Saturday, November 6, 2010

POV: which to choose?

Which narrative have you chosen? 

First person narrative

I like first person narrative. It enables me to relate my inner-most thoughts while also narrating the action. It is the simplest form of narrative, concentrating on a singular point of view, my point of view, as both the narrator and a character in the novel. I am telling you everything you need to know about events, aren’t I? I have no reason to lie.

I love unreliable first person narrators.

Second person narrative

You are tempted to write in second person. You like the sense of immediacy, of inclusion. You feel it puts you in the middle of the story:

Your boots pound on the asphalt as you are pursued into the alley. You sense he is close. You crouch behind the dumpster. You feel the blood pumping in your skull as you wait for the knife to descend.

You feel a sinking sense of realisation as you read it back. It doesn’t bring immediacy. How can it? You’re not being chased by a homicidal maniac. You’re reading a story. Also, you would never hide behind a dumpster because you’re not in America. You’d hide behind a skip or an industrial bin. 

Second person is useful for some things. You know rhetoric would fall flat without it. You can also use it in internal dialogue, for that sort of snarky voice that sometimes narrates your life: Second person? You must be joking! You realise that voice is right. Second person hasn’t done your story any favours. Italo Calvino, Iain Banks and Margaret Atwood might be able to do it, but it just makes you sound like a pretentious wanker.

Third person narrative

Third person is useful for novels with very large casts of characters. Sweeping historical dramas, epic fantasies and that sort of thing. If God has a point of view, this is it. Specifically, third person omniscient. Third person omniscient is where the narrator shares information that the character does not know. For example: Roland had twelve days left to live.

The more usual type of third person narrative is objective. Third person objective doesn’t know that Roland is allergic to bees until he blunders into the hive. It comes as a shock to Roland as well. 

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