Thursday, July 28, 2011

Point of View

Week of July 24—Revision Strategies that Work!
Thursday, July 28—Point of View

I think we all make point of view harder than it really is. We revert back to sentence diagraming and literature analysis in some high school classroom—and our eyes glaze over with boredom. But alas, my friends, POV need not be such a pain in the behind! Let’s quickly overview POV.

Objective Point of View
With the objective point of view, the writer tells what happens without stating more than can be inferred from the story's action and dialogue. The narrator never discloses anything about what the characters think or feel, remaining a detached observer.
Third Person Point of View
Here the narrator does not participate in the action of the story as one of the characters, but lets us know exactly how the characters feel. We learn about the characters through this outside voice.
First Person Point of View
In the first person point of view, the narrator does participate in the action of the story.
Omniscient and Limited Omniscient Points of View
A narrator who knows everything about all the characters is all knowing, or omniscient.
A narrator whose knowledge is limited to one character, either major or minor, has a limited omniscient point of view
I usually write to whatever point of view comes naturally.  Later, during the revision process, I frequently change my point of view to hear how a different voice and viewpoint will change the tone and the overall voice of a particular piece of writing.
—Georgia Heard, The Revision Toolbox, p. 51

So when drafting a story, the important thing to do is to get the story on the paper. Later, the point of view (as well as tons of other details) can change.

Another way to think of point of view is to think of who is telling the story or who owns the story. You can easily revise a first-person story into one with a third-person narrator. You can also shift which character is telling the story, who the story is about, or who owns the story. This can completely change a story. A wonderful example is the picture book The City Kid & the Suburban Kid by Deb Pilutti and Linda Bleck. This is literally two books in one. You read the story from the city kid’s POV to the center of the book, then you flip the book over and read the story from the suburban kid’s point of view (or vice versa).

A fun revision experiment to do with a piece of writing is take an existing story and tell it from another perspective. If my story is about the grandchildren throwing a birthday party for Granny and her dog not being happy about it, I can obviously use a narrator to tell the story. I could tell the story from the perspective of one of the grandchildren. I could tell the story from Granny’s perspective. And I could tell the story from the perspective of the dog. Each attempt would show a completely unique view of the story.

Even if you do a revision exercise like the one above with one of your stories and end up using the same POV you started with, you will have gained new insights into your characters; possibly new elements of confusion, mayhem, and conflict; and possibly new humorous elements.

Revision is never wasted, even if you are the only one to see the revision. Each time you revise for any purpose, but especially for POV, you are growing as a thinker, a story teller, and a writer. A dare you to look at things from a new point of view.

It’s Your Turn!
1. Look through your picture books and determine what point of view you find in each. Do you see any trends? Do you see in opportunities?
2. Examine one of your manuscripts—perhaps one you’ve been stuck on. How could you alter the POV? Why not experiment and see what happens?

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