Illustration by Matt Chase
Here I was, learning all about plotting and theme and getting ready to write a post for you on theme and genres, and BAM! I up and stumble on Point of View types (POVs from here on) and realize my theme post has to wait. Worse. I realize I might've done terrible POV shifts in the current draft of TUBE (never mind my other books, I'm not even going to think about that) which are unforgivable and need to be fixed, and it goes even worse from here. I'm not entirely sure about how to fix them as this new concept of POVs and their importance has not been fully absorbed into my brain. Gah! So I'm scrambling to understand the difference and the nuances of different POVs, as well as what final POV I want to choose for TUBE.
But more on that later.
I'll go ahead and outline what I grasped from reading Ursula K. Le Guin's wonderful book Steering the Craft (which you all must read), and then mull over what I should do with TUBE ( and why).
1. FIRST PERSON.
This one seems easy. It's a story told through the eyes of the narrator, the viewpoint character "I," and in that it is:
- Limited: We only see, hear, smell, taste, feel what "I" does or thinks or perceives.
- Biased: We experience only what "I" allows us to experience, making us sympathize with "I" regardless of what's happening (unless "I" is impossible to like and in that case choosing the first person POV is a mistake).
- Reliable/Unreliable: By default we trust that what "I" says is true, but it can be an inaccurate representation of events in which case "I" is unreliable. This could be used to an advantage in, say, a mystery or a thriller (I'm still learning about this myself, so I've yet to see where and how and why it's a good idea to use an unreliable narrator).
- Removed: The distance from you as a reader is further away in the first person POV as it is in the second. In the first person POV someone else tells the story, when in the second person POV the story is about "you." More on the second person POV later.
I felt so scared facing the bear in the woods on the snowy path, that I grabbed my bottle of vodka and started waving it around, trying to seem bigger. To my surprise, the bear asked my name. I was so shocked, at first I didn't know how to answer, having clean forgotten how to speak, never mind my name. The bear politely told me his name was Vasya and asked if I'd be up for sharing my vodka. I laughed in relief. We ended up drinking the whole bottle and singing Russian songs in his dark, warm cave.
Well, I just pulled this out of my ass. But it's funny and I shall enjoy tweaking it to different POVs. I hope you will enjoy it too.
2. SECOND PERSON.