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?
Our Prompt from Writing 101 today: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene from the point of view of each character.
Mary listened to the birds singing to the sun–or each other, she was never sure– as she and Harold walked through the park. This path was one of her favorites; the greenery almost hid the city sprawling behind them. She had always been a country girl at heart. Mary absently swung their joined hands as she soaked up the peace. She loved holding hands with Harold, his hands were strong and callused. It always made her feel so safe. She felt the tension in Harold’s hand increase incrementally, and looked up at him. His face was averted, making it hard to read, but she saw a tear roll down his face. Alarmed, Mary looked around to see what could have upset Harold. Without her noticing, they had come up to one of the benches scattered around the park. On the bench ahead was gray-haired woman, knitting a small sweater out of vivid red yarn. Immediately Mary understood and leaned comfortingly against Harold, wrapping her arm around his waist.
Harold glanced down at their joined hands as Mary swung them. He didn’t really care for the park, but these walks made her so happy. That made it worthwhile to him. He loved the blissful look on her face she got during these walks, and knowing he helped put it there. Seeing the sun gild Mary’s blond hair made him feel content, contrasting so strongly with his ex-wife’s hair. Looking ahead, Harold saw a woman knitting on a bench. He was about to move his gaze when he caught sight of the shape the knitter was forming out of the red fuzzy yarn. His breath caught, and he was unaware he had tightened his hand until Mary looked up. He looked away, trying to hide the tears he could feel tracking down his face. Even in his sorrow, his heart leap as Mary silently offered comfort.
Myrna settled her bones onto the bench with satisfaction. What a beautiful day. People watching in the park was one of her favorite activities. Like that young couple strolling towards her. Myrna had seen them before, they came every Sunday. She liked watching the happy twosome, they were always holding hands and smiling. That bum over on the next bench, on the other hand, she could do without! Myrna took a deep breath of fresh air, pulling her knitting out of the bag. She frowned at the bright red yarn. It was soft, but not the color she would have picked for a baby sweater. Ah well, it was what the dark haired lady had asked for. Myrna bent her head and continued working on the small arm, not realizing it would never be worn.