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Character POV

Posted: February 4th, 2014, 9:02 pm
by Daco
I am new to this forum and I have a question. I am currently writing a novel and I am struggling with which POV I should write in. The story is a historical fiction account of my great-grandfather who was in the tsar's army. I feel the story lends itself to first person narrative but my inciting incident is the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, which the first person account could not be possible. Is it acceptable to switch to an omnipresent POV view for those scenes?

Re: Character POV

Posted: February 5th, 2014, 1:20 pm
by polymath
Narrative point of view is the viewpoint from which a narrative originates. This is a top tier viewpoint, be it a narrator's or a character-narrator's. A challenge for first-person narration is exactly the issue of whether the character is present for events so that they may be reported in first person. If the character is not present, willing suspension of disbelief may be jeapordized and readers lose trust and interest.

Writers have used a number of methods to get around this difficulty. One which many methods are based upon, reporting the events outside first-person experience as generally known yet more detailed through investigation and research. One such method imitates historic documents and reports them through what is known as False Documents. For example, let's say excerpts from an encylopedia article, a biography, newspaper reports, personal correspondence, etc. Generally, these types of accounts are composed and included as bald articles in their own divisions, set off as subchapters, intercessionary pages, or as block quotes imitating their "original" publication. For example, a personal letter composed as a block quote with address block, salutation, addressee, body, and signature block, sometimes set in all italics in imitation of and signaling handwritten text.

Omniscience and omnipresence can be first-person narrator features when reported as events and such generally known but in greater detail due to investigation and research, as if in journalism's objective reporting, though along with prose's attitude commentary. Then no shift in overall narrative point of view will clutter the narrative, even if the narrative at times shifts from first person to third person, if artfully managed. After all, variety is the spice of life and literature.

Though those methods are in third-person reporting typically, they are directly noted as having been experienced by a first-person narrator or are clealry implied as such.

Another method makes no effort to distinguish parts as first-person experiences and other parts as third-person experiences. First person's default subjectivity, bias, and immediacy may enhance the illusion of reality spell readers of all stripes prefer. The aesthetic closeness of first person strongly appeals. The Hannibal Lecter novel series by Thomas Harris uses first-person chapters to portray the creepier characters' internal worlds and is perversely appealing for that forbidden fruit voyeursism. Other characters are reported in third person for that narrative perspective's trustworthy objectivity.

For the purposes at hand, reporting the Tsar's assassination, I'd suggest consider opening with a first-person routine that's interrupted and arouses the great-grandfather's curiosity about the events of the assassination. Then the Tasr's assassination can artfully be reported in third person before returning in a later chapter to first person, Perhaps alternate chapters may switch back and forth, or subchapters, as a parallel narrative unfolding along with the main narrative, or even as in the moment discoveries or recollections related to the Tsar's assassination as the first-person story unfolds. For example, I wasn't anyhere near the World Trade Center on 9-11, but I was emotionally close and am aware of the details.

Re: Character POV

Posted: February 5th, 2014, 3:54 pm
by Daco
Wonderful analysis and concepts. Thank you.