Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Back to Basics-Point of View

There has been some discussion about Point of View around the writing world of late. 

It's a concept that seems so easy to grab a hold of, yet can sneak up behind you, right in the middle of a paragraph or a scene and mess up a story.

Let's tackle this one today. I am in the mood to conquer something.

FIRST: We need to know whose story we are in. What one person's life are all the pieces  impacting?

This does not mean the entire story is done in this one person's point of view. It can be, but it doesn't have to be. Feel confused? This is most likely the core of a point of view problem. Don't worry. We are going to take this concept apart.

To best communicate Point of View, I am going to use a familiar Bible story:

John the Baptist had an epic role in Christendom. His job was to announce and point the way to the Lamb of God. John had a feisty personality. He said what he knew and thought. He didn't apologize when someone became offended. From the announcement of his birth in the temple to his beheading, any part or all of his story is important to read.

To truly know John's story, we need to hear from others who impacted his story as well as John.

We could start from the beginning. Whether we use this in our written story we at least should research this information to have a better feel for the whys and whats that John did.

John's father was a priest. A high ranking priest who was chosen to go into the Holy of Holies one day. While his father was there, an angel appeared and told him he and his wife would have a baby. Zechariah didn't believe the angel's message. Zachariah and Elizabeth were much too old to have a baby. They probably didn't live long after John's Bar Mitzvah. They probably didn't have much of an inheritance to pass on to their son because they didn't think they would ever have one. Most likely they raised John in an environment of older adults, people who were their friends. 

Everything written in this story from Zechariah's point of view must only pertain to John the Baptist. Everything in Zechariah's point of view MUST be solely Zechariah's opinions, what he witnessed by sight, hearing, feeling, etc.

By including Zechariah's side of the story, we learn a lot about John the Baptist. We see why John lived in a desert, ate little more than locust and honey, and had a simple wardrobe consisting of clothes made of camel's hair. Why he had little money. Why he grew up with old parents and probably never learned to play with kids his age. John had to be a survivalist.

A portion of John's story needs to be from Herod's point of view. Politics played an important part in what John and others did. Herod, the governor, hated John, but was intrigued by him. This scruffy desert man made a fool out of Herod by accusing him of killing his brother then marrying his brother's wife. Imagine! Herod, a high ranking official serving the Roman government being accused by a desert rat. The story may have been true, but John obviously didn't know the power behind the man he accused. Still, the words John said intrigued Herod. He wanted to hear more but was embarrassed to admit it. This same spunk was a characteristic Herod had and appreciated. However, he was not afraid to put John in jail to still John's thunder.

Everything in Herod's point of view must only pertain to John the Baptist. Everything in Herod's point of view MUST be solely Herod's opinions, what he has witnessed by sight, hearing, feeling, etc. regarding John.

Sometimes there is a character that is difficult to write. The reason why can be anything, (ex, could I write talking trees like Lewis or Tolkien?). As the writer you have three choices: 
*You can choose to include something in a scene or more from this character's point of view.
*You can choose to leave this aspect of the story out.
*You can choose to represent this character from the Main Character's point of view.

In John the Baptist's story, telling Jesus's point of view would be the difficult one.  John had several interactions with Jesus. One while he was yet in Elizabeth's womb, one when Jesus was baptized, one when John sent his disciples to follow Jesus. 

The problem I would have with telling Jesus point of view is Jesus is God. I don't know and never will know what that is like. I can't begin to imagine how Jesus would have felt when he asked John to baptize him. What was inside of Jesus's mind when John said, "No, I should be baptized by you." I can suppose there was the compassion, the understanding, the need to make a point, all characteristics of our loving Father. But I don't really know. 

I can figure out how to portray a man's point of view because men and women are both creations of God. We are both human. But doing Jesus, God's beloved Son? Well, I would feel unsure about the words on the page.

For me, I'd include the portion about Jesus, BUT I would do it from John the Baptist's point of view. What John saw Jesus do, what he heard Jesus do, why he sent his disciples to follow Jesus, and etc. Nothing from Jesus point of view.  In the brief example about the C. S. Lewis' trees, I might have presented the trees from Lucy's point of view. What she heard and saw them do and how it related to that story.

THE KEY IS a point of view is given it's own scene, chapter, or chapters. Everything written in this portion of the story must solely be from that character's view. What that character sees, hears, feels, touches, tastes. If the character's back is turned, he cannot see what is happening behind him. He cannot KNOW what someone else is really thinking. He cannot HEAR what another person hears unless circumstances allows him to.

General rule for stories: the younger the audience/reader, the fewer points of view allowed. 

A story about the John the Baptist for children should only have ONE point of view (probably John's)

A story about the John the Baptist for young adult can have TWO points of view (probably John's and ... let's see...I'd probably add Herod's for spice)

A story about the John the Baptist for adults can have multiple points of view but don't go crazy. Too many can be confusing. (probably Zechariah's, John's, Herod's, and maybe Andrew's)

I hope this has cleared the waters for you. If there is still some muddy parts, ask! We are here to help.

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

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Mary Vee -  Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. These activities require lots of traveling, which is also tops on her list. For some crazy reason, the characters in Mary’s young adult mystery/suspense fiction stories don’t always appreciate the dangerous and often scary side of her favorite activities. Unbelievable.

Mary studies marketing and writing skills, and pens missionary and retellings of Bible stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has been a finalist in several writing contests.

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