Friday, January 20, 2017

Point of View--Bits and Pieces

Image result for free clipart or image of using first, second or third person in writing

I've been reading a novel called The Royal Nanny which was published in 2016. The story is fiction, based on real people and situations we know in history books. We are given an inside view of life with British royalty in the late 19th and early 20th century through the eyes of the 'royal nanny' who cared for 6 royal children. The book is written in first person so we see the story through the eyes of Charlotte Bill. I have enjoyed the book and, last night, it occurred to me that I particularly like books, or stories, written in first person--using those 'I' and 'we' words many a time.

When we write a story, or a full novel, one of the big decisions we must make is what viewpoint the story will be told from--or perhaps it is better to say seen from.  There are pluses and minuses to any of the three viewpoints.

First Person:  As stated, this is a form that appeals to me when reading and also when writing fiction, even though I don't use it that often. It allows the reader to see and live the story through the eyes of one person. The reader sometimes feels the emotions of the narrator, if the writer is skillful. Using first person tells the reader right away that This is my story and I'm inviting you to live it with me. One of the limits of this type of narration is that the person telling the story must be in every scene. I can't tell you what happened ten miles away if I'm not there. I have read a few (very few) where there are two people, writing in first person, who tell us the story, skipping back and forth. It takes a good writer to make this work.

Second Person:  Here, we see the word 'you' used multiple times. I find it irritating to read a story from this viewpoint. The writer attempts to put you, the reader, right into the action. This is probably the least used method to narrate a story. Books get published that utilize second person narration so someone must like them. I have never tried it but I would think it difficult to write this way.

Third Person:  Here, a narrator tells us the story. The omniscient narrator is one who knows all people and all parts of the story. This narrator knows what every person is thinking. It's like the storyteller of old with a crowd gathered round while he tells the story from beginning to end. The third person limited allows the narrator to know the thoughts and feelings of only one character but is still telling us the story. The narrator allows us to see what happens to this particular character. Read this good article for a more in-depth explanation.

Beginning writers sometimes mix the point of view in one story, or book. Don't do it. Stay with one of these three methods.

Which of these three viewpoints do you like best when you write? How about when you read? Can you pinpoint why?

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