In her book, The Novelist’s Guide, Margret Geraghty, stresses that choosing your story’s perspective or viewpoint, is one of the first and most important decisions you make as storyteller and novelist.
Do you write from the first person or third person perspective? Do you use an omniscient narrator, or a flawed narrator that is a character in the story, like Nick Caraway in The Great Gatsby?
Your choice of viewpoint will not only affect the tone of your story, but the reader’s emotional response to it too.
Additionally, a radical change of viewpoint can allow the writer to mine many existing and beloved stories, generating countless adaptations.
A change of viewpoint can turn Jack and the Beanstalk into a tale about the home invasion of a sensitive, shy giant at the mercy of a rag-tag boy that has snuck into his home.
Or, Cinderella, in a reimagined version, can trace the sorry lot of an ugly sister, hopelessly outgunned and outshone by a shallow, foul-mouthed bimbo who can’t stop talking about fine clothes and marrying the prince.
How about the changes in emotion that would occur in a story of adultery told through the adulterer’s eyes and then retold through the victim’s? How would our sympathies shift through this he-said, she-said approach?
Perspective favours the character who owns it, although it can also allow for characters who are filled with self-loathing or pity whom we tend to judge more critically. The point still stands: Choosing the right perspective is integral to the tone, theme, and the emotional commitment of your readers to your characters and story.
Choosing you story’s viewpoint is one of the first and most important decisions you make as a writer.
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