Creative Series III: Perspective and Point of View. How Character Dialogue and Narrative Can Tell A Story

First Person Narrator: Definition & Example – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com

We generally say that First Person is a noun. I is a noun. We is also a noun. You is an example of a Second Person perspective or point of view.  He, she or it is an example of a Third Person perspective or point of view.

Point of View in Fiction: First Person, Third Person & More – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com

If you have ever watched a movie, you have been seeing dialogue tells a story.

You have a choice when you are writing a story. You can:

  1. Narrate the story
  2. Allow your characters to tell your story

Watch this clip from the original voiceover theatrical release of “Blade Runner”, narrated by Harrison Ford.

Here, the story is a voiceover by Harrison Ford (Rick Deckard) being told by the main character.

Here is the same footage, different clip, without a voiceover narration. Which one do you prefer?

Is any story is best told, when the author (or writer) is not telling YOU the story?

That choice is up to you, the writer. We are discussing are specific techniques: Third Person perspective, Second Person perspective and First-Person perspective.

Third Person perspective

Third person perspective is when I am telling you the story about someone.

Third-Person Point of View: Definition & Examples – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com

Derron discussed his feelings about what happened, the bullets whining past his ears and the screams of people dying, just outside of Qung Tri with Natalie. He went on to describe the orders given by his commanding officer. His hands trembling before the intensity of his emotions brought him to his knees…he described the orders that his Commander, Evans gave to kill anyone that stood in their path. Derron even related how because of those orders, he shot and killed a woman with a baby. Orders that resulted in the deaths of over two hundred people that night, their deaths and the guilt that he held in his heart.

If you are feeling somewhat detached about this person’s life, you are probably right. Third person perspectives normally do not allow you, the reader to discover this character, at least not fully. It is as if you are looking at the notes of a psychologist, describing the person’s feelings about something that happened.

Second Person perspective

Second Person Point of View: Definition & Examples – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com

Second Person perspective is normally not used in creative writing, but relegated to writing “How-To”, technical writing, advertising, songs, speeches or quotes. When writing in second person, you are using words (pronouns) such as:

  • You
  • Yours
  • It
  • Its

Probably the best example of using a Second Person perspective that brings to mind, this very unique technique, would be the Outer Limits introduction by Vic Perrin.

[One of the original scripts] “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to – The Outer Limits.”

First-Person perspective

First Person Narrator: Definition & Example – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com

First person perspective is a technique that is used to allow the character to tell the story, rather than a narrator telling a tale. It is a technique that can allow the reader to better understand the character, perhaps even look at them as a human being. Dialogue is how you, the writer, is telling the story. It is how you are allowing your reader to experience your character “three dimensionally”, rather than in “two dimensions”.

“We ran into position about four clicks from Qung Tri. I remember hearing the incessant whine of what sounded like insects droning past my ears. I never realized that those were bullets just missing my head.”

I pinch my fingers together next to my right ear.

“Commander Evans told us it was just a routine patrol. Wasn’t true.”

I shake my head as tears begin to well up in my eyes.

“God…damned enemy was in front of us, firing in all directions. They didn’ know where we was. We just keep walking forward. “Move forward men!” he says. “Move forward. Keep firing at anything you see!” So’s we’s movin’ forward, you know? Then all of a sudden…”

My hands begin to tremble.

“All of a sudden, them civilians come pouring out of the building. All the while, Evans is telling us, “Keep firing! Goddam it! Don’t you stop! Any of those civilians gets in your way, you shoot ’em in the head!” So’s we keep moving forward. People coming at me, pleading with me on their knees! Their knees! “No shoot! No shoot!” And I keep firing at ’em.”

My arms rise up to clutch a make-believe rifle.

“I shot a woman. With a baby! All the while, she’s beggin’ me. Holdin’ her baby up to show me that she’s a mom, you know? And I shoot her in the head and keep walkin’ forward, firing ahead, while Evans keeps yellin’ at us to keep firing.”

I sink to my knees.

“I hate what we did. I hate’s what we did that night. We killed over 200 hundred that night, to get to the enemy. over 200 people…”

Marrying dialogue with description.

Many stories today, are told using a combination of perspectives.

Third Person Limited Narrator: Definition & Examples – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com

You can combine dialogue with description. In other words, you can use words such as:

  • Said
  • Related
  • Talked
  • Spoke

These words can be used before the character speaks. There are many writers and authors, who employ this technique. (I personally, have “walked away” from doing so, electing instead to simply allow my character to speak within my narrative prose.) You however, may want to use some of these words. My suggestion is to stick with that whatever method you choose to tell your story. Don’t mix them up. Readers tend to get confused, if you suddenly deviate from your chosen method of perspective.

Here is the first-person perspective technique, combined with a more narrative style.

Derron sat back a moment, the glass of bourbon and soda dropping from his once-clenched fist to shatter on the concrete floor. His face metamorphosed into a mask of pain, eyes glassy, as he looked up to the ceiling.

“We ran into position about four clicks from Qung Tri. I remember hearing the incessant whine of what sounded like insects droning past my ears. I never realized that those were bullets just missing my head.”

Derron pinched his fingers together next to his right ear.

“Commander Evans told us it was just a routine patrol. Wasn’t true.”

Derron shook his head as tears began to well up in his eyes.

“God…damned enemy was in front of us, firing in all directions. They didn’ know where we was. We just keep walking forward. “Move forward men!” he says. “Move forward. Keep firing at anything you see!” So’s we’s movin’ forward, you know? Then all of a sudden…”

Derron’s hand began to tremble.

“All of a sudden, them civilians come pouring out of the building. All the while, Evans is telling us, “Keep firing! Goddam it! Don’t you stop! Any of those civilians gets in your way, you shoot ’em in the head!” So’s we keep moving forward. People coming at me, pleading with me on their knees! Their knees! “No shoot! No shoot!” And I keep firing at ’em.”

His arms rose up, as he took aim at nothing, clutching a make-believe rifle, lost in his dream as he recounted his tale.

“I shot a woman. With a baby! All the while, she’s beggin’ me. Holdin’ her baby up to show me that she’s a mom, you know? And I shoot her in the head and keep walkin’ forward, firing ahead, while Evans keeps yellin’ at us to keep firing.”

Derron sank to his knees, his head buried in his hands, sobbing uncontrollably. He gave the appearance of a very old and frail man, as his body shook in between gasps of sadness and anger.

“I hate what we did. I hate’s what we did that night. We killed over 200 hundred that night, to get to the enemy. over 200 people…”

Sometimes, narrative can lessen the impact in the telling of a tale. Again, it is up to you, the writer to decide how you want to describe your character to your audience. What kind of impact do you want to leave them with? How do you want to tell your story?

Next in the series

Next in the series: Action in our stories. Too Much or Too Little?

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