Revisions With Point of View In Mind

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by MM Wittle

Point of view is like sex. Everyone talks about its importance. Everyone thinks he or she understands how to do it. Everyone uses it differently and it changes with each new character he or she meets.

Let’s look at the complete, bare bones of point of view:

1.First person tells the story because the person was there.
2.Third person wasn’t technically there, but knows what happened to other people.
3.Second person is when the narrator addresses the reader as if the reader is in the piece. Better stated, the narrator is giving you advice or directing the reader to do something (i.e. You think you understand me? You have no idea about me and what I think or how I feel!).
Fantastic stuff, but what does that mean in the practical sense?

Basically, think of who wants to tell the story, how much information do they have, and whose mind can they travel into?

Take the two short stories I mentioned yesterday. I have one that is a rewrite of a novel and one that is a standalone story. Both have problems with point of view. The one I worked with yesterday was my novel.

In the first chapter of the novel, it was in first person narration. The goal was to tell a coming of age story set in the 1990’s in Philadelphia. Well, now the first person narrator has a different story he wants to tell. I’m allowing it (what choice do I have really). Neither of us knows what the final outcome of the story will be (novel, short story collection, scrapped) but we both he is the only one who can tell this particular piece of the story.

Yesterday I took out the first three and a half pages. I didn’t delete them like I normally would do; I copied them and resaved them as something else. I took the meat of the story my character wants to say and looked only at his story. I looked at the things only he saw and the things only he knew. I wrote in some new material, some more back story. Then walked away from it…for now.

Today I’m looking at the second story. Right now it’s in third person. While it is a lovely seven page story, it is not the story I intended to write. My point of view is off and now I have to turn the third person into a first person. However, my first person character is mentally ill. The problem I’ll have is making her a reliable narrator. How can a mentally ill character be trusted?

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