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Point of View in Fiction

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Lindsey Ayres

on 26 August 2016

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Transcript of Point of View in Fiction

Narrator is not a character in the story.
3rd person:
he, she, they
shows you "everything"
lets you decide
We get scenes of the White House, the surface of the moon, a strip club, Area 51, China, etc.
Audience knows things protagonist does not know.
If one of these characters is not there to witness something, then neither is audience.
Can be as many or as few characters as author wants
Limited "Omniscience":
(Please ignore the trailer
voice. He's not really in
the movie.)
The protagonist is in every single scene of this movie; the audience only sees what he sees.
This often creates suspense and mystery.
Limited 3rd Person:
This movie “cheats" in a couple places, but mostly
the audience only gets “Chuck's” perspective.
Editorial 3rd Person:
Documentaries are essentially narrators
commenting upon their "characters."
We know what the narrator thinks
about certain actions or ideas.
Point of View in Fiction:
Whose eyes do we use?

Narrator IS a character in the story,
either the protagonist or an observer.
1st person:
When the camera “pretends” to be one of the characters (camera jiggling, etc.), we get a good version of 1st person narration in film form.
1st person observer:
narrator + protagonist
but not
Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyles
These stories were originally written
from the perspective of Watson, who
is a character in the story, but he is not
considered the protagonist.
The newest film version changes this:
how does this change the story?
In film, 1st person usually gets
translated to 3rd person so
we can see the character; that's
more interesting to watch.
Nick is the narrator and
the protagonist even though
we see him from the camera's
3rd person lens.
Unreliable Narrator:
Can we really believe what
the narrator is telling us?
Trying to hide something?
Too young to understand?
Doesn't understand for another reason?
Oddball Perspectives:
the "everything else" category
2nd person: "YOU"
2nd person is virtually non-existent in film,
and rare in fiction, though there are some
great examples.
Is the narrator
of the story?
"Other" narrators . . .
Characters are . . .
They don't merely look
at something
and tell us what they see.
Perspective changes a story . . .
Vantage Point (2008)
Their feelings color and shape their
Something to ponder . . .
Where does the author fit?
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Blair Witch Project (1999)
Forest Gump (1994)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Fight Club (1999)
Independence Day (1996)
Seven (1995)
Memento (2000)
Castaway (2000)
Homeward Bound (1993)
"For No One," The Beatles (1965)
Super Size Me (2004)
Excerpt from "How To Be An Other Woman"
by Lorrie Moore (Self-Help: short stories)
“Who is he?” says your mom, later, in the kitchen after you’ve washed the dishes.
“He’s a systems analyst.”
“What do they do?”
“Oh … they get married a lot. They’re usually always married.”
“Charlene, are you having an affair with a married man?”
“Ma, do you have to put it that way?”
“You are asking for big trouble,” she says, slowly, and resumes polishing silver with a vehement energy.
Wonder why she always polishes the silver after meals.
Lean against the refrigerator and play with the magnets.
Say, softly, carefully: “I know, Mother, it’s not something you would do.”
She looks up at you, her mouth trembling, pieces of her brown-gray hair dangling in her salty eyes, pink silverware cream caking onto her hands, onto her wedding ring. She stops, puts a spoon down, looks away and then hopelessly back at you, like a very young girl, and, shaking her head, bursts into tears.
“I missed you,” he practically shouts, ebullient and adolescent, pacing about the living room with a sort of bounce, like a child who is up way past his bedtime and wants to ask a question. “What did you do at home?” He rubs your neck.
“Oh, the usual holiday stuff with my parents. On New Year’s Eve I went to a disco in Morristown with my cousin Denise, but I dressed wrong. I wore the turtleneck and plaid skirt my mother gave me, because I wanted her to feel good, and my slip kept showing.”
He grins and kisses your cheek, thinking this sweet.
Continue: “There were three guys, all in purple shirts and paper hats, who kept coming over and asking me to dance. I don’t think they were together or brothers or anything. But I danced and on ‘New York City Girl’, that song about how jaded and competent urban women are, I went crazy dancing and my slip dropped to the floor. I tried to pick it up, but finally just had to step out of it and jam it in my purse. At the stroke of midnight, I cried.”
“I’ll bet you suffered terribly,” he says, clasping you around the small of your back.
Say: “Yes, I did.”
Example of 2nd person from literature.
Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Full transcript