Being in Someone’s Head

Does anyone else, as a writer, find themselves reading with a critical eye, noticing different things now that they are a writer themselves? Such as the skilful way the author blends description and action, the hook in the first paragraph, the key plot swivel at almost exactly 50% through?

Having finished ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I then started on ‘The Maltese Falcon’. You might say I have eclectic reading tastes.  In both, I found myself noticing the ‘Point of View’ (POV). In P & P the book starts with a narrator’s POV but most of it is in Elizabeth’s POV or the narrators.  But there are tiny moments where we hear another POV, for a sentence or more, e.g. Darcy’s, Miss Bingley’s. For example, “He (Darcy) began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention.”

Writers are told not to change POV within the same scene/paragraph/chapter. Ten years ago I would not have noticed. Now I do. It is reassuring that the sublime Miss Austen breaks the rules. Maybe rules don’t matter that much.

Then in the ‘Maltese Falcon’ there is no POV.  None at all. You never get inside anyone’s head. All thoughts, emotions and desires are conveyed entirely by speech, appearance and actions. For example: “Spade sighed, rose from the bed, and went to the telephone-box beside his bathroom door. He pressed the button that released the street-door-lock. He muttered, ‘Damn her,’ and stood scowling at the black telephone-box, breathing irregularly while a dull flush grew in his cheeks.”

It is a screen play, it is a movie, it is genius and also oddly disconcerting.  It gives the book a clinical, almost menacing, feel. I am used to understanding what is going on in at least one’s character’s head.  To not know…it increases the suspense massively.

Has anyone else written, or come across, a successful novel/story that has either no POV at all, or continual POV slips between heads within the same scene/paragraph?

maltese falcon



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