Daily Writing Challenge: Choosing a Viewpoint

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Viewpoint, or Point of View (POV) has two categories and multiple ways to be employed.

Viewpoint can be how your character sees the world.

Cyrus wasn’t afraid.  Not really.  He just got nervous when people accosted him.  His hands would shake, and his scalp would sweat.  But, no, it wasn’t fear.  He knew himself.  Trusted himself to be brave in the face of hostile people.  No fear.  So, he knew that when he was startled by the school bully it wasn’t fear.  No sir.  He had been concentrating.  Yeah.  That was why he jumped.

Or, Belinda looked at the faces staring up at her as she stood on the stage.  She could feel the love pouring from them, and it was all directed at her.  They were open, caring, and supportive.  In a moment, when she grasped the microphone and began to sing, she knew that they would be hers forever.

The other type of viewpoint is narration, and yes, I know you know the difference, but it is always good to make distinctions.

Narrator viewpoint has a number of  “versions”, for example: 

  • The Objective Viewpoint.  This is where the narrator “stands” outside of  the characters at all times.  It is as though the narrator was a journalist.
  • The Modified Objective Viewpoint.  Here the narrator, while not claiming to know the inner workings of the characters, makes “guesses” about drive, motive.
  • The First-Person Subjective Viewpoint.  The narrator is the main character, and is the only one the narrator.  Think of a letter-writer relating a story.
  • The Omniscient Viewpoint.  God-like, the narrator knows with certainty what is going on in the heads of all characters.  This is tricky, as not allowing the reader to guess the motives of some characters robs suspense from the story in many cases.
  • The Limited Omniscient Viewpoint.  Even trickier than Omniscient, Limited Omniscient gives the narrator insight in to multiple, but not all characters in a story.  On the plus side, this form allows the reader a sort of intimate knowledge of more than one character.

If you look around you will no doubt find variations on the above themes—sub-variations, at least—but the challenge for today is to identify which of these POVs you commonly use, and to write a short piece in one that you seldom, or never use. 

If nothing else, our daily challenges are designed to lift us out certain habits—dare I say, ruts?—and to force ourselves to try on new techniques.

It is like going into a donut shop and always choosing glazed because you’ve never considered jelly or custard.  You may not know you have a real talent for other writing formats until you’ve given them a decent test-drive. (…to mix metaphors.)

If you are an Omnicient Viewpoint writer, try first person subjective.  If you write like a 1950s detective, try Limited Omniscient.  Have you ever considered writing a story as though it was a letter to a friend?  Ever considered very personal stream of conciousness?

Experimentation is the key to widening your horizons.

Your thoughts?

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19 responses to “Daily Writing Challenge: Choosing a Viewpoint

  1. Well, thank you for pursuing the challenge to write outside of one’s usual framework, despite my objections of yesterday, and my constant iteration that I can’t be ‘more than my self’. After all the self can evolve.
    So your first question. In portals, as you know, the narrator’s voice is problematic. As I’m thinking about it now, it is omniscient only of the protagonists point of view, but I also suspect that it will develop into both her ‘voices’ and her ‘witness’. Also, she the narrator is aware of Penny’s inferences (they may be in error) with respect to how she sees other characters. I’m also expecting that possibly a conflict will arise between the narrator and the protagonist’s ‘point of view’. I’ll have to wait and see. Your categories here are very enlightening, in any case. I’d love to be able to memorize them.
    By the way, I find your perspective(s) are evolving, as you no doubt are aware. Like you’re going through a growth period as a writer.
    So here is my letter: (About being an objective narrator).

    Dear Mom:
    I’d love to be able to see the world as you see it. I’d love to be objective about how you see the world, especially as to how you see me. But I find the first impossible, and the latter form of objectivity is something that I can’t quite define.
    Please help me.
    You would like me to keep the house as tidy as you do. You would like me to follow almost blindly what you feel would make me a better mother than I am. You are critical of my relationship with my husband. You don’t like my choice of furnishings in the house. It seems like I can never do anything ‘right’.
    How can I be ‘objective’ about that? Would it mean adopting your point of view and conforming without reservation to your taste concerning every mode of my being? Would it mean a critical examination of my habits and propensities? But if the latter, perhaps it is you who are being objective about me.
    What does being objective mean? Is it possible at all to be objective?
    Science is held to be objective. Yet it observes the particulars within the world, in light of a theory. And yet the scientists keep in mind that it is important to always attempt to contest the theory by the fact. And indeed if this can’t be done then it’s ‘metaphysics’.
    I read somewhere that to be truly subjective was the highest form of objectivity that we could reach. So maybe being truly subjective, would among to being truly objective. That is to see ourselves from an independent perspective.
    But I don’t feel that your perspective regarding my life is independent. It may even be based on your own subjectivity, your own projections, your own attempt to correct the failures of your youth, and your child rearing practices.
    Let us imagine that objectivity and subjectivity meet within a metaphysical foundation of our self and souls and of our perceptions of the environment. Then we would have to conclude that we have reached neither an ultimate objectivity, nor a completely fulfilling subjectivity.
    Mom, in this context I have to admit I’m not perfect. I’m only a part of the whole, and to try to see myself as the whole, – to identify with God or Spirit – in this sense would be a falsehood on my part.
    Nevertheless, I am grateful that you have made me humble by forcing me to think about this. But, please, mom, leave me to my own doings when it comes to doing the ‘housework’.

    May you rest in peace.

    Postscript. I realize that this is a letter never written, and I suspect that it would never would have been understood. Question. Have I grown as a person in writing this? I love you, mom. Thank you for giving me the best care you were able to according to your capacity and circumstance. I think about you.

    • At your request, I’ve read your post with an open mind.

      This letter sound very similar to many of your day to day comments both here and on SLTW ~ you are trying to understand your mother’s view of the world while encouraging her to see things from your viewpoint.

      To really shift your viewpoint, all you need say is:

      “Mom, what you think of me is none of my business.”

      • I will have to think about this. I fear though that it might ‘negate’ the significance of a lot of the comments that you make especially regarding myself, but to others who would prefer you to have a person to person contact with them, rather than speaking from the abstraction and universalization of spirit.

      • Why does your attempt to expand your viewpoint in a writing exercise have to do with my comments on SLTW???

        This was just a writing exercise, was it not??? : )

        • Then why were you critical of me as a person, rather than being objective about the writing exercise?

        • Take a good hard look at what I actually SAID, Loreen.

          Any criticism of you as a person is in YOUR head.

        • And do NOT ask me to provide you with feedback on any of your future writing challenges.

          You are impossible to please.

        • This letter sound very similar to many of your day to day comments both here and on SLTW ~ you are trying to understand your mother’s view of the world while encouraging her to see things from your viewpoint.

          Got it. An impasse. What did the writing exercise have to do with comments I have made on SLTW and Uphill Writing.

          I give up.

          • The challenge, as I understood it, was to identify which POV you commonly use, and then write a short piece in a POV that you SELDOM, or NEVER use.

            I don’t think you met the challenge.

            You used a POV that I frequently see you use both here and on SLTW.

            If you disagree, fine. But your letter didn’t seem like a distinctly different POV to me.

            • Possibly you were talking about content, rather than point of view. In any case, you did not specific this. But that doesn’t matter, because I don’t believe your comment helped me with my writing, or my point of view. The content or the theme is something that is agreed on, I understand, by critics to leave to author discretion.

      • I do not think that my mother would appreciate the possibility that what she thought of me was none of my business. This comment I found very ‘inappropriate’, as I don’t think nrhatch understood the significance and the pointed closing of the letter written to the mother…….

        Perhaps it was a soliloquy! Trust you are well, Richard.
        If you feel the same as I suspect nrhatch feels about me, please let me know.

      • I’d rather say, “Mom, if you could hear me, Let us work to understand one another. I’m glad that we can make each other’s ‘business’ part of our mutual concern, so that our ability to communicate may ever grow and grow as a demonstration of our love”. (“And may the faith hope and charity signs that you had put on your tombstone, be ever a remembrance of you through their replicas which sit on the trees of The New Advent which I have placed on the piano.”
        But perhaps, nrhatch, this is ‘None of Your Business”.

  2. Excellent post, Rik.

    Perfect for fiction and fantasy writers who are creating characters and narrators from threads and snippets of daily observations.

    Thanks.

  3. Actually, nrhatch is correct in a way. This is an example of your first category: how the character sees the world, except it’s also the musings about philosophy and everything else. The question is: Have I written any narration at all in the book Portals? It is not ‘true to life’, and therefore is not biography. I can’t really categorize it. But live and learn, even from your ‘enemies’…. All the best Richard. Thank you.

  4. These are the posts from Spirit Lights the Way. This is merely an update, so that the ‘apparent’ conflict that exists is recognized within the context in which the original viewpoint was presented.

    Loreen Lee – August 6, 2010
    Just wrote one of my writing exercises in Uphill’s Writer’s Challenge. These are excellent opportunities for writing off the cuff by the way. I know you don’t like me to broadcast my stuff, or promote myself, and that you aren’t really interested in my writing, but maybe you would give this one a chance. All the best.

    nrhatch – August 6, 2010
    I will read it with an open mind. : )

    nrhatch – August 6, 2010
    So, Loreen.

    I did what you asked, and read your piece with an open mind:

    http://uphillwriting.org/2010/08/06/daily-writing-challenge-choosing-a-viewpoint/

    In response, you turned around and attacked me . . . referring to me as your “enemy.”

    You are impossible to please. Do NOT ask me for feedback on your work in the future.

  5. In summation, taking into account the most recent submission, I have found William Blake’s poem, from Poems of Experience, called A Poison Tree. It at least demonstrates that much interpretation can be dependent on what is expected…..

    I was angry with my friend,
    I told my wrath, my wrath did end
    I was angry with my foe
    I told it not, my wrath did grow.

    And I water’d it in fears,
    Night and morning with my tears;
    And I sunned it with smiles,
    And with soft deceitful wiles.

    And it grew both day and night,
    ‘Till it bore an apple bright,
    And my foe beheld it shine,
    And he knew that it was mine,

    And into my garden stole
    When the night had veil’d the pole:
    In the morning glad I see
    My foe outstretch’d beneath the tree.

    This is not a simple didactic poem, of course. The dialectic is intricate and subtle. But I like that it uses the imagery of the apple. Not only that, it is the highest form of satire, almost comparable to that of the parables spoken by Jesus Christ….

    To what has happened……Amen.

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