Get some perspective

The latest update on my exploration with writing is the subject of perspective, paricularly with regards to the lead character(s) in a story.

Who’s telling the story?

If it’s first person, the reader will only know what is shared with them. The teller may not be honest for a variety of reasons unknown to the reader. Best example would be the Usual Suspects movie. The teller is sharing the story but neglecting to mention important details, or adding fictional details. All of which adds to the the twist of the movie.

In the third person, the inner thoughts/motives can be hidden from the reader. This can affect the impression the reader forms about the characters. This means that dialogue and the actions of the characters have to try and convey something that might have been revealed through inner dialogue if the story had been in the first person.

Then you have a kind of “god” narrator where all thoughts of all characters are exposed to the narrator. There are probably some pros and cons for this type of narrator also, but I’m currently drawing a blank on this one.

There are probably rules about writing stories and what is the appropriate perspective, or at least the traditional perspective. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall any childrens books written in the first person. Generally it’s the third person (or possibly the “god narrator”) where it’s written something along the lines of “Plumber Pat got in his van and drove to the local supermarket.”

A good example that springs to mind, that is related to this topic, is a scene in the movie Good Will Hunting. In the scene, Will (Matt Damon) is telling Sean (Robin Williams) a story about one time he was on a plane. Will delivers the punchline, and Sean responds by asking him if he was ever on a plane. Will answers by saying that the joke works better in the first person.

Perspective can make or break a story/joke. So for now, I shall try out different perspectives in some scenes to see how they work or don’t.

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