of a twice-divorced male will be unable to tolerate the presence of his new girlfriend, and will do everything in her limited power to distract him from said girlfriend’s presence, her own nascent sexuality being her chief weapon.
3. The omniscient character jumps ahead in time to tell readers what happens to the characters:
Charlie doesn’t yet know herself. Four years from now, at eighteen, she’ll join a cult across the Mexican border whose charismatic leader promotes a diet of raw eggs; she’ll nearly die from salmonella poisoning before Lou rescues her.
The effect of using an omniscient POV, especially one that offers opinions, gives the story the feel of a puppet show in which the puppet master knows all and is observing a fictional story. That show-the-skeleton structure can make it difficult for readers to forget the story is made up, thereby limiting their ability to feel for the characters to any degree.
What's your opinion about this type of floating perspective? Does it work for you? Are there any books where you think this approach is imperative and effective.
Thanks for the question, Kristen.