I also promised to share some of what I learned, because it was, all insecurities aside, a really great class. It was called "Picking Your Perspective: How To Make the Best of Narrative Point of View", and it was held by Grub Street. Which, for anyone who lives in the Boston area, as well as for anyone with a computer (they have online classes) is a great organization for writers that's well worth joining, or at least looking into some of their classes. And no, unfortunately, they don't pay me to say these things, so you can believe my non-sponsored enthusiasm.
As I've discussed here on this blog, I'm trying to push the boundaries of my point of view comfort zone: I'm moving away from the comfy, cozy bathrobe of close limited third person, and trying on the maybe-too-tight skinny jeans of first person, and I'm even considering the too-fancy-for-everyday-what-will-I-wear-this-to evening gown of third person omniscient. So, this class was a welcome help.
But enough introductory drabble. Here are some brief notes and thoughts on perspective, straight from the brain of the great teacher, in outline form, 'cause you know that's how I roll:
- Point of view is all about information, and power. When trying to pick one, consider:
- Amount and Rate of Information
- In other words, how much knowledge does the POV you choose give the reader, and at what rate does it give that knowledge? How can you control the release of information, and through whose eyes?
- As an example, a strict limited third person or a present-tense first person would give the reader a relatively slow rate of information release, since the reader gains knowledge as the character gains it. This is a great choice for a mystery, or a situation where you want to be able to surprise the reader.
- On the other hand, a first person narrator who is telling a story that has already happened has a lot more power, and can choose to manipulate not only the information, but how to give it to the reader.
- At the far opposite end of the spectrum from close, limited third, an omniscient third person narrator would have access to all information about everything in your story - including the past and the future - and would also be able to control and manipulate the flow of information as needed.
- What kind of language do you want narrator to have at his/her disposal? Formal, elevated, immediate, slang, dialect, etc.
- As an example, this will be much more limited, but also much more specific, if you have a first person narrator: the voice of the narrator must match that person's background, education, etc., but it's also the only reasonable way to get away with using dialect.
- Character and Story
- Given the character you have, what is the best POV choice? If you have a very vivid character - which doesn't necessarily mean a big personality, just a very clear one - first person is a great choice.
- Think about the kind of story you'r telling. If you have a sweeping family saga, omniscient third will give you the best access to that long history, and to all of the characters' inner lives.
Highly informative, to switch things around like that - and because the scene was short, MUCH easier than rewriting oh, I don't know, your entire manuscript, for example. I'm planning on doing the same to some scenes in my WIP, before I write too much, to see if I've chosen the right POV.
I hope this helps! Happy perspective-ing...