Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing Craft: Point of View

I big apology to all my fellow bloggers who haven't seen much of me lately, but I guess this is what happens when I study. Also: I forgot to bring a pen to my lecture last week and only just watched it online to get some notes. I love taking notes! So this post, I'll share some of what I learned in our eighth lecture. We looked in to point of view and focalisation this lesson, but I'll put the two topics into separate posts, because there was a lot to take in.

Who? Point of View

Readings for week 8 were On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning by Haruki Murakami (pages 68-72) and Revisions: A Found Story by Frank Moorhouse (pages 250-258).

My older followers will know how much I love Haruki Murakami. I got way too excited when I saw that he was in the readings for the week. I was not disappointed.

Our lecturer started off by stating that writers, especially beginners, often don't realise how much they can play with and move around in point of view. The point of view is the position or vantage point from which a story is given. It's the WHO that is speaking and it can often be defined in grammatical categories. I think those of us who have been writing for a while already know the basics, but for those who don't:
- 1st person: the 'I'.
- 2nd person: the 'you'.
- 3rd person: the 'he'/'she'/'it'.
- The plurals: 'we'/'they'/'yous'

As writers, point of view is a tool we use to transform the same plot, narrative arc, characters, or setting. The point of view we choose to write in will contribute to the style or the 'feel' of the piece and can be related to the ratio of telling:showing that is acceptable.

One guy our lecturer told us about by the name of Lubbock made two categories for point of view in terms of having a narrator:
- The traditional method of relating a story, in which the narrator is prominent, called Plato's diegesis. Here, the narrator outright tells the story.
- A newer method in which the narrator retreats into to the background, called Plato's mimesis. Here, the story and characters and what the reader is shown is a copy or reflection of life.

Lubbock continued to list his four points of view in order of most telling to least telling.
- 3rd person narration with prominent or authorial narrator;
- 1st person narration;
- 3rd person narration from the point of view of a character;
- 3rd person narration without comment or inside views ("the dramatic method").

Lubbock also wants people to differentiate between telling int he voice of the authorial narrator and telling in the voices of the characters, suggesting that mimesis is a form of diegesis, rather than opposed to it.

The lecturer went on to discuss the different points of view. 1st person is potentially the most intimate point of view, using 'I' as the narrator and as a character at the same time. However, the 'I' narrator should not be confused with the writer themselves, unless it's an autobiographical piece. Within the 1st person, the 'I' narrator can call another character 'you' and speak of 'you' and 'I' as 'we'. Does this constitute a separate point of view? It is debatable. This use of 'you' and 'we' in 1st person is common in song lyrics. The 2nd person also uses 'you' and can use 'we', but more than in 1st person. The reader seems to be addressed by the writer and this implicates the reader, forcing them to participate in the text. However, this can be risky, because the reader might not want to be so directly involved with the text. The 3rd person uses 'he'/'she'/'it' and there is an absence of 'I' except in dialogue. This can distance us from the characters to an extent, and can allow for an omniscient narrator who can see deeply into the thoughts of many different characters.

Our lecturer advised us to take note of what point of view we use in our writing and what point of view is being used in the things we read. An interesting exercise could be to re-write a passage from a book in a different point of view and see how it turns out.

Which point of view do you normally write in? Which point of view are you reading at the moment? 

- Bonnee.


  1. Fun topic!

    I almost always write in first person. Something about it just feels more natural to me and it allows me to better get into the heads of my characters. This time around, I'm alternating chapters between first person present and first person past ... it's neat to flip back and forth like that!

    Also, totally unrelated, but I loved taking notes in school, too. I used a whole rainbow of pens! :)

    1. I have had so many people tell me they find first person easier, but I just don't! I'm a third person omniscient writer :p Though it would be neat to do the flipping back and forth like you said. :)

      Taking notes is fun! Except when the lecturer goes to fast and you end up missing half the things you wanted to write trying to keep up.

  2. Interesting stuff, Bonnee. As much as I might be tempted to say, "Yeah, I know this stuff," it's good to see it presented from a more academic perspective. As for me, I've written in pretty much all POVs, including the dreaded second, though I tend to gravitate toward close 3rd and 1st. I don't feel I write omniscient well, though I note tendencies for my thirds to slide toward omni at times. I don't have a preference when reading. Right now, I'm sort of reading Oliver Twist again, which is omni.

    1. I think it's good to attempt all of the different points of view, just for the sake of practice and seeing what works best for you. I tried a workshop piece in second on Monday and that was interesting. I don't have a preference when reading either, though I generally write in third person omniscient. Thanks for stopping by :)

  3. I'm most comfortable with third person. It's the easiest to maneuver in for me. And yet...wouldn't you know it, my trilogy is all in first person. It's easy to get the emotional intimacy in first person, but it makes revealing plot and the motivation of other characters a lot more difficult.

    1. I'm with you on that one; I definitely find third person easiest. Though ironically, I'm planning to re-write my first manuscript in first person, because I think it would be better that way. I completely get where you're coming from though. Thanks for stopping by :)

  4. Cool informative post! Glad you are back! I am reading from first person at the moment, it can be somewhat monotonous but, I like it too))

    1. First person is interesting to me, because I'm not very well practiced in it, so it's nice to read it and get an idea of how to do it. Thanks for stopping by :)

  5. Great information here. First definition I've seen for 2nd person, though I've heard it referred to several times.

    During a publication primer class at a conference last year our group leader did a wonderful job demonstrating how what the POV character see tells the reader a lot about that person. In our large room, our leader asked us to point out how we thought a 5-year-old child might see it. Then he shifted to how a woman going through depression might view it. What the characters notice should be unique and pertinent to where they're at at the moment.

    1. Second person is really interesting to look into and it feels so experimental. I decided to challenge myself and use it in my final assignment for the semester.

      That's a really interesting exercise to try out :) What a character notices should definitely be unique. Thanks for stopping by :)


Have your say.

Google+ Followers

Follow by Email