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Who Says?

Mastering Point of View in Fiction

Lisa Zeidner


List Price: 16.95*
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A thorough, illuminating, and entertaining guide to crafting point of view, a fiction writer’s most essential choice.

Who is telling the story to whom affects everything about a work of fiction, from the style and tone to the progression of its plot. Using hundreds of examples from both classic and contemporary fiction, novelist and longtime MFA professor Lisa Zeidner reveals how even seemingly unrelated issues—like what makes a rich description, how much characters need to “grow and change” to engage us, and what distinguishes literary and commercial fiction—are ultimately tied to point of view.

Who Says? is divided into chapters that explore different points of view, from omniscient and first person to second person and child narrators, and offers an original way to reread well-known authors and reconsider our own work. Engaging and accessible, Who Says? presents any practicing writer with a new system for choosing a point of view, experimenting with how those choices affect the narrative, and applying these ideas to revision.

Praise For Who Says?: Mastering Point of View in Fiction

Lisa Zeidner's Who Says? is as captivating as it is instructive, an enormously useful craft book that is also, miraculously, a page-turner. Witnessing how Zeidner constructs her own erudite and hilarious point of view is a class in itself. An essential resource for teachers and students, writers and readers.

— Karen Russell, author of Orange World and Other Stories

As an experienced teacher and witty, engaging novelist, Lisa Zeidner has a real understanding of what makes fiction tick, and from whose perspective that ticking might arise. Her book will surely be a good resource for anyone setting out to understand the complex and all-important topic of point of view.
— Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion

Zeidner's book is a joy. Usually books that claim to be about the craft of fiction leave my mouth, eyes and my room full of dust, but this work is actually fun. It's also full of erudition, wit and insight. And it is wonderfully accessible, a helpful text for any writer at any stage of her/his career.
— Percival Everett, author of Telephone

Lisa Zeidner’s terrific book on point of view is lively and insightful, an indispensable guide for writers of all levels. No small part of the pleasure of reading it is the way she makes you think anew of many of your favorite novels and stories. Highly recommended.
— Ann Packer, author of The Children's Crusade

As a novice teacher thirty-something years ago, I realized that the biggest obstacle for most beginning writers was complete ignorance of how to manage point of view in fiction. I’ve been teaching to that insight ever since, which means that I agree with Lisa Zeidner! Not only on the importance of the topic but also on the key points she makes about it in Who Says?. To have such a well-organized manual on point of view is a tremendous asset, especially with the thousands of examples found here, deployed from Zeidner’s almost intimidating erudition, but softened by her customarily light and witty touch.

— Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Color of Night

In witty accessible prose, drawing on examples from a vivid universe of fiction, Lisa Zeidner breaks down the science of perspective in fiction writing. This volume articulates with stunning clarity so much of what we feel when we read but struggle to explain, offering gems for the author attempting to gain a reader’s interest and trust. Writers, students, lay readers and scholars of fiction will come away from Who Says? with a greater understanding of how to write all of the selves: them, ours and maybe even yours.

— Asali Solomon, author of Disgruntled

While point of view is the primary subject here, Who Says? is anything but narrow in scope. This capacious volume spins tales about tales themselves, drawing us into the heart of storytelling in ways that feel rich and whole, providing along-the-way insights into language, character, voice, and structure. It’s a great pleasure to read, and at its core inspirational—useful for new writers and writers made new by their latest project, too.

— Aurelie Sheehan, author of Once into the Night

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393356113, 288pp.

Publication Date: February 9, 2021

About the Author

Lisa Zeidner is the author of five novels and two books of poems. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, GQ, and other publications. Zeidner teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Rutgers University and lives in New Jersey.