And now for points of view.
(Yes, you could call this an in medias res opening, if you like.)
First person is when characters tell the story from their perspective. Unless it has been revealed in some other way, you only know as much as they do, because they are the ones talking to you. You also get a sense of the way the character perceives things.
I walked through the narrow hall, glancing up at the old portraits which lined the walls. I couldn’t help feeling like the eyes were following me.
“What are you doing here?”
I looked suddenly to where the voice had come from.
“Who’s there?” I asked.
There was a pause as I searched the shadows for movement. The voice spoke again. “I’m right in front of you—third painting to the left. Haven’t you any eyes?”
Second person is one of the most rare points of view. Instead of saying “I” or “she, ” you say “you.” This is a way of turning readers into your character, putting them into the character’s shoes. Although this is sometimes used for a “choose your own adventure” story, it is more commonly used to get as personal as you can with first person, while not having to make the character the narrator as well. I find this close-up yet removed approach can create a colder feel to a story.
As a side note, you can write from second person in past tense, but it’s slightly awkward, and not as powerful as present tense, which is usually applied in this situation.
You sit alone, cold concrete beneath your bare knees. You want to shut your eyes tight enough that maybe you won’t have to open them again, yet, somehow, you will yourself to look down. There is blood on your hands; laying on your fingers like dew. You take a shaking breath and watch as it hangs in the air like fog.
In third person, there are two options: omniscient or limited. Since in third person you are viewing your characters from the outside (although this really doesn’t limit how close you can be to their thoughts or emotions) you have a “narrator.” For example, when you write the line “she walked slowly, ” someone is telling you this, is he not? You don’t have to bring a narrator into it, though; you can just tell the story using “he” or “she” or “they” and not bother with creating anyone in particular to narrate. But you also have the option to make your narrator a character in itself, with her own opinions and added comments, if you want.
With the omniscient view, the “narrator” (again, I put this in quotes because this doesn’t have to become a character) knows everything. They know (and can therefore mention) any information within the story. They know everyone’s thoughts. They know what has happened, is happening, and will happen. This approach therefore gives you a lot of freedom in what you are able to tell your reader directly.
When using third person limited, the amount of information known by the narrator is—yup— “limited” to what a certain character knows (so nothing outside that character’s knowledge can be mentioned).
Third person also has the capability to easily switch between characters’ perspectives while in the middle of a paragraph. For example, you could say, Ella guessed that Shaun wasn’t used to this sort of thing, as it certainly wasn’t grace with which he clambered through the window. Shaun, however, thought it quite unfair for her to judge him on this note. After all, you’d think it would be admirable to have not broken into a library before.
If you’re interested in making the narrator an actual character, however, here is an example:
As I mentioned before, James was far from normal. Although he grew up in a very unsuspecting situation, around very normal people–his father worked in a pharmacy, and his mother at the laundromat–he himself had an unusual knack for cake decorating. I myself have a strong belief that artists who express themselves through baked goods are bound to get somewhere in life, and James is a perfect example through which to prove me right.
Now that you’ve heard a bit choosing point of view, I hope you have more of an idea regarding where you might start when it comes to creating a new story. Try a few different points of view, and see what happens?
Photo by Maurina Rara, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Sonia Joie.