Writing Examples of Perspective
Every story has a point of view as every person as a perspective on the world. It is from this point of view that authors can craft their stories to bring the most tension, suspense, and enjoyment out of the narrative. Each POV comes with its own limitations and strengths. Knowing the balance of which perspective to use and how, will elevate a story to a whole new level. Here are three examples of POV.
First Person Point of View with Anastassia Steele
E.L. James released a bombshell of a novel in 2011 with Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic romance novel. Its success brought on two follow-up novels of Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, completing the Fifty Shades Trilogy. The books were written in the first person perspective of Anastasia (Ana) Steele, detailing her encounters with billionaire, Christian Grey.
The reader was inside Ana’s head the whole time. Ana’s story was limited to what she knew at that time, including what was available to her senses. When she was not with Christian, neither her or the reader knew what he was doing, although Ana obsessed over what he could be doing at that moment. When they are together, the reader was bombarded with descriptions of what Ana was feeling, hearing, seeing, tasting, or smelling. The point was for the reader to feel as if they are in Christian’s, “Red room of pain” as Ana, not just alongside her.
James used all of first-person’s strengths and played to its weaknesses. The world Christian Grey lived in was unlike anything Ana (or the readers) had ever experienced. The reader was able to explore and experience what it could be like in that setting as Ana lived it. This is the power of the first person point of view. It allows for very close narrative distance and transports the reader into the world along with the narrator. Another strength is mystery and irony. Christian Grey was mysterious and knew things that Ana and the reader did or could not know. This was used for the purposes of building tension in the narrative or to generate intrigue by both Ana and the reader to keep going and find out more. What the active-participant and reader find is not always what they expected.
Another strength is mystery and irony. Christian Grey was mysterious and knew things that Ana and the reader did or could not know. This was used for the purposes of building tension in the narrative or to generate intrigue by both Ana and the reader to keep going and find out more. What the character, narrator, and reader find were not always what they expected.
Looking at Second-Person with “You”
If on a winter’s night a traveler is a postmodernist narrative by Italo Calvino where every chapter was broken up into two parts. The first parts are in second-person, discussing the art and nature of reading in odd-numbered sections. The even numbered sections are the beginning chapters of ten other fictional books. Each book was broken off at the point of narrative climax and was explained by the preceding odd-numbered sections.
The second-person narrative sections told a concurrent story of two protagonists who were on the path of discovering an international book-fraud conspiracy. These parts were narrated with the character “you” signifying the reader was taking action within the narrative. The end exposed a significant element to the book and the purpose of the even-numbered sections. This discovery was, inherently, revealed to the reader, who was one of the main characters in the story.
Calvino set the reader on the path to discovering the mystery of the book sections at the end. The dramatic irony was prevalent in the narrative due to the fact that the reader did not know what was going to happen at the end, but the narrator did. That narrator chose what the reader/character did, deepening the mystery, tension, and alienation.
Breaking Down Third Person Point of View with bel canto
bel canto is an operatic term that means, “beautiful singing.” This novel by Ann Patchett was based on the Japanese Embassy Hostage Crisis of 1996-1997 in Lima, Peru. The novel opened with a birthday party thrown at the country’s vice presidential home for Katsumi Hosokawa, a visiting businessman and opera lover. As entertainment, American soprano Roxane Cross was scheduled to perform. Near the end of the party, members of a terrorist organization broke into the house looking for the president–who was not there. The rest of the book was about the months long hostage situation and the onset of Stockholm Syndrome–where feelings of affection or trust are felt in certain cases of kidnaping or hostage crises.
Patchett does something not often seen in modern fiction, third-person omniscient narrator. This narrator had the ability to move in and out in terms of narrative distance. It could sit at a great narrative distance explaining the movement of military forces outside of the house and in the same chapter, zoom back into the house and into the mind of a character, detailing events from their early childhood. bel canto’s narrator knew everything the author knew and bounced around telling the readers whatever it wanted to.
Gen Watanabe, was a young translator and Mr. Hosokawa’s assistant. He was quiet and spoke several languages. As the story progressed he began to fall in love with Carmen, a terrorist who at first was disguised as a man. Gen eventually tutored Carmen how to read and write in both Spanish and English. They would meet in the china closet. At any time during the lessons the narrator could leave the scene of them in the closet, go to the living room where Roxane was sitting and detail how she would be thinking about a show she did in the United States years ago. The narrator would then go outside to a soldier who hoped to make it home to his family. Patchett’s narrator had complete command of the storytelling and was a reliable narrator.
Narrators in the Modern Era
Third-person omniscient is less popular in the modern, humanist era; however, third-person limited is in use everywhere. Third-person allows the author the most flexibility in terms of storytelling whether they want to be very close and limit narration to what that character knows, or it can bounce around rattling off facts about everything. This style choice is up to the author and the implications can be enormous if executed properly for that narrative.
Modern readers tend to read the first-person or close third in order to get the perspective of that character. In a world with first-person video games and virtual reality, they want to be immersed in the narrative. That is not to say that second-person or third-person omniscient are dead, but POV and narrative distance should be taken into careful consideration when thinking about or planning a novel. Make sure to know everything about the perspective you wish to use. Research its use and popularity in your genre. Point of View is a powerful and essential element in storytelling. Choosing the right POV and executing on it can make or break your novel.
Fifty Shades of Gry cover Credit
If on a writer’s night a traveler cover Credit
bel canto cover Credit