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Point of View–Semantics & Book List

Thursday, June 28, 2007

On yesterday’s post, Jennifer raised a very interesting debate: Point of View versus Viewpoint. Is there a difference in the two terms? To what are we referring with each?

Naturally, I went straight for the dictionary. According to the American Heritage Dictionary:

Viewpoint: A position from which something is observed or considered; a point of view.

Point of View: A manner of viewing things; an attitude. A position from which something is observed or considered, a standpoint. The attitude or outlook of a narrator or character in a piece of literature, a movie, or another form of art.

While Jennifer’s designations of viewpoint as being in a specific character’s head and point of view as being the narrative style chosen for the book are wonderfuly descriptive and tend to make the topic a bit clearer, according to the dictionary—as well as the publishing industry at large—the terms can be used interchangeably.

And the truth of the matter is that most books on writing, writing-related magazines, instructors, professors, seminars, workshops, and blogs about writing are going to use POV almost exclusively when talking about either the narrative style (first-person POV) or the idea of being inside the head of only one character (William’s POV/Julia’s POV). Viewpoint is not a word I’ve really heard bandied about much. In compiling the book list, I noticed it in a few titles—and it looks like they’re using it with the same meaning as we usually see point of view used.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s use viewpoint when talking about being inside a character’s head and point of view to describe the narrative style. Will that help clarify things for everyone?

Book List:
I will say right off the top that I have not read all of these books, but in researching them (mostly using the “search inside” feature on Amazon), here are some books that will help give a deeper understanding of POV/Viewpoint:

In the last post, I know I said “next time” we’d get into the nitty-gritty of what each of the different POV styles are, and I promise, the next post about POV will start getting down and dirty with persons, omniscience, and tense. So just hang in there!

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