This week: Perspective is Vital in Fiction Edited by: Joy
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| “Perhaps no man could appreciate his own world until he had seen it from space.” |
Arthur C. Clarke, A Fall of Moondust
“There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.”
“You don't really understand an antagonist until you understand why he's a protagonist in his own version of the world.”
“If we are deep in a story and we find ourselves not reading as editors, that’s when we know we have something special.”
“A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world.”
John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy
Hello, I am Joy , this week's drama editor. This issue is about using the view-point character's perspective effectively.
Welcome to the Drama newsletter
Most writers know how to assign the story-telling job to a character by using that character’s name and whatever else may be there on their character sheet. Sometimes, however, they omit that character's take on the happenings around them as it applies to their personality and inner beings.
That is, while they stick to the character’s point of view as it relates to first, second, or third-person story-telling, they may miss on that character’s own perception, values, opinions, cultural background, education, spirituality, beliefs and attitudes. In other words, they overlook a character’s perspective while using their point of view.
Then, it may be all right for non-fiction writers to express their own perspectives, but in order to pull the readers into a story, fiction writers need to give each of their characters their own specific ways of looking at the events or seeing into them while they talk to the readers.
Perspective is seeing and experiencing the story events not only from the outside but also from the inside, through the eyes and speech of the viewpoint character.
In your work of fiction, everyone’s perspective needs to be different from one another. Let’s say, if you are concentrating on three people at a gathering, each person’s perspective needs to be as unique as their own experiences, observations, and judgments. This way the story can change depending on who tells it.
A story that is told using the viewpoint character’s perspective feels more intimate than that of an observer only. This gives the readers the feeling that they are experiencing the story as if they themselves are present in it and not only listening to the speech of the viewpoint character.
Here is an excerpt from William Faulkner’s “The Bear.” The story is told from the third person point of view of a ten-year old boy.
“He heard no dogs at all. He never did hear them. He heard only the drumming of the woodpecker stop short off and knew that the bear was looking at him. He never saw it. He did not know whether it was in front of him or behind him. He did not move, holding the useless gun, which he had not even had warning to cock and which even now he did not cock”
A few pointers to be careful about while a viewpoint character tells a story are:
View-point characters as participants in a scene don’t see themselves clearly to tell the readers that their lipstick has faded or that there is a stain at the back of their pants. They also don’t know how the other characters see them. They may, however, are free to assume such things.
Thus, especially in dramatic moments, you need to use appropriate words for the occasion and make choices as to what to tell. Plus, you have to remember to pick and choose only the parts of the events that the viewpoint characters actually see and experience, as they are not only reporters but also participants.
You are free to share the viewpoint-characters’ foibles, uncertainties, plans, embarrassments, secrets, and expectations, but as only they see, feel, and know about it.
If an action or a happening triggers a flashback in the viewpoint character, it is okay to include it if it helps the story and explains the character’s inner being.
With all these pointers in mind, the question may be whether to have a consistent perspective or use different perspectives in a story. Although most editors would go for consistency, I would conclude that this depends on the story and if you are using only one point-of-view character or several of them.
Still, if you are using several characters to tell the story, make sure to inform the readers who is talking. One way would be to give each character their own chapter and show that name at the top of the chapter's first page. If the speech and usage of words are very unique to each character, putting their names at the top of the page may not be necessary, but it could still help your readers.
Until next time!
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This Issue's Tip: For consistency in perspective, even though it’s in third person, stick with the view-point of the character who is telling the story.
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