ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Point of View in Short Story Writing

Updated on June 17, 2014
Determining Point Of View In Short Story Writing
Determining Point Of View In Short Story Writing | Source

How to Choose the Point of View

Once the short story writer has his characters clearly outlined in his mind, he can decide who is going to narrate his story. This is point of view and it depends on which character the writer most identifies with; which one is most like him in the sense of a shared emotion or experience.

Asking the following question will help pinpoint this character:

Does the character more or less share the writer's "vision" and "voice"? (Voice is defined as the way the writer speaks).

If he does, it makes it easier for the writer to attain that credibility, that “suspension of disbelief” so essential to draw the reader into his story and into his world.

In the most successful fiction, it is observed that the main character is the one that is most affected by the action of the story. This is probably the simplest way to pin down the point of view character.

Take, for example, Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby where the POV character, although not the central figure in the novel, is the one who is moved by the action of the story.

While the "central character" lies shot in his swimming pool in the end, Nick Carraway, the POV character who tells us the murdered man's story, decides to return to the Midwest. He is moved by the action in the story.

In contrast, the story Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes is narrated through the point of view of its hero, Charlie, who is a retarded child. The story is told in the form of a journal Charlie keeps. Therefore, the journal's tone must be authentic, and it is.

Multiple Point of View

There can be combinations of the four basic point of view methods but for the short story, a knowledge of these four is enough as there is not enough space in the short story form for experimenting with multiple points of view or combinations.

Once the point of view has been decided upon, the writer is committed to stick to it – especially in the short story.

In F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, The Narrator Is Not The Central Figure
In F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, The Narrator Is Not The Central Figure | Source

The Four Basic POVs

Omniscient POV– The author knows it all. He knows the thoughts of every character as well as the past on which the story is built (for every character has a past and every event its cause and effect). The omniscient author guides the reader through the story and may even offer his comment and philosophy.

First Person – The “I” may be any of the characters in the story. It could even be a character like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby who is basically relating someone else’s story with only glimpses into his own life. When writing in the first person, it is important to sound as conversational as possible.

After all, the writer is telling the reader the story. He should read it aloud to check whether he has the voice right. Does it sound natural?

This is a point of view highly recommended by many authors because it takes the reader straight into the character’s mind and thus creates a sense of urgency and immediacy. Flowers for Algernon is written in first person.

And yet, writing in first person is also more difficult because the story wholly depends on the experience and thoughts of the first person character. The author’s voice and his subject must be riveting enough to hold the reader’s attention and this is where originality comes into play.

According to Grenville Kleiser, a well-known creative writing professor, the writer is original when he writes honestly from his heart. “Originality is independence, not rebellion; it is sincerity, not antagonism. Whatever you believe to be true and false, that proclaim to be true and false.”

And the writer must be careful not to use too many ‘I’s’ as that may strike some readers as too egotistic.

Scenic – The author is unobtrusive and does not comment at all. He is only a reporter. He is not inside any character's mind and knows nothing about the past or background of the story.

Omniscient-limited-to-one character, or Central Intelligence – The author never intrudes and is omniscient, knowing it all, the past and the background as well as the motives of characters. He speaks and sees through one character, usually the central character, so it is like the first person in a sense, except that it is a ‘he’ or ‘she’, not an ‘I’.

But characterisation with this method is much easier than in first person because the author can describe the character better without being obtrusive. The narrator, after all, cannot describe himself unless seen through the eyes of other characters in the story.

Choosing The Right Point Of View
Choosing The Right Point Of View | Source

The Most Appropriate Point of View

When deciding on point of view, the writer must keep in mind what gives him the most freedom and enables him to elicit sympathy from his reader. He must choose to narrate the story through the character who most shares his outlook on life.

If he chooses to write about the child victim of domestic violence, he would choose to write from the child’s point of view, not the perpetrator’s since the reader will undoubtedly take sides with the victim.

Narrative Point of View

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Anita Saran profile imageAUTHOR

      Anita Saran 

      4 years ago from Bangalore, India

      Many thanks for the kind words CyberShelly!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      4 years ago

      Some very good points here that I hadn't seen as yet. Thank you for sharing these ideas that will help any writer in a sticky spot.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)