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Author Topic: Narrative Point of View and Viewpoint
extrinsic
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This is a results part of my study to determine the discourse voice I strive for. I'd earlier responded to other topics about distinctions for narrative point of view and viewpoint through a camera analogy; that is, that a viewpoint is one camera and a narrative point of view is the edited feed from several cameras; the final film version, so to speak.

A helpful approach through Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction distinguishes twenty-nine distinct viewpoint types by a number of aesthetic distance-related factors, degree of psychic access, grammatical person, subjective-objective axis, from inside or outside observer perspective (interior or exterior to a scene), for examples.

Knight allows twenty-six of the viewpoint types are common for prose; three are rare, of note, first-person omniscient and second person of any kind. I disagree about the latter's rarity; second-person direct, imperative or implied imperative addresses are commoner than Knight allows. Second-person reflexive is uncommonly rare: second-person transference for first person and reflexive addresses to the self. You narrate your life like it's a screenplay voiceover -- as like you live life within a film.

Rarer still, fourth grammatical person and its varieties Knight doesn't discuss, that adds another half dozen or more viewpoint types.

Knight uses terms that vary from conventional narrative theory, and certainly differ from fan fiction-inspired terms like POV, MC, and conflict, perhaps as much because of the degree of granularity of discrete variables as because of thoroughness. The subjective-objective axis, for example, he separates from what is otherwise more commonly labeled journalistic objective reporting -- from after the fact, when all is known that's knowable and relevant to a report of events. He labels that narrative point of view "detached" and distinguishes it as primarily objective narrative expression. "Detached" for that case to mean unemotional expression, an attitude mode which is a core feature for subjective expression.

Knight uses the term "viewpoint" to span both narrative point of view and viewpoint. He doesn't consider the symphony of viewpoints as distinct from a narrative's overall discourse method. That shortfall leaves room for expansion; that is, who readers most readily and appealingly identify with for a narrative's action.

The general narrative point of view preference for writers here at Hatrack and writing culture across the literary opus is detached semi-omniscient narrator-outside-looking-in observer, even oftentimes for first person, as if a report of film and in a raconteur-type, sat around a campfire or kitchen table mannerism. Conversational, and appreciably short on emotional expression. Also, limited, if any, or awkwardly, use of regional language idioms. You know, ain't ain't a word sort of idiom avoidance. Ain't is a word, though widely deprecated for beliefs it is illiterate; prescriptively and proscriptively, the word is a contraction of (I) am not. Other uses are illiterate though discretionary for you or it, they, or them, are not or is not. You ain't got that right. It ain't a problem until it's broken. Home sweet home this ain't. However, illiterate uses are artful, appealing reality imitations of actual idiomatic expression, many of which are colorful and strongly appeal, yet writers generally use the dreary-bland everyday conversation dialect that is the gossip voice of current television talk shows. Tel est la vie: such is the life.

Emotional attitude is for me the more appreciable shortfall. For extended purposes and functions, plot's prime function is persuade reader emotional response. That's the rhetoric of prose at its most fundamental first principle. Why not express emotional attitude toward situational instances and extended circumstances? It's hard to do, because we are culturally adjusted "not to make a scene." Make a scene: this is prose, for Providence's sake!

A narrative point of view therein is an overall emotionally charged package; that is, a real writer, implied writer, or narrator's emotional attitude toward a moral human condition forefront and backdrop on center point. A viewpoint is a persona's attitude toward a situational topic. A straight-faced attitude is generally "detached" and unemotional. An emotionally charged attitude, extended or situational, at the simplest, objectively expresses approval or disapproval of a shared moral human condition. An ideal degree of emotional attitude expression is clearly and strongly, appealingly, subjective commentary; not per se preaching, though robust self-expression of an emotional passion heat degree congruent to a circumstance such that the attitude is taken as personal and not per se to be an imperative.

Also, for me, I find a majority of writers summarize and explain from a remote distance too much of a narrative's action. This is tell lecture, even in first person. A common first signal of an overburdened tell is, after a title, the first words are a protagonist's name. Next, what the individual action event is, from verb and predicates like sees, hears, touches, smells, tastes, or emotionally feels. Jill Doe sighed as she heard the school bell ring. Really? The single function -- to introduce the protagonist, that I see, and static voice (stasis statement-nondefinite time span) and artless tell: narrator summary and explanation lecture.

If that's the audience's reading comfort zone, more power to such writers.

The voice I strive for entails the same information though both more robust and dynamic event as well as emotionally charged. For that, the viewpoint criteria from Knight I require are: central agonist, from inside, single-persona, third-person subjective attitude. The overall narrative point of view likewise criteria. I add several other criteria related more so to plot; for example, antagonal events foremost, nextmost likewise antagonal settings and characters, and, of course a transformative moral human condition struggle.

I appreciate a general writer resistance to such granular writing study approaches. Knight notes early in the book that too much study and planning may stifle writing; however, he also notes a liberating, limitless limitation arises on the other side, which I have experienced.

My question, though, for Hatrack writers: what's your preferred narrative point of view and what viewpoints most appeal for your reading and writing?

By the way, Knight's book is one of the more accessible and thorough beginning to intermediate to advanced writing theories collections I've encountered.

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Grumpy old guy
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I prefer third person, limited omniscient, with a sliding psychic distance determined by the narrative needs. That doesn't mean I won't try others. My current dilemma is a case in point, although I don't open the first person, character viewpoint narrative with the character's name. Why would I? When I think or talk about myself, I don't refer to myself by name.

I guess choosing a POV and a viewpoint are driven by how the writer envisions the story being told and that may not even be a conscious decision at first.

Phil.

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Robert Nowall
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I think, of late, I've come to prefer first person singular...but it's a constant battle and struggle to keep things at what "I" sees and knows and learns---what "I" can see or know or learn. I'll flip back to third person when it seems appropriate.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
I prefer third person, limited omniscient, with a sliding psychic distance determined by the narrative needs. That doesn't mean I won't try others. My current dilemma is a case in point, although I don't open the first person, character viewpoint narrative with the character's name. Why would I? When I think or talk about myself, I don't refer to myself by name.

I guess choosing a POV and a viewpoint are driven by how the writer envisions the story being told and that may not even be a conscious decision at first.

Phil.

You strive for a single viewpoint persona for an overall narrative point of view in the openings I've read. I favor that approach. Where I think you struggle most is establishing that challenging story entry such that readers immediately associate with the agonist persona from inside scenes and not a narrator outside of scenes and narrative overall, regardless of grammatical person. Yet you default to the narrator when in doubt. Both can work synergistically, congruently, or separately.

Consider a self-imposed rule formula; for example, use emotionally charged, subjective descriptions for externally received sensory stimuli reflections, which are congruent agonist and narrator voice; use separate agonist and narrator voices, direct discourse for agonist thoughts and speech, and indirect discourse -- narrator commentary -- paraphrases, emotionally charged reports of the action, respectively; and synergistically, use timely and judicious transitions for separated and mutually enhanced voices.

The above rule set is one Hemingway uses for The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway tags speech and thoughts -- a best practice for marking direct discourse so that general readers distinguish agonist direct discourse from narrator indirect discourse and congruent agonist-narrator voice. External sensations, he uses congruent agonist-narrator voice. A tag here and there, timely and judicious, suitable to general readers' comfort zone, signals perhaps a paragraph or more of one discourse method, like "Desayunto Makos circled the Marlin, ripped dear flesh from the belly, he thought." "Desayunto" is a provincial Spanish idiom that means disemboweler. Though a paraphrase of the novella's post climax tragic crisis action, that term and "ripped" and "dear" are emotionally charged and subjective to Santiago's internal perceptions, and reflect his emotional feeling. He feels the sharks disembowel him, figuratively. They rend the Marlin and Santiago's want for proof he's not finally salao: cursed, the congruent literal and figurative action of the moment and the novella overall.

Anyway, that rule set is common throughout narratives generally, and a preferred method set for Modernism narratives. Hemingway's writing retains some of Romanticism's narrator oration emphasis, which owes its origins to traditional oral narration. Realism and its successor Modernism significantly depart by degrees from traditional oration methods, where a narrator (storyteller, raconteur) is live and in person before an audience and narrator vocal intonation and gestural expression lend appeals to a narrative's oral publication. Modernism's discourse methods more favors narratives constructed to be read as text and not as aurally received.

This is Realism's departure from Romanticism: reality imitation scene mode suitable for text transmission, less, if any, oration-like narrator summary and explanation tell lecture. A main feature of the former is subjective, emotionally charged agonist's received reflections of an action's events, time, place, and situation, and characters while a narrative unfolds.

A formula for the above rule set is directly portray external, antagonal, causal, tensional sensory stimuli as received reflections and either congruent or subsequent internal and external emotional reaction thereto: antagonal-causal-tensional-logically sequentially.

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