As part of a reading assignment in my course this week, I read a piece by E.M. Forester that makes the analogy of characters being akin to actors. This is something that I alluded to in one of my previous posts and I think that it's very true - at least, it should be true for most authors. Just an actor has to have an understanding of their motivation in order to convey to the audience, so must the character via the author. It's an interesting comparison and I think one that always needs to be kept in mind. I try to think of my characters as puppets on the string that I control, hopefully that will bring them to life a little bit as it helps me to think of them as moving, rounded and integral parts of the story.
As had been discussed in a previous entry within this blog, one of the most important choices for the author to make before writing if the narration should be told via the first, third - or more uncommonly - the second person point of view. Within each of these major styles, there are also subtle variations that can impact (for good or for bad) the strength, the integrity and the authenticity of the narrative voice.
One of the variations of the third person POV is that of the limited consciousness. Typically, when a story is being narrated via the third person, there is a certain amount of leeway that the narrator has in terms of relating the thoughts and feelings of characters other than the protagonist. In the first person point of view, the experiences and thoughts can only be those of the protagonist. The third person with limited consciousness is for lack of a better term, a hybrid between the first person and the more common third person point of views. The narration of the story is still relayed as an observer of the story (he said, she did) but the narration should only the experiences and knowledge of the protagonist. One of my teachers once explained the point of view with an interesting analogy. His comment was to think of a movie being filmed and where the cameraman is, and what can be presented to the audience. With a first person story (or a third person with limited consciousness), the “camera” (i.e. with a book, the narrative voice) is affixed to the protagonist – the narrator cannot relay events that aren’t personally observed by the protagonist, unless those events were “told” to the protagonist by another character. Similarly, the narration cannot include thoughts of any other characters, as the narrator is unable to see inside the minds of another character. Inferences can be made based on the actions and words, but it is never direct knowledge.
One of the primary disadvantages of this particular point of view is that the author has to be very careful to follow these “rules”. This isn’t to say that an author is forbidden from violating these guidelines, but the story can be impacted with what is termed as a point of view violation. From my experiences with reading and writing, I can see how a violation of the point of view of story can effectively “lift” the reader out of the story and disrupt their flow and enjoyment of it.
During my creative writing course at the University of Toronto, we were often given stylistic assignments relating to certain aspects of creative writing. In my published anthology of short stories on Amazon (), my story “Crisis of Faith” is a story that is told in the third person with limited consciousness point of view. It’s a very short story, but it follows a day in the life of a preacher in Texas who has his own crisis of religious faith as a result of a personal betrayal. Through the development of that story, my objective was to ensure that the narration always followed the experiences of Salvador as he deals with this betrayal in his personal life.
Over the course of this blog, I will also add entries discussing my own views on creative writing and sharing what I have learned. For many authors, the point of view of the story is an important decision to make before starting the story. Although it is possible to change the point of view midstream, it's not just a matter of changing the "he said" to "I said" - the authority, scope and limitations of the voice are dictated by the point of view and care needs to be taken should the point of view is changed.
The most familiar points of view of First Person and Third Person, the less common is Second Person. The differences would be "I went to the store", "He went to the store" and "You went to the store". However, each point of view also has their own variations which change the level of intimacy and the scope of the voice.
Throughout this blog, I will discuss my own views on each of the point of views, in addition to other techniques and processes of creative writing.