Writing

Selecting and Utilizing Point of View

Dan Brown

Lesson time 18:02 min

Dan teaches you how to strategically use narrative point of view to maximize suspense, withhold information, and reveal character.

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When you study writing, you hear a lot of people talk about "point of view." Point of view is essentially just the eyes through which you're seeing the action. If you're watching a movie, it's the camera. That's the point of view through which you're experiencing whatever is happening in front of you. There are many different ways to use point of view when you're a novelist. You can jump inside everyone's head. You can look at a scene, and say, what point of view do I want to choose? I can be in that person's head, that person's head, that person's head. I can hear their thoughts. I can feel their physical emotions, their physical sensations. And I can tie my reader concretely to this character. And what that's going to do is give the reader the sense that they are living the scene. They're not out here looking in, as you might in a movie. They are living this scene. It's funny, if you see a movie, sometimes, you'll see that camera angle when they decide to sort of have leaves in front of it, and the camera looks up. And it's like, oh, I'm looking through the killer's eyes. That's trying to be a novelist. That's a filmmaker saying, I want to give you the sense that you're the killer or that you're seeing what the killer is seeing. You can do that effortlessly as a writer. You have that set of tools. A very common point of view that young writers will use is what's called an "omniscient narrator." This is the point of view where you can jump into anyone's head, and hover over the action, and really say, well Langdon's thinking this. Sophie's thinking this. Over there, Silas is thinking this. And that's a very powerful way to write a story, meaning that you can see everything at all times. My personal taste, I don't do that. I don't like to do that. I like to be much more controlled in point of view. And let me tell you what that means. Essentially, I decide in each chapter through whose eyes am I going to see this action. I have to choose one person. I only have access to that person's thought, that person's eyes. And if Langdon is the point-of-view character, I know what he's thinking. He's looking at Ambra, and he's saying, she's beautiful, or she's smart, or who is she? I can't, in that same moment tell you what Ambra's thinking. I can say she looks hungry, or she looks frightened. But I can't say Ambra was frightened. I have controlled the point of view, and said, I can only see this through Langdon's eyes. And to my taste, what that does for your reader is to give them a very concrete vehicle through which to experience a chapter. And if you think about it, we as human beings experience the world that way, from one point of view, our point of view. We can't hop around in this omniscient narrator and look in from all angles. All we have is our own point of view. So when you write a scene with multiple characters, and you decide, I'm going to show this scene through this character's mind, this cha...


Craft page-turning suspense

Packed with secret symbols and high-stakes suspense, Dan Brown’s thrillers have sold more than 250 million copies and include one of the world’s best-selling novels, The Da Vinci Code. In his writing class, Dan unveils his step-by-step process for turning ideas into gripping narratives. Learn his methods for researching like a pro, crafting characters, and sustaining suspense all the way to a dramatic surprise ending.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Dan was full of enthusiasm and wisdom which he shared generously with us. His tips ranged from constructing the storyline to the life of a writer and how to get through the slumps. Wonderful class! Very inspiring. I will likely take on writing a thriller after I finish my current series because of Dan Brown!

I am new to writing a novel. Lots of doubts and confusion on how to proceed. Dan helped clear up some of my confusion and made me realize I can do this. Thanks Dan!

Fantastic Experience. I am following all the tips and Dan's writing style for children adventure books.

Amazing. Too much thoughts a can't explain right now of much I'm grateful to this class and to you Dan Brown. Hope I will get a second time to express my opinion, right know I'm going to write what before I felt impossible. I wish you the best of luck in your work, even if we both know that luck or bad luck are trumped fairly easy by skill, goal and process.


Comments

A fellow student

Nice job talking about POV. I have a first person POV novel. I'm now thinking about looking at the chapters and maybe writing them from another POV. Something to think about.

Barbara R.

I am so happy that you covered this aspect of writing a scene. It was not easy to figure this out and it seems almost obvious. After writing screenplays where the action is always in the present I was confused by this subject.

EK T.

I like the idea of telling the story from different points of view to find the most interesting one.

Shayne O.

Very in-depth and concise information about point of view. Thank you. However, writing a memoir I wonder is it okay to move to another key person's point of view when events directly affect them and the first person is not there to witness what happens to them?

Paul B.

To the technical team, respectful, please your check your code for video buffering management and session management. There is not a day that I don’t need to clear my entire browser history and start a virgin session to work around stuck video, or access to PDF collateral. This is from an iPad to running an updated iOS. I am a technical person, so I can only imagine how confusing for those that are not.

Tim W.

Love Dan's teaching. Unable to download the PDF. Keep getting an error message. :(

Will C.

As suggested I re-wrote a scene of mine - from the villain's rather than hero's point of view. This created a bunch of new motivation and backstory against the hero, so deepened why the villain was 'out to get' him. Useful, even if I ultimately don't use that POV.

Adam S.

I would have liked to know what he would do if he wrote in the first person point of view. This seems to be mostly for third person. I imagine he has not written first person past.

Peter S.

Mr Dan Brown is giving very generously from his profound knowledge of the craft. I am very happy about that since it constitutes such a great help and inspiration for me.

John D M.

This was an aspect that was a tough lesson for me. Early readers of first drafts told me I was 'head-hopping' a little too often. Re-writing from one character's POV for sustained periods was both tough to edit and eventually very rewarding.