POV Exercise

by Intermittent Rain ~ March 15th, 2011. Filed under: Writing assignments.

I’m not certain how this is going to work out, but here’s the deal:

  1. Write a scene and identify the point of view that it uses.
  2. Then re-write the same scene from another point of view, and then another, and then another, until all four (first person, third person, third person limited, second person) are all done. For any other than third person you have the option to change character for each version or to maintain the same character.
  3. For more practice, change characters and write some more versions and various combination of the scene. Ultimately you could have one third person and three versions for each character in your scene.

Sound simple enough?

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Right now I’ve completed one version of all four POVs. The character for the three personal versions was accidental and did not exist in the third person version, which was the first one that I wrote. But I stuck with that character because 1) it’s easier to modify an existing personal version to the POVs, and 2) keeping this non-participating character allowed me to maintain a distance from the man in the wheelchair, or his wife, or the family, or even the woman in the fuzzy coat. Even the bus driver has a stake, and after writing the third person version first I was struck by how difficult I found all the stakeholder’s positions. This in itself is a bit unexpected since I know that my writing interest usually inclines toward odd characters. When I got to the third person limited version the character needed a name and I dubbed him Hugo. Hugo adds his own internal story to the story.

But by choosing an outside character that didn’t exist in the third person version I remained outside the events. That enabled me to keep a similar degree of distance and so all four versions are very similar. The perspective does not shift much, I never got deep inside any character, and I never experienced strong emotions. That is perhaps a failure in reaping all the potential benefit of this exercise, one which I may make up if I get around to doing step 3. and writing from some other character’s POVs.

Of all the versions I enjoy reading the second person version the most. The interesting thing about writing in second person is that you as the writer continually push the reader into the role that you have assigned to them. Saying “you” as opposed to “I” or “Hugo/he” feels much more authoritarian. You, as the writer, are not offering up a story that happened to yourself or to your protagonist, but instead you order the reader to imagine that they do and say and think and feel these things even if they don’t want to, as opposed to more passively watching you or your protagonist experience them.


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