From Where You Stand – POV

Think of your plot as a stream, your characters are in boats carried downstream by the current. The spectators are your readers, and the play-by-play announcer is . . .?

How the action is called depends on the perspective, or the point of view of the person hired for the job. They could be standing on a high point looking down so to see what has happened, what is happening, and what is going to happen as the boats race to the end. Or, they could be standing on the bank, even in one of the boats, so they can report what has happened, what is happening, but only guess what might happen. These are the two most often used views, but there are others, so let’s take a look at each.

FIRST PERSON

Singular – This point of view is through the eyes of one person in one of the boats, typically the protagonist, but it could be the antagonist, or any of the eight Archetypal Characters: Protagonist, Antagonist, Reason, Emotion, Sidekick, Skeptic, Guardian and Contagonist. (For a complete description of these characters see Storymind.com – 400 page Book on Structure, a free PDF)

All action is processed through this actor’s perspective—reliable or not. Basically, the reader is told what has happened and what is happening through the filter of that person’s view, but they have no idea what lies around the bend. It is possible to learn this individual’s inner thoughts and reactions, but on the whole, the view is limited. That’s not all bad as the spectators will have to use the information presented to predict the coming action.

While the protagonist is usually the storyteller, consider how different it would be through the eyes of one of the others.

Plural – This is a very old technique notably used in Greek tragedies, rarely used in modern stories. This type uses the pronoun, “we” to relate events which suggests two or more people in a group describing the action.

An interesting twist might be to have two of the Archetypical Characters describing the action as is done with American football announcers.

THIRD PERSON

Here we have events described by a narrator who is not a part of the story.

Omniscient – This storyteller knows the thoughts and feelings of all the characters, what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen because they are standing high above the actions with a crystal ball to get into everyone’s head.

A variation of this, the storyteller is one of the Archetypical Characters relating the events as they happened in the past, having personal knowledge of events that surrounded them at the time, and the historical information about events not privy to at the time. This person would use the pronouns associated with First Person-Singular (“I”) and Third Person (“They”).

Limited View – While still Omniscient, the view is limited to knowing the thoughts, feelings, and action surrounding only one actor as told by another.

COMBINATION

This is simply a combination of two or more of the aforementioned points of view, such as alternating between First Person-Singular and Third Person. An example of this would be in the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling alternates between Third Person-Limited to know what’s going on in Harry’s head, and Third Person-Omniscient to provide information to the reader that Harry is not witness to.

As your story begins to form, consider how you want the spectator to “see” and “know” what is happening. Write a few paragraphs or even a chapter, then switch the Point of View and evaluate the effect. Whomever you hire to give the play-by-play, be sure to write in a “Be consistent” clause in the contract.

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