Saturday, January 20, 2018

Viewpoints in Stories

Viewpoints and voice are important decisions in all types of writing. In fiction writing, where the author wants the reader to become involved emotionally with the characters or with the plot, this choice is often critical.

First-person narratives are often filled with “I + verb” repetitions, which the author has to work to eliminate, but it is very intimate and the author can easily get the reader into the character’s mind. Matter of fact, the reader can easily become the character because whenever we speak about ourselves, we use the first person. When a person reads "I", their mind can confuse it with him or herself. I’ve written one story in the first person and read many novels from this viewpoint. I’ve also read novels where two first-person viewpoints are used. It is difficult to switch between characters in this instance. I believe I read an Andre Norton story that each chapter switched between the hero and heroines’ first-person viewpoints.

The second person is far more difficult. Most people use ‘you’ when talking to another person, but I, and probably many other people, talk to myself in both first and second voice, and in novels, it is often a character talking to themselves. Again, this voice often allows the reader to become the character, but it can lead to confusion, too. It is growing in usage. One famous book in the viewpoint is Johnny Got His Gun written by Dalton Trumbo in 1938. It tells the story of John Bonham, a World War I soldier who wakes up in a hospital and soon realizes he has no arms or legs, no eyes, no ears, and no tongue. It is very visceral.

The third person is most often used in novels, which makes it familiar to most readers. The omniscient viewpoint lets the author tell the story. This allows letting the reader to know what any character thinks in any scene. While I’ve read many novels using this viewpoint, I find myself not quite as involved with the characters themselves.

I prefer to use the third person in character limited viewpoint. This method allows the same reader intimacy as 1st person, but perhaps more limited, because the character tells their story through their own viewpoint and senses not only through dialogue but through their thoughts. Different characters’ viewpoints are possible with a demarcation to show the reader where the narrative switches from one character to another. The trick is for the author to remember that they are in one character's viewpoint and not to introduce information the character could not know.

Please read the following authors' viewpoints on this topic:

Dr. Bob Rich       Connie Vines       Helena Fairfax       Fiona McGier

Judith Copek       Marci Baun       Anne de Gruchy      A.J. Maguire