Monday, April 7, 2014

Viewpoints in fiction

It would seem that first person present viewpoint is the best choice when a writer wants to make the reader feel sucked into the story. What better than see the story unfold through the eyes of the main character; right?

I’m not that sure. In fact, I have never written anything using this viewpoint.

To start with, it’s harder to write than writing in the past tense. Most likely because people normally don’t speak in present -at least not when your telling a story. Most stories are told after the fact. Normally people don’t relate their actions at the same time as they are doing them.

The other important point -which also happens when writing in first person past tense- is the limiting point of view. Stories written in first person either have to be small in nature -only witnessing what one character sees- or you must switch from one character to the other so every angle of the plot is covered. Some novels do this by using the epistle format -a bunch of letters written by different characters, each in first person, but each with its unique point of view.

So if there are so many problems, then why use it at all? For the reason I stated above, it’s the best viewpoint to engage a reader and suck him into the story. The farther away the narrator, the farther away the reader is from the action. The main drive for a writer has to be to push the reader into the story, so he forgets he is actually reading fiction, and for a moment make him feel he is living in the world that you have created.

There is another problem also with the first person present viewpoint. Not many novels are written like this, and so not many readers are accustomed to this, so there are many that don’t like it, period.

When you’re planning to write a new novel or story, viewpoints are one of the many things you have to ponder. Sometimes it’s even good to start in several different viewpoints and characters to see what works better.

I yet have to write my first first person present tense viewpoint, I don’t know if I ever will. I can see the benefits, but I don’t know if it’s worth the hassle. Hunger Games trilogy is written like this, and it works perfectly. However the author those cheat in some instances -like when the main character remembers something to explane to the reader some other thing. If we are really just hearing Katniss’ thoughts, that would never happen. But, it’s necessary to tell the tail.

This is what bothers me the most -as a writer. As a reader, I pay it no mind, in fact I bet that most readers who aren’t also writers won’t even notice. But having to write a novel and make those small cheats is out of my grasp -for now at least. I’m very rational when I’m working on a novel; I usually write in third person limited viewpoint, so I’m extra careful not to give away anything that the character doesn’t know. So having to cheat wouldn’t work for me.

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