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?