What’s Your Perspective?


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The Point of View (POV) in Literature is the perspective the author chooses to tell their story. The story unfolds through narration. Narration is the use of a written or spoken commentary to convey a story to the intended audience.

Narration is how the author presents their story, including:

  • Narrative point of view: the perspective through which a story is communicated
  • Narrative voice: the format through which a story is communicated
  • Narrative time: the  story’s time-frame in the past, present, or the future

narrator is a personal character or a non-personal voice that the creator of the story uses to convey information to the audience, particularly about the plot. The narrator may be a voice devised by the author as an anonymous or stand-alone entity; as the author themselves; or as a character within their own story. Narrative point of view or narrative perspective describes the position of the narrator in relation to the story being told. When you are reading a scene in a book and when you are writing a scene, you follow the character almost like a camera on the character’s shoulder or in the character’s head. You are looking at the character performing a specific set of actions or important actions in vivid detail.

There are 3 major kinds of POV. Within these there are variations.  Examples of point of view belong to one of these three major kinds:

  1. First person – this involves the use of either of the two pronouns “I” and “we” and is told from the protagonist’s view.
  2. Second person point of view employs the pronoun “you”. This is the author addressing the audience from their perspective.
  3. Third person point of view uses pronouns like “he”, “she”, “it”, “they” or a name. This is a narrative perspective.

Authors use POV to express effectively what they want to convey to readers.  It is the vehicle to convey  the character’s feelings, emotions, and actions.

First Person

In the first-person narrative, the narration is told from the character’s perspective. The story unfolds through the eyes of the character. This is often used to convey directly the deep internal, otherwise unspoken thoughts of the character.  The story unfolds using “I”, and “we”.  Most often, the story is told from the protagonist, expressing their views to the reader but not to the other characters. This is often a skewed view, causing the reader to sympathize with the protagonist or other character and rally their cause.  Using first person may show a story within a story, or allow the reader to observe the pursuit of some hidden agenda.

The first-person narrator is always told from one of the characters in the story, whether it is the main character or some other character. In some cases, the narrator gives or withholds information based on their own experience often as it unfolds.

Examples:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz; Dune by Frank Herbert; The Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger; I Am Legend by Richard Matheson; The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Talented writers often choose to skew their narratives to the character’s bent, to an arbitrary degree, in keeping with the narrator’s character from just a smidge to extreme depending on the character’s bent. Unstable or malevolent narrators can lie and deliberately mislead the reader.

Novice writers might make the mistake of allowing elements of omniscience into a first-person narrative unintentionally and forgetting the limitations of inherent humanness of a character’s involvement.

Writing in first person is intimate, but it is also confining. You cannot explore the feelings or motivations of other characters; your viewpoint character can only guess what they are. You cannot show anything from another character’s perspective.  The entirety is experienced through the one character’s view, which makes the novice want to do head hopping which is strongly discouraged.

Second-person

The second-person narrative mode, in which the narrator refers to him- or herself as ‘you’ in a way that suggests alienation from the events described, or emotional/ironic distance, is less common in fiction. This is often the voice that I use when writing my blog posts.  I refer to you the reader and tell things from my perspective. My blog being nonfiction, the second person works well.

Examples:

Bright lights, Big City by Jay McInerney; An Italian Affiar by Laura Fraser; To Be or Not to Be: A Choosable-Path Adventure by Ryan North/William Shakespeare; If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Cavino

Third-person

Third-person narration provides the greatest flexibility to the author and thus is the most commonly used narrative across multiple genres in literature. In the third-person narrative mode, each and every character is referred to by the narrator as “he”, “she”, “it”, or “they”, but never as “I” or “we” or “you.  In third person narrative, the narrator is observing and relaying the tale, often not involved in the story.

The third-person modes are usually categorized along two axis. The first is the subjectivity/objectivity axis, with “subjective” describing one or more character’s feelings and thoughts, and “objective” not describing the feelings or thoughts of any characters.

The second axis is the omniscient/limited axis, a distinction that refers to the knowledge available to the narrator. An omniscient narrator has knowledge of all times, people, places, and events, including all characters’ thoughts. The trick here is the narrator cannot describe  or reveal things unknown to the focal character until they discover them.

Examples:

Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling; Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card; The Mark of Athena by Rick Riourdan; The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

 How Do You Decide?

Think about your characters in terms of Whose story is this? The answer to this question will lead you to your point-of- view character.

If you’re not sure whose story it is, ask the following questions:

  • Who is facing a difficult challenge?
  • Who has a heartbreaking decision to make or a meaningful goal to reach?
  • Who will struggle against obstacles and complications to meet a challenge, make the best decision, or attain a goal?
  • Who will the reader care about and root for?

When you’ve decided whose story you’re telling, that character will usually be your viewpoint character, the one who lets the reader know what’s going on.  If you are still unsure, read and experiment.  Play around with it.  Write a scene using different POV’s. Share them with your writing group.  Discuss which one works better and why.  Sometimes the logical choice doesn’t flow as well as the less obvious choice. Do what works for you and your story.

Do you have a particular style you enjoy reading? Do you prefer to write in a specific pov? Think about your favorite books or authors, what POV did they use?

Write on my friends, write on!

Lemon Pie, Anyone?


Quotidiandose does not own rights to this clipart.

Quotidiandose does not own rights to this clip art.

Isn’t it amazing  when you get an idea and a plan, you can almost certainly count on a detour up ahead?

*Enter Hurricane force winds to wreck your best laid plans*

I was on a roll, was working hard, head down and focused which in and of itself was close to a miracle. And then . . . life happens.  LIFE ENTERS STAGE RIGHT.

A writer’s ego is a very delicate and fragile thing. Which is ironic because we are also egotistical, thinking that what we have to say is so important that everyone needs to read it!  Conflicted much?  Yeah, I would say so!

Battle hardened veterans become tougher with each new battle.  We may not always win the battles, but we gain experience and training with each new interaction in the arena.  At some point battle hardened can turn into battle weary.

When life gives you lemons. . . . but what do you do if it’s hurling them at you at  the speed of 120 mph breaking ball in rapid secession?

You protect yourself of course! Sometimes that means taking cover, ducking, or running out-of-the-way. Sometimes it means curling up into a tight ball and just crying until it passes.

I was on a roll typing away on the latest WIP when the Seven Things To Know mentioned in Confessions of a Writer post came up.  As I mentioned I did some real soul-searching based on the friend’s comments.  In that searching I made a list of pros and cons about myself as a writer and a person.  So I took the abundance of lemons thrown at me and made lemon pie! 

One of the ingredients in my pie  is my editing skills. I’ve only had two people out of twenty-three that didn’t care for my editing.  One was of the opinion that their rough draft was golden as is. I refer to Stephen King on this one – All first drafts are crap!  The second one was more of a clash of personalities and lack of handholding on my part. Sorry,  but I’m not a coddler. Just ask my kids on that point.

So in that vein,  I am doing a new feature on Thursdays.  Instead of the ‘throwback’ pictures and such which seems to be the phase going on that book of Face, my Thursday feature will be From the Editor’s Desk.  I tried for some alliterative cuteness  but couldn’t come up with anything clever.

In a previous post Reading and Writing, I addressed key elements of writing.

  •  PLOT – what happens, the structure of the story.  There are twenty basic plots, and beyond that are variations on those basic twenty.
  • CHARACTERIZATION – the way that the characters act or are portrayed to convey the plot.
  • POV – the point of view, or perspective that the story is told from.  I have written in first person and in third,  the current one being in third person omniscient.
  • SETTING –  the time, place, or even atmosphere in which the story is set.This is the world building that is crucial to your story.
  • STYLE –   the language used  by the narrator to convey the story. The style of Mark Twain is a more casual laid back manner than that of Jane Austin. You know that Twain’s characters are poor folk, where as many of Austin’s works are about an aristocratic class.
  • THEME –  a universal meaning that your readers will connect to, or most readers will connect to.

My plan is to address each of these  in more depth over the next six weeks.  Then after that, will be common mistakes that newbies made.  (I can speak from the voice of experience here, I think I’ve made them all.) Stay tuned for some tasty tidbits!

Write on my friends, write on!