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Questions Of Perspective

April 20th, 2015

perspective-BlogLooking through some old issues of E-Zee Writer last week, I came across an article by Heather Cooke called Points Of View. It’s about the different voices we use telling stories – a fine little piece. In it, Heather very succinctly describes universal, multiple and single viewpoints, as well as exploring the differing qualities of single and third person narration. Now, that stuff may all seem fairly obvious to you, but reading her article took me back to the early days of my (still unfinished) fantasy trilogy, and a particular problem …

You see, when it comes to telling stories, I prefer single viewpoint, first person narration. That means it’s always ‘me’ talking to the reader: “I did this,” “I saw that,” “I wish I hadn’t seen the other …” I’ve always written like that and, for my trilogy, I wanted a main character who was himself a writer working on an epic tale of dragons and goblins. Being a lifelong Tolkien fan, I started out imagining an Oxford Professor (just like Tolkien himself,) and I worked with my chosen character for three or four few weeks. I wrote every day, and I knew my story was good. But it was hard going, the words came slow and, reading back through my first few chapters, they were rubbish.

It was tough binning those chapters. But they had to go. They were really poor. And it wasn’t hard to see what was wrong with them – the voice of my narrator didn’t ring true. From what I’d written, it was obvious I had no idea what the life of an Oxford Professor was like. No great surprise really – I’ve never even visited Oxford, and I’ve certainly not spent any time at the great old university there.

So, I went back to the drawing board. Not by changing the story – it was still about a guy writing an epic tale. But this time the guy was a lad from Manchester who left school at sixteen then spent a year bunking off sixth form college to ride motorcycles and play in Rock ‘n’ Roll bands – which is what I did back in the early eighties.

And how did it work? Well, it was great. I went from stilted prose to a flowing manuscript overnight – quite a revelation.

So, if you want my two penn’orth when it comes to viewpoint, I’d say, whichever one you choose, try to narrate the story in your own voice. And if you want a character to tell the tale, try creating one that isn’t too far removed from yourself. It might just save you a whole load of time.

Keep on writing!phil-blog-sig

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