Do you write from the first person or third person perspective? Do you use an omniscient narrator or a flawed narrator who is a character in the story, like Nick Caraway in The Great Gatsby?
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.
Your choice of perspective will not only affect the tone of your story, but the reader’s emotional response to it too.
A change of perspective 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.
Additionally, a radical change of viewpoint can allow the writer to mine many existing and beloved stories, generating countless adaptations. The range and depth of digging into the treasure trove of past tales is almost limitless.
Just think: Cinderella, in a reimagined version, can become the sorry lot of an ugly sister, hopelessly outgunned and outshone by a shallow, foul-mouthed bimbo who can’t stop talking about her desire for fine clothes and 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—as in The Postman Always Rings Twice? How would our sympathies shift through this 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 viewpoint is integral to the tone, theme, and the emotional commitment of your readers to your characters and story.
Choosing your story’s perspective is one of the first and most important decisions you make as a writer.