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Short Story Writing: Article 6: Point of View Part 2

The meaning of point of view

Point of view in this context has nothing to do with its usual meaning, ‘Opinions’, it is a technical term that can be roughly translated as ‘subjective point of view’ or ‘subjective experience’, and it is essential that once you have chosen whose subjective experience we share, stay with it from beginning to end, because one subjective point of view is, by definition, exclusive to all others. Therefore, if your central character is John, then everything in the story represents what John experiences. We can know how John is feeling, what he is thinking and what he perceives, but we do not have access to this ‘inside information’ about any other character. Through John we can see how they behave and hear what they are saying, but we cannot know what they are feeling, thinking or sensing within themselves. This reproduces the way we experience other people in real life: we don’t know what’s going on inside them until they show it in some way.

At the same time, the only character we can’t see from the outside is John himself. The only way we can get information about how others see you is when another character tells you. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is: “The reader can’t know anything the central character doesn’t know.” Another useful way to look at it is to see the central character as the camera through which the whole story is viewed.

In some stories written this way, the author may break the rules to describe the central character’s appearance or facial expression. In my opinion, this should not be done because it breaks the point of view and weakens the story. If you really need to describe the appearance of the central character, you can easily do so by having him look in a mirror.

In addition to not knowing how he looks to others and not being able to see his own face, John doesn’t know what the other characters are doing when he’s not with them. However, he could soon find out, upon meeting them, someone else would tell him about them. Again, this just replicates the way we gain knowledge about other people in real life.

The same principles apply to first-person stories, when the central character is me. In fact, writing from the central character’s point of view is more closely related to writing in the first person than many beginners realize. You should imagine yourself as the central character, but write “he” or “she” or “John” or “Mary” instead of “me.”

By the end of the first paragraph, the reader should share the central character’s point of view and identify with that character. If you later switch to a different point of view, you will interrupt this identification and the reader will lose interest. In a novel, when the process is carefully controlled, it is possible for the reader to identify with more than one character, but this is not possible in a short story, or at least very unlikely to result in a good story. short stories. So pick a point of view and stick with it.

Description Tickets

Deciding when and how to use descriptive passages often causes problems for beginners. The key to understanding their use is that they are never presented on their own but, like everything else in the story, are seen from the point of view of the central character and are an extension of her mood.

Therefore, if Janet is feeling happy and free, she will notice the sunlight, the beautiful flowers on the trees, the beautiful green hills receding into the distance. If she is feeling down and dissatisfied, she will notice the dust on the shelves, the rain on the windows, the dirt on the kitchen floor, and the noisy neighbors.

Therefore, descriptive passages are relevant only when they contribute to the plot by revealing the mood of the central character.

The point of view must be controlled.

Whichever viewpoint you select, it is important that the viewpoint be controlled and not jump around erratically. I often found that a student’s story would start out fine, then in the middle of the first page the point of view would jump from one mode to another and progress haphazardly through the rest of the story. Inconsistency in point of view is bound to disrupt the reader’s engagement with the narrative.

Point of view is ubiquitous

It will be seen from this that point of view is omnipresent. The point of view is the window through which we see history, and that window represents a single human consciousness. I’ve said enough here to allow you to study how it works in stories you read in magazines and in your own work, and use it to give your stories strength and unity.

Copyright: Ian Mackean

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