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What's your point of view?

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

No. It's not a trick question, and it may help your writing.

Exploring the use of 'Viewpoint' can be an interesting exercise when conducting a revision of your short story or novel leading to improvements. Each character could tell the story from a different point of view, if you let them.

How can an alternative point of view improve your story?

One benefit is that you can add depth to your characters as well as another dimension to your plot.

Imagine there is a scene or a situation, as with any 'dilemma', where there are two sides to the story.

(There may, in fact, be more, if more than two people are involved, but let's not complicate matters just yet.)

Take the section - and all the events that happen in it, then re-write it - not from the initial character's viewpoint but from another's perspective.

'Walk in the other person's shoes', as it were.

Change the point of view of your story, using different characters
Your story can take any direction, using any character

Here's what may happen:

You give the reader choices

If in the end you prefer the other person's viewpoint, and replace the original, you may improve the reader's understanding or perception of 'the truth'.

Or, if you like the second viewpoint, and rearrange the story slightly so that both viewpoints are presented to the reader, you present the reader with an interesting choice: who's angle do they prefer?

If you adopt a second viewpoint you introduce additional feelings, emotions, locations - other characters or conclusions even - adding more 'flavours' to the same events.

What if, like me, you are a 'Pantser' (writing without a fixed outline)? It could lead you into another, or even multiple, direction(s) - but make sure you tie them all up by the end.

Author's note: I took this idea to a final conclusion. Finding Rose was a good stand-alone story on its own, but it was from just one viewpoint. My copy-editor (also my wife) suggested that there was another viewpoint to explore - and another novel opportunity (no pun intended). The end result was Rose: The Missing Years, written more from Rose's point of view.

An example of how switching point of view can really work

Read 'Franny', the short story by Jerry Salinger. I was taken by the way he switched the point of view from the initial character, Lane, before focusing on, and ending with, Franny.

If you do read it, try to catch yourself as you switch sympathies from one to the other.

For me it is a priceless piece of writing.

You could say that 'nothing happens' in the story, but the dialogue - and 'argument' going on within it - is riveting, and testimony as to why he is regarded as such a great writer.

And quite a change from 'Catcher in the Rye'.

P.S. A writing 'tool' in all this that can really make this happen is Dialogue.

It can certainly allow 'things to move along'. My blog on dialogue doesn't cover viewpoint, but it may have some interesting and more general pointers for you.

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