On this observation journal page, I was again playing with points of view from which a story could be told.
I’d made a list previously (it’s typed up at this post: By whom and to whom — there are some exercises there, too). But after reading Kim Scott and Maria Dahvana Headley close together, I wanted to add a few more to the list.
Here are the main categories of narrator I wanted to play with (I’ve listed them in detail at the bottom of this post).
- Land/elements of landscape
- Plural (a group in the story’s present)
- Plural (a group at some other point in time)
- The tales themselves
I ran a few stories I was working on through each category. It was illuminating. The shift in perspective could be subtle or bold, playful or elegiac, but it usually revealed new angles and possibilities. This less-conventional (for me) points of view also made me consider the purpose of the story more, and created some interesting ways to riff on omniscient viewpoints and unreliability. There can also be a lot of charm in glimpsing the actions of characters/narrators who aren’t strictly individual players on the stage.
And several angles suggested shapes for future stories, once I find narratives to put in them.
Writing/illustration exercise (see also Viewpoints)
- Choose a story you are writing/drawing, or one that you’d like to (a fairy-tale usually works in a pinch).
- Consider briefly how the story would be told/viewed if it were framed by each of the perspectives listed above. How would “Little Red Riding Hood”, for example, look if it were illustrated from the point of view of the forest or the path, or told by all-grandmothers-after, or the-wolves-who-were-watching, or prophesied to occur at some future date?
- Quickly sketch out (words or pictures) a quick treatment of a scene from a couple of these perspectives. Where does it shift the story for you, how does it change the emphasis or the imagery or the frame?
The full (but by no means exhaustive) list
I’ve typed out the full list below, for reference. If you want to play with another long list of potential tellers/audiences, see also the post By whom and to whom.
As I listed some possibilities and variations, I also made a note of the way I felt each might skew the purpose of some hypothetical and draft stories (the italicised comments).
- To those who seek it (to answer)
- To those who find it (to advance a cause)
- To those who understand it (to give further information)
- To themselves (to remind/confirm)
- To time (to remind/confirm)
- To descendants (present) (to guide/influence)
- To descendants (future) (to record)
- [variation: reporting back]
- To river (short memory? to remind, eternally)
- To itself (to give shape)
- To time (to be)
- To sky (shout to void)
- To inhabitants (when?) (to influence)
- “To see is to declare” (constant narrative, to exist, chorus of where the foot(?) falls)
- Plurality (present)
- Children (e.g. Nesbit) — to assumed eager readers (to narrate and justify)
- Wives (e.g. The Mere Wife) — to observers (to explain and defend)
- Dogs (“”) — to world (to joyfully exclaim)
- A group/family — to selves (to confirm/establish)
- Plurality (through time)
- A part/role — to new actors
- A lineage — to future generations
- Animals — to someone half-listening
- The tales themselves
- To readers (to explain and ensure reaction/transmission)
- To tellers (to instruct and adjure)
- To themselves (to sleep at night)