Who’s telling the story anyway?
October 30, 2015
WHEN I FIRST BEGAN on this journey into the world of words, I was so proud to present my freshly finished work to the world. This creation consisted of 65,000 words bled out on paper. To me, it was the most beautiful piece of writing ever produced. It was my baby—ah, my baby. I cradled it, I understood it, I read it over and over. It was awesome! I showed it to another parental writer. They immediately pointed at my beautiful creation with their boney finger and said, “It has too many Points of View. I am confused by its appearance.”
I immediately stuffed my creation into a brown envelope, raced off to another literary scribe and showed it to them. “Want to see my baby?” My heart jumped with pride. My face lit with joy and my smile was ear to ear wide as I pulled the newborn book from its brown paper blanket.
After several minutes of study, the scribe said, “Hmm, good basic plot, but it is a little difficult to understand because you need to settle on whose Point of View it is being told from. If you would clarify the Point of View, then the story would be more fluid, more easily understood, and readers would enjoy it more and want to visit longer with it. Not wanting to appear stupid, I gently swaddled my baby book In its brown paper envelope and carried it home as I spoke to it quietly. “It’s okay, I’ll fix you, don’t worry.”
At home, I began a search on the internet for Point of View. (As you know the internet never lies. NOT) There were many answers. One was: whose head is the metaphoric camera on at the time of the writing? Whoever has the camera on is the only character who can describe what they hear, see, taste, touch, or think. They may notice others and assume what others are doing.
Another article said Point of View is however you want it to be if the reading is still understandable and doesn’t lose the reader, then it is okay.
The internet left me wanting to do some oldtimey book searches.
- In Glencoe’s Grammar and Composition Handbook, 11th, and 12th grade edition, under the heading Choosing a Point of View. “Once you have decided on the characters, plot, and setting, you must select the point of view from which you will tell the story.
“First-Person Point of View: The narrator is a character in the story; he or she uses the pronoun I.
“Third-person point of view: The narrator is not a character in the story but an observer of it. Using this point of view, you may choose a third-person limited narrator, who sees the world through the eyes of one character and knows and relays the thoughts and actions of only this character. Alternatively, you may choose a third-person omniscient narrator, who identifies and communicates the thoughts and actions of all of the characters.”
*Remember that the point of view you choose significantly affects the story. It can bias the reader in favor or against a character or it can limit the reader’s knowledge about a character.
- In Keys for Writers, Fourth Edition by Ann Raime, the following information is shared about Point of View:
“Point of View: position from which the events are described, such as first or third person narrator (I/we/or he/she/they), biased or reliable, limited or omniscient.”
“Do not shift point of view. Be consistent in using first, second, or third person pronouns. For example, if you begin by referring to one do not switch to you or we. Also, avoid shifting unnecessarily between third person singular and plural forms.”
Hmm, so to sum all of this up; is your manuscript being told by one person who speaks to the audience with I? If so, whatever that person sees, feels, tastes, hears, experiences, or even assumes about others can be shown to the audienc e. But, they cannot “be” the other person or character.
If you are writing in third person limited, then one character at a time knows and relays the thoughts and actions of this one character only. In other words, this is the person wearing the camera on their head. Wherever they look, whatever they see, hear, experience internally and externally can be utilized.
Last, but by no means least comes the third person omniscient Point of View. In this Point of View, a fourth party, the author, knows and relays the thoughts and actions of all of the characters in the book. It is almost as if a play is going on and the author sees it from above and inputs the thoughts and describes the actions and feelings of the characters.
After thinking on this newly found wealth of information, I decided it was time to get the baby out and work on helping this wordy infant learn to talk to an audience. “No more baby confused mishmash for you. I’m going to train you up and trim you down until you grow up to be Bestselling novel in the world.”
I smiled to myself as with great pride, I typed the first revision. “Let’s get you all cleaned up. You will be great, my son,” I said aloud as I hit the enter key on the keyboard.
Writing is a forever learning process. There is always new information to learn and old information to build upon. Write like the wind. Let the ideas flow, but know this. The first step to completion isn’t just a wild one night fling, that just consumates the relationship, but good writing like new lives, takes time and care to develop.
Janice Ernest is the author of Brocksport.