It all depends on your perspective of things…

There are three major points of view employed in literature.  Two are used frequently, while the other is quite rare.

The third-person perspective is the most commonly used narrative mode.  This is likely because of the flexibility it provides to the writer.  The story is told by an unspecified omniscient or an uninvolved person.  The method can split into singular or plural, with the focusing on one character at a time, or upon a group of them.  The point of view can be subjective or objective, either discussing the thoughts and feelings of a character, or opting to let the action mould the reader’s opinion.  The narrator can be all-seeing and all-knowing, essentially the god of the story, or can be limited to their own experience or that of another character.

The first-person perspective, with the narrator being a character of the story, gives the feeling of a one-on-one conversation between the reader and the character.  This allows the reader a greater ability to decide on the personality of a character, since innermost thoughts and personal observations of events give a deep insight into their psyche.  A memorable instance of this for me is FitzChivalry Farseer, the focal character of Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies.  The illegitimate child of Chivalry Farseer, we follow his life, the trials and tribulations, the numerous setbacks, and all of his feelings and observations.  I found him to be a sympathetic character due to the events of the two trilogies, while my sister found him to be quite ‘woe is me’.

The least common perspective is the second-person, where the reader is ‘you’.  Characters will make statements and observations of you, trying to pull you in and feel like a character in the story.  You can see the problem in that making the story work involves making an accurate observation, or relying heavily on the readers’ suspension of disbelief.  It would require an omniscient character to truly draw you into it…

Do you have a memorable instance of a narrative perspective, where it really helped you enjoy the story to a greater degree?

When you write, do you have a preferred point of view?

Please share =)

– Mo –

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7 responses

  1. Hi, DJ. What does “-Mo-” mean, other than “method of operation”? You have just inspired me. I think that for one of my novels (whether it’s in my 8-part series or later) I’m going to use the second-person, just to see if I can do it. But mostly, I stick to the third person, quite uninventively. The first novel I wrote was a selection of first-person points of view from different characters taken in turn, but it doesn’t come as easily to me, though with a little practice, perhaps I could get more fluent with it. What about you? Are you feeling adventurous and wanting to experiment after you finish the stories you’re on now? One option is always to have a story within a story to try it out, in which the frame story (the most external story) is in third person, but the inset story is told by one of the characters in first person (and I know you’re familiar with inset stories–though I think the ones you mentioned are all in third person unless I’m forgetting something–from your remark the other day that you had been reading the “Thousand and One Nights”).

    1. Greetings Doc.

      Merely a section break showing the day of the post.

      Being a novice, I am sticking to the third person perspective. That would make one a ‘trainee omniscient’ I believe =)

      I do want to experiment, and the second-person perspective is intriguing.

      The ‘Big Project’ is very likely to have the ‘story within a story’, especially when it involves revealing a pertinent event in a character’s backstory.

      Thank you for reading =)

  2. I find narrative stance can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of your prose. I ran into a lot of road blocks when I first started drafting The Road Elsewhere. It is a story centres on one character and I was really struggling to get accross what he was thinking and feeling in third person. It’s just taste but I dislike ‘head-hopping’ in a story, when it’s told in third person but you get described to you all the thoughts and feelings of everyone involved. If it’s told in third person, I still like it to be focussed on one character. One notable example of this is Harry Potter. What you may think about the quality of the writing, I still liked that the focus is definitely Harry. we don’t stray into anyone else’s head. I find knowing too much about too many dilutes my commitment. In the end I turned the Road Elsewhere into first person, a la Robin Hobb, and it made the world of difference. Everything was simpler and with complex narrative it always best to try and keep the style and the delivery simple. Let the tone and the action do the talking. This lead me to muse for a while upon the idea that maybe first person narrative stance is the best one for fiction. A lot of barriers and traps apprentice writers fall into are automatically removed because you don’t have to labour a point with description. You can jsut tell it like it is. But then I spoke to my mum who reads A LOT and she said that she doesn’t actually like stories told in first person. It doesn’t matter what the story is, she just doesn’t like stories told in that way. This made me realise how much taste becomes a factor in things and can often have more of an effect on how people view your work than actually the quality of the writing. It was scary but also encouraging.

    1. The first-person perspective forces the author to know their character inside and out, and that can only be a good thing.

      It will be interesting getting to know Rowan ‘in his own words’ =)

  3. Sorry, that was rather a lot of brain-drivel 😀

    1. Haha, it is awesome to get a well-considered and thought-provoking reply to a post =)

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