Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Weekend Writer: Hunting For Your Story With Point Of View

Back we go to finding our story, which is, you'll remember, something that happens to somebody and its significance. Ideas frequently come in segments, scenes, or situations rather than a fully realized story, so a writer may not know right away what is happening to whom and its significance. In that case, you can search out information to use in building a story by first developing basic story elements. We've talked about doing this with character and setting. This week we're hitting point of view.

There are a number of points of view, but for simplicity's sake we're only going to talk about  two, first person and third person limited omniscient.

First Person: The "I" person. A character is actually telling the story. This is often the main character, but not  always. (Think Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories or Brandon in the Hannah and Brandon stories.) First person narrators are in every single scene. Everything that happens is filtered through their minds. It's very easy to develop a voice with a first person narrator.

Third person limited omniscient: A "he/she" narrator. We think of third person narrators as being all knowing (omniscient) and being able to move from character to character, but the moving-from-character-to-character thing isn't used a great deal nowadays and is difficult to do without appearing confusing and as if the writer is jumping all over the place. Writers will sometimes try to switch to different characters in different chapters, but that can stop the forward movement of a story.

What is easier to do is a third person limited omniscient narrator, something that is also known as a "point of view character." You have one main character who appears  in every scene and through whom everything is filtered, just as with the first person, but there is a storytelling type voice telling the story and referring to this character as he or she. Michael in Saving the Planet & Stuff  is a point of view character or third person limited omniscient narrator. With third person limited  narrators, the storyteller voice can actually know more about the point of view characters than first person narrators often know about themselves.

One thing writers can do while trying to determine what their stories are is write a scene twice, once in the first person, as if the chosen character is talking him- or herself and once in the third person, as if a storyteller is at work. You should find yourself  coming up with different material from each voice, giving you some ideas about what could happen to these people.

Another thing you can do is try different characters as both the first person narrator and point of view character. Even if you end up sticking with your original choice, writing about other characters in different ways may give you ideas you can use.

Yes, point of view can be a lot of work.

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