Narrative perspectives and National Novel Writing Month!

Hello Everyone,

Well, we are now into the final big push in the last few weeks before your competition entries need to be in (30TH SEPTEMBER!!!).  But there is still time to get that award winning story polished and perfected.

This week as you move towards a final assault on your writing, I thought it would be helpful to share with you all some tips on narrative perspective.

First all some appoaches to narrative perspective or point of vie (PoV) as it is sometimes called:

Possible Perspectives

  • First person (I/me) – allows the writer to explore the inner thoughts of the character and helps the reader to develop empathy for the character but it does restrict what the writer can show the reader.  Can get round this by having more than one first person narrator e.g. The Sweetest Thing by Fiona Shaw.
  • Second person (you) – this is rare in fiction but very common in persuasive/rhetorical writing like speeches.  It can work well for short fiction but would be difficult to sustain over a longer story.  One advantage of it is it makes the reader a character in the story by addressing them directly.
  • Third person focalised (he/she/they) – a common and popular perspective that allows the writer and reader some distance from the character but maintains a close contact.  Disadvantage is that, like first person, it restricts what the writer can show the reader because the narrative follows only one character e.g. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling.
  • Third person omniscient (all seeing) – more common in Victorian novels.  The perspective is that of a god-like figure looking down, able to go anywhere and see anything.  This frees the writer to show every event of the plot no matter which characters are/are not involved but it prevents the reader from getting close to any one character and can make empathy more difficult e.g. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy.

Now all you have to do is work out which is best for your story.  Things to consider are:

  • what are the main plot points of your story
  • which characters are involved in those ‘scenes’
  • what is the story’s time line e.g. are some of these events happening similtaneous?

So if you have several events happening at the same time and involving different characters you will probably be best off with either several narrators or an ‘all seeing’ third person perspective.  If your story is all told through the PoV of one character then first person or third person focalised would work well.

Remember whatever you decided to do with the PoV to consider the following:

  • How closely do you want your reader to empathise with your hero? (this will be important if you have something of an ‘anti-hero’ as a protagonist).
  • How will you be restricted by first or third person focalised perspective?  Will this make structuring your story difficult?
  • Will you need/want more than one narrator?  You are allowed to switch between different narrators and even different perspectives but this must be deliberate, not just arising out of inconsistency.
  • Do you want the reader to experience the story alongside the character?
  • Will dramatic irony be important to the tension of your plot?
  • Are you planning to kill off any of your characters?  There is no reason why you can’t kill off a first person narrator but who will take over the role of narrator?
  • Are you using past tense or present tense?  How does this fit with your PoV?

Although we still have a few more posts to go before I disappear from the blog-sphere I am also going to spend these last few blogs letting you know about opportunities to keep developing your writing beyond Crossing the Tees.

This week I want to let you know about National Novel Writing Month.  This is a great chance for those of you with a novel in you to get in down.  The challenge is to write it in a month.  More information can be found here:
We are particularly lucky in the Tees Valley as there is also a well established support group for people taking part in NNWM so check out their Facebook page at: and get that novel out!

Good luck with your final redraft.  More next time,


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