Here’s the first part of the outline for the Writers Workshop we recently did on Points of View and Tense. I separated the entire outline into separate blog posts for ease of use and navigation.
***At the end of each workshop, we collect email info in order to notify attendees of 1) when this post goes live, and 2) Date, time, and place for the next workshop. These email slips are then shredded. (For privacy reasons, we don’t keep the slips for longer than a month, so even if you already filled one out from a past workshop, I no longer have your info.) Please get in touch with me through Facebook, Twitter, or a comment below if you left without leaving your info.***
Part 1: Intro, First Person Point of View (1st POV), and Second Person Point of View (2nd POV).
Point of View and Tense.
- Who we are, why we’re doing this.
- Black Hats Writers Group. We specialize in speculative fiction: Fantasy, Sci Fi, Literary, Horror, Thriller. Along with the subgenres under those.
- We like sharing what we know with the writing community and with the community in general.
- For ourselves, every workshop reinforces or challenges what we know about writing. Having to explain ideas helps us clarify our own thoughts and techniques.
- These workshops provide face-to-face interactions and helps Writing be less isolated.
- What is Nanowrimo: National Novel Writing Month (in November)
- In 1 month, you write 50k words. (1,6667 words per day)
- A good way to join a collective writing effort, but it can also lead to writers’ block if you don’t like pressure or deadlines.
- Point of View or POV and Tense.
- The Point of View, or POV, is defined as “the Narrator’s position in relation to the story being told.” It’s the perspective you use to describe the events and details of your story.
- Tense is the temporal distance or time between the existence of the narrator and the events he or she is describing.
- The different types of Points of View, and pros and cons for each.
- 1st Person Point of View.
- Uses I/me/mine/my.
- Details are noticed from WITHIN the Narrator’s head.
- Events are filtered by the Narrator’s backstory (Narrator is a child=some events, like sex or complex violence, would be confusing, or described in a confusing manner. Narrator is a disillusioned detective=she’ll notice things a layperson might not, like the length of a blade used, or the size of a pool of blood.)
- When is it used: usually with stories that are character-driven, or more about characters than events, because it allows you to have longer internal monologues or to intimately follow motives, ideas, planning: Twilight. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Bell Jar. Catcher in the Rye. The Other Boleyn Girl. (Used in YA to make events emotionally keener, and in Romance because it’s easier for revealing internal thoughts and emotions.) *Rare in kids/children’s books*
- Reveals Motivations: Narrator motivations are usually a lot easier to figure out because a reader can spend more time *inside* the narrator’s head.
- More Immediate: Things feel more immediate because the reader is inside the narrator.
- ↑ Sympathy for Narrator: It’s usually easier to have a sympathetic Narrator in 1st POV because events happen to the Narrator (and therefore, the reader) and details noticed are usually skewed because the Narrator has a decent opinion of themselves, ie. their truth is the truth, their reasons are presented as good reasons.
- The Narrator *must* be present at all key events, or have a good reason for not being there (was at a different, more compelling, higher-stakes event) and has a compelling way to find out key points about the event they missed (a Dear John letter, autopsy report, etc).
- It’s tempting to breach this POV on purpose (or accidentally do it) in order to describe how the Narrator looks. Don’t do this. It breaks the illusion of experiencing the story from within the narrator. (Example: When I was caught picking my nose, I was so embarrassed, my cheeks turned red.– The narrator would describe the feeling (my cheeks grew hot), not the sight. The narrator could not be looking at their own cheeks turning red, unless they’re looking in a mirror.)
- List of “I” actions: A lot of sentences might start with “I,” making it repetitive.
- Authorial Intrusion: This “I” usage might inadvertently cause the writer to write too much of themselves into the story.
- Reader Misconceptions: The “I” usage might inadvertently lead readers to see the Narrator as the writer, rather than as a character *they* can get inside.
- Filtering: There might be too much *filtering* going on, in order to relay what other characters might be thinking or feeling. (ie: I looked at him. He seemed to be sad.)
- Dealbreaker: For some readers it’s a dealbreaker. An automatic “I don’t read First person POV books.”
- Too Intimate: For some readers, the 1st POV is *too* intimate. It can feel confining. Especially if it’s a Narrator the reader doesn’t feel comfortable with. (Story about friend who had a reader tell her he couldn’t read 1st POV with female bisexual characters because the POV made him uncomfortable.)
- Tradeoff: It’s harder to control the flow of information. Because the reader is always in the Narrator’s head, it’s hard to withhold surprises or information without it being contrived.
- ↓Dramatic Irony: (Dramatic Irony is when the audience knows something the Protagonist or other characters do not. Example: The soap scene in Downton Abbey, the lovers’ plans in Romeo and Juliet, Satine’s stakes in Moulin Rouge.) In 1st POV, it’s difficult to plant instances where the audience can know/experience something which the Narrator doesn’t know/experience.
- 2nd Person:
- Uses “You”.
- Details sound like a command. (You notice a tie still swinging from the doorknob.)
- Events also sound like a command. (You sprint through the forest, trying to outrun the pack of wolves.)
- When is it used:
- Recipes: everything is a command, but with a silent “You” at the start of each procedure. ((You) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg.)
- Choose Your Own Adventure books. (The room is stuffy. You try to open a window, but they’re nailed shut. Go to page 5 to break the glass. Go to page 9 if you want to look for a crowbar.”
- It’s rare, and has some shock value.
- Most Immersive. Done well, it can create an immersive experience better than 1st POV and 3rd POV.
- It can come across as gimmicky.
- It’s difficult to describe emotions without literally forcing them onto the reader.
- 1st Person Point of View.
Coming soon: Point of View Part 2: Third Person Limited Single and Multi
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Products used for this project:
Best erasable pens I’ve ever tried.