WIG&TSSIP: Point-of-View Methods

This post, by Mark Barrett, originally appeared on his Ditchwalk site on 10/13/11.

The Ditchwalk Book Club is reading and discussing Rust Hills’ seminal work, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. Announcement here. Overview here. Tag here.

So much has been written across all mediums about point of view in storytelling that the aggregate should be classified as a type of pollution. And all the more so because such conversations almost always reference a system of categorization rather than the act of creation. To paraphrase Hills: while it’s always useful to have something to say to an academic, getting lost in critical blather is pointless.


To begin, any story you tell will have at least one point of view. It doesn’t matter which medium you’re working in or what your objective is. You can try to entirely scrub point of view from a story as an exercise and it will still be there. Why? Because anybody who experiences your story knows that it didn’t come from their own head, which means it came from somebody else’s head, which means it has a point of view.

Point of view is inherent in storytelling. The question, then, is how you most effectively control and make use of this always-on, omnipresent aspect of fiction. Fortunately, just as audiences are open and willing to suspend disbelief in order to participate emotionally in the fiction you create, they are generally open and willing to adopt whatever point of view you want to use. If a particular point of view makes your work better or more convincing, that’s not only the point of view you should use but the point of view your audience will want you to use.  

Following up on the previous section, Hills connects the abstract notion of choice with the concrete question of point of view:

The choice of the point of view to be used in a story may be pre-made, more or less unconsciously, by the author, as being basic to his whole conception of it. Otherwise, though, choices about point of view will undoubtedly be the most important decisions about technique that he has to make.


Read the rest of the post on Mark Barrett‘s Ditchwalk.

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