A Matter of Perspective

It’s the first thing you do when considering a story.  Whose point of view should the story be told from?

There are so many choices; unless, of course, the character has been knocking at your door for weeks waiting to be let out. But even then, do you tell it just  from that character’s viewpoint, or do other characters get to sneak in their thoughts? Narratives are quite elastic these days as more and more writers push the boundaries.

Many writers choose first person point of view. I read once that “newbie” or freshmen writers like to use that  POV as they feel closer to the storyline and character. I think that maybe the reason that I have never really enjoyed the “I” viewpoint. I have certainly never used it, not wanting to get tagged as a new or “underdeveloped” writer.

However, last week I was re-reading a series by Elizabeth Vaughn and for the very first time I truly appreciated the first person narrative.  In the story, the main character, Lara, was taken out of her familiar city and made to live with plainsmen. The plainsmen had a different language, and very different customs from the city dwellers. As Lara learned–and made mistakes–so did the reader. Because we knew no more than her (and her city rules seemed familiar),  we were as lost in the new culture as she was. That made the story much more personal and interesting.

Elizabeth’s later books, set in the same world, are a mix of point of views. In the three later books I read, the narrative was a mix between the two protagonists. This point of view worked nicely for the later books, as they were not set in the two separate cultures.  This made her choice to use Lara’s first person view  in the earlier book even more clear.

I have read many books with a first person narrative (it does seem like a popular choice) but they never really seemed to need that POV.  A clever writer often drops clues–things the character sees but doesn’t realize the meaning– so that you may figure out the tale before the main character,and those are ones I enjoy getting into. Haven’t you ever yelled at a character for missing the obvious clue? Of course, clever writers do that no matter the POV.

Now that I have  finally appreciated the “I” as a writing style, perhaps my next story should be done that way? What is your  favorite narrative style?

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