Creative Writing Advice #3: Check Your Point of View04:57
Hey WEbookers, welcome to your third writing secret, and second WEtern entry this week. Continuing in the number game, today we’re going to talk about the advantages of changing your perspective. Namely, the pros and cons of writing in the first, second and third points of view.
Point of view (or POV) discussion may seem kind of technical, but it’s actually key for any writer of fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Think about it this way- if you’re telling a ghost story to your friends, which is more effective- trying to convince them that you were there and survived the acts of a crazy killer in the cabin, or that you heard the tale from your cousin, who attends the summer camp? Your point of view affects the believability of your story, your reader’s connection to your characters, and more. Plus, if you want a real writing challenge, give the second person perspective a try.
But let’s get down to the numbers, shall we?
1st person- Me, myself and I
The first person POV speaks straight from the mouth of your characters. If you write your story about a bank robbery, the first person version could be told by the robber, or the bank teller, or any witnesses to the event. First person is great because your readers get much closer to the narrator, and can learn things about them none of the other characters know. You hear your character’s take on every event. Some people say first person characters are less contrived, and your first person narrator doesn’t always have to tell the truth.
2nd person- You’re the one that I want
The second person POV is by far the trickiest to employ and the least used. Second person storytelling places the story in terms of “you,” the reader. A stellar example is in WEbook user ducktoes’ project Choose Your Own Adventure Story:
You peer through the dust, but as far as you can tell there is nothing out of the ordinary. The kids are still playing, the parents still coaching, coaxing and cheering. The only difference is that now there is a huge, noisy ambulance blaring in the grass next to the game.
Not too many authors use this POV, but if done correctly it immerses the reader into the action and just provides a nice break from “traditional” storytelling. Some examples for curious WEbookers: Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City, and parts of Chuck Palahniuk’s Diary.
3rd person- View from afar
The third person POV is incredibly popular and, and it gives you a lot of options for your writing. Third person narrators (who provide an external voice that explains what happens to the character) can be limited or omniscient as they refer to the main character, and they can talk about just one character’s experiences or switch off between different stories. There is a great deal of flexibility with the third person. When using third person narration an author can be lenient or harsh in his or her description of characters, kind or cruel. Readers may not emotionally connect to the characters, however, as strongly as they do in the first person.
And that concludes our little rundown of the points of view. So next time you write a story, poem, or piece of nonfiction, consider who’s talking. It can influence your writing more than you expect!
WEbook Writing Secrets is a budding new feature of the blog, featuring practical tips on the craft. WEbookers are invited to submit their writing wisdom by visiting my profile. Send Melissa a message with the subject line: WEbook Writing Secrets She will collect the best and brightest from her mailbox and publish them here. If your words of wisdom are chosen, you’ll get credit, and a link to your profile, where fellow WEbookers will be encouraged to check out your work.