Point of View is not all about your character.
In fact, it’s got more to do with your narrator.
In this week’s 60 Second Writing Tip, Alida discusses the importance of the narrator. You can expect more tips about the nitty gritty specifics of point of view later. We’re also going to be chatting about point of view topics in upcoming Story Works Round Table episodes.
Transcription of “Heart Your Narrator.”
Just the other day I was talking with a writer friend of mine about point of view and narrative. He is, like me, a writing teacher. We were discussing how so many writers today don’t have a solid grasp of the role of the narrator.
We, as writers, can focus too closely on the point of view character. This is a problem. The point of view character provides a perspective through which the reader experiences the events of the story.
The point of view character is the actor on the stage of the page. The point of view character is and does.
Just because you have a point of view character, does not mean you have a story.
You cannot tell a story without a storyteller.
Your storyteller is your narrator. Every story must have a narrator to provide the narrative. Without narrative, you will be left with a script, not a story. What is on the page will be lines of dialogue and sparse stage directions. That is what you want for a script, not a story. A script is not a finished product. It must pass through many more creative hand before the story can reach an audience. A story is a finished product put into readers’ hands to be enjoyed. It has to be complete on the page.
No matter what point of view you are writing in, you will have a narrator. Your narrator might be an authorial voice, the persona of the author, or a character as narrator.
Even when you write in the first-person point of view, you will have a narrator who is distinct from the character on the page. The character as narrator must have perspective and a field of vision that is greater than that of the character acting in the moment.
Most characters make poor narrators. There is a certain skill set required of any narrator: the ability to use language well, conveying a distinct voice, creating a sensory experience out of words, selectively drawing the reader’s attention to specific details, using exposition effectively to ensure clarity and depth, and there are more.
Writers sometimes believe that the first person is easier than the third, because it seems in the first you are instantly inside the character living and emoting those experiences. This is a fallacy. A close third is just as close as a first-person narrative, sometimes closer, depending on the execution.
Furthermore, when you write a third person point of view, you create an instant separation between the narrator and the character. This gives you more room to stretch your narrative muscles, because you won’t be limited by the parameters of the character. You do not need to create an omniscient narrator to use an authorial voice. A close third person will limit the narrator appropriately in terms of scope of knowledge.
You can expect more writing tips on the complexities of point of view, as well as some story works Roundtable episodes in which we discuss point of view. For now, I hope you understand that the narrator is essential to any story, no matter what point of view you choose. In fact, the point of view of your story has more to do with your narrator than the point of view character. That’s because the point of view of any given story defines the story. The point of view character is only one small part of the whole.
Well, okay, not really a small part. The point of view character is an important part of the whole, but it is only a part.
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