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Navigating Perspectives: The Art of Point of View in Storytelling

Navigating Perspectives: The Art of Point of View in Storytelling

Decisions about Point of View (PoV) stand among the most crucial choices authors must make in storytelling. However, the term "Point of View" encompasses various aspects. We'll review four key definitions to provide clarity:

1. Overall Perspective: Shaping the Story's Lens

The encompassing viewpoint from which a story unfolds.

A prime example lies in the Star Wars saga, where the story, in broad strokes, unfolds through the perspectives of two seemingly inconspicuous characters, C-3PO and R2-D2. Although not omnipresent, they contribute to the overarching narrative. George Lucas ingeniously employs this technique, allowing C-3PO to recount the saga to Ewoks in "Return of the Jedi."


This concept derives from Akira Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress," which portrays a tale of generals and princesses from the vantage point of two peasants. These characters are part of the action but perceive less than the audience. Think of it as viewing "Hamlet" from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's perspective, akin to Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead." This narrative approach showcases how PoV shapes character and audience comprehension. Notably, it can even influence the "truth" of a story, reminiscent of Kurosawa's exploration in "Rashomon."


2. Scene by Scene Perspective: Framing the Event

The presentation of scenes or events to the audience or reader.

Film employs specific techniques, such as adopting a character's visual perspective or capturing their reaction to intensify connection.

PoV intertwines with narrative mode (e.g., first-person, third-person), as well as the audience's perception of an event through a character's senses. This is the "Point of View Character."

A litmus test for identifying the PoV character: In a scene with multiple characters, the one noticing a distinct detail becomes the PoV character. If the audience learns this detail at the same time as the character, the connection is established.

This connection underscores that events influence emotions through characters. For instance, a dinner party conversation's impact differs if focused on a father's disapproval of his daughter's boyfriend versus a nervous boyfriend meeting his beloved's family. Different points of view offer divergent narratives and perspectives, shaping the audience's understanding.

3. Narrator's Perspective: Narrating the Story

The lens through which a narrator relates the story, either aligned with a character or distinct from them.

The narrator's influence shapes reader/audience reception and can convey agendas, messages, or motives. Treating the narrator as a character enhances depth.

Unique effects can be achieved. Examples include telling a story through a character's boots, a specific color, or even a hidden character (revealed later). These "special effects" underscore the narrator's role as a character with motivations and inner conflicts.

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4. Author's Attitude and Beliefs: Subtextual Essence

The prevailing attitude or thematic stance embedded in the story's subtext.

Genres often embody specific points of view. For instance, a hardboiled thriller tends to be pessimistic, while a romantic comedy exudes optimism.

Beyond genre, an author's distinct beliefs may subtly or explicitly shape the narrative. Notable examples like "Chinatown" exhibit pointed perspectives on corruption and power.

Orchestrating Narratives Through Multiple Points of View

In the tapestry of storytelling, Point of View threads numerous perspectives, each influencing the audience's emotional journey and understanding. From overarching lenses to character-specific gazes, from narrators' tones to authors' beliefs, the art of Point of View orchestrates the narrative's symphony, resonating with readers and audiences alike. 

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