Wednesday, April 23, 2008

POV theory-- approach and apprehension of reality

Blogger Dave Shaw said...writtenwyrdd, you should read Alicia's book - it covers that particular point and many others very well.

Thanks, Dave! The book is Power of Point of View, by Alicia Rasley, and it's available at Amazon--

So do you want to hear my totally unscientific theory of how POV approach relates to apprehension of reality? Yes? Well, here goes.

I think which POV approach you naturally take connects to the way you view reality.
For example, omniscient writers tend to think that there is an actual external reality that is knowable, if only by a "god" or "author"-- the omniscient narrative persona.

Single-third-POV writers tend to be agnostic on whether there is a knowable reality, because they are far more interested in the internal reality-- what's going on inside a single character and how that person interprets what is happening around him/her. That is, there may or may not be an external absolute reality, but what really matters is how the individual perceives and interprets.

Multiple- POV writers, the most cinematic of all, believe that if reality is knowable, it's only knowable through a collage of viewpoints, no one of which is completely reliable. Only by juxtaposing different views of an event can the reader get any sense of what really happened.

First-person POV writers doubt the existence of a knowable reality. In fact, they doubt their own narrators. They create narrators who are hiding things and lying and deceiving (else might as well go with third person). They're most interested in how "reality" or "events" can be distorted by the lens of viewpoint.

Notice that the last two require active reader participation to understand the meaning of the story events-- with multiple, the reader has to put all the viewpoints together to arrive at some understanding, and with first-person, the reader has to figure out what's true and what's not in the narrative, and what the lies tell about the narrator and the story.

Now I know that most everyone will be thinking, "Huh. The books I've read don't do that." That just means that the writers aren't sufficiently exploring and exploiting the potential of POV. :) But it's there... really. In my theory, anyway! :)



Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I used a great POV book in undergrad. It was called Point of View and it covered all the first person POVs, the two second-person POVs, and then, of course, the third persons.

I can't find it without being attacked by gift bags and tissue paper (darn school fundraiser) but it was a heck of a book.

writtenwyrdd said...

You are probably speaking about Alicia's book, "Point of View"!

Dave Shaw said...

Alicia's book is new; I suspect Susan graduated sometime before last week, so the book she's mentioning is probably a different one. Unfortunately, it isn't easy to deduce which book it might be from that title...

Anonymous said...

I'm writing first person, but I believe there is an objective reality. The protagonist's story is the discovery of that reality.

It's a mystery. I like first person for mystery because it allows the reader to play along, seeing if they can figure it out with the sleuth knowing only what she knows. I'm a big fan of Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware novels for the same reason.

Anonymous said...

I like first/tight third because I find it more interesting. Many writers change viewpoints to show something happening which means that the reader sort of hovers above the story. In first/tight third the reader knows as much as the character, and gets genuinely suprised when the bad guys turn up - they haven't seen the planning, the gearing up to a confrontation, the pulling up outside the door - no, suddenly the door flies open and the bad guy storms in. As a writer it often means that I have to work that much harder in setting up things and making them believable - I can't just show how evil the antagonist is in his lair far away, he needs to be sufficiently threatening in his interactions with the PoV character, or leave reliable evidence behind - but it's a lot more fun to uncover the story.

Carole McDonnell said...

I like first person and I also believe in an objective reality. I also am not an agnostic. I tend to write in multiple first person a la George R R Martin. What I like about first person, however, is the personality of the narrator. I love incredibly intrusive narrators or at least a narrator whose personality affects his narration. Intrusive, unreliable, arrogant, whatever. I suspect I like narrators like this because A) I read a lot of poetry as a kid B) I read a lot of spiritual memoirs and autobiographies and C) churches teach their listeners about rhetoric -- one of the few places where one hears storytelling on a fairly regular basis. In fact sermons are about storytelling and a particular narrator's "spin/interpretation" on an objective communallly-accepted event.