The viewpoint character

Every story has an aim or reason driving its telling. The purpose of a story informs the perspective from which it is told. Point of view simply asks, from whose eyes shall your readers witness the events that make up your story?

A story is not so much about an event or series of events as it is about the perspective from which it’s told. Story therefore, is about a character’s direct or indirect experience of an event, since the same event can mean different things to different characters at the same time. The implication here is that different stories can be generated from the same event depending on whose perspective drives the telling.

For example, in writing a story of a day in the jungle when a lion pounced on an antelope and made a meal of the flesh on her bones, this event would come across very differently depending on who was narrating it.

The story from the lion’s perspective, may showcase power and brute strength, and may draw empathy to the helpless and endangered from the viewpoint of the antelope. An indifferent viewpoint in the face of evil may be telling the story through the eyes of the monkey who did nothing while the lion violated the fundamental animal right of the antelope.

EXERCISE

Pick a classic story you have read. Can you identify the particular characters from whose perspective the authors chose to write? Make a list of the major characters in each story, then pick one (not the viewpoint character) and try retelling the story through their eyes.

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