The Key to a Great Story – Choosing your Perspective

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first person Great-Point-Of-View

Choosing which perspective to use in your writing can either be one of the easiest or one of the both difficult decisions that you could ever make.

The merits of using the first person is that you can write a very personal story from the perspective of your protagonist. The reader gets to see and feel everything that they do. It can be used to great effect to break the fourth wall between character and audience, and create a ‘voice’ of a character that a reader can come to recognise.

Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus books for example develops a great voice over the series; I know the books quite well admittedly, but I could probably recognise the character of Alex from an untitled extract because Jacka has developed such a distinctive tone.

However, equally I’ve also read some awful first person stories, where the attempt to be more informal/conversational with the tone of voice and lead the writer to having created a great character that I couldn’t stand because I found them so irritating and a lot of the time the character was information dumping on the audience rather than showing them the story more organically.

Using third person restricted in my opinion can be less personal than the first person, but as I demonstrated in the post about this perspective you can be as personal as in the first person but the pronouns are different. In my opinion, if you’re going to be this personal then use the first person, but then again as a writer I’m more inclined to write in the first person than in the third, so I am a bit biased.

The effect of using the third person restricted though is that the audience is observing the protagonist (who would in most cases be the restricted view that you would use) rather than experiencing it directly. I find that the merit of this is that it is easier for the audience to get absorbed into the story because it is written as an observation and as a reader you are always only ever observing what’s going on. It also doesn’t detract from the audience ability to connect emotionally to a character either.

The first person and the third person restricted perspectives are as the name of the latter suggests restricted to the viewpoint of the protagonist, so you won’t be able to show other parts of the story happening that are beyond the observation of your protagonist. Naturally of course there are exceptions to this rule, which I will discuss in my next post, but sticking to the rules and wanting to show beyond the protagonist means last perspective I’ve discussed might be better suited to yours needs.

The Unlimited Third Person Perspective gives you a lot more freedom in the observations that can be made for the audience to absorb. It means that you as the writer is telling the story from the unlimited perspective that you as the creator of the piece can convey to the reader. I did prove that it can go very wrong if the perspective is fumbled, but when it is done well (and I will admit I’m not convinced that even in my re-worked paragraphs were all that great) it can be a very useful tool for an author to use to tell a story.

Going about choosing which of the perspectives to use is entirely a personal preference. The general rule of thumb is that you choose one and stick with it. Personally as a writer I’m drawn more towards the first person than either of the third person perspectives, but I know that generally most stories are written in the third person. This is just one of those things that you just have to figure out yourself; all I can recommend is that you try to write a scene in all of the perspectives and see which one works best for you.

In my next post though I will discuss in more detail how you could go about breaking these rules.

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One response »

  1. Pingback: The Key to a Great Story – The Basics of Perspective | A Young Writer's Notebook

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