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Narrative Perspective

Updated on May 22, 2015

Seeing the World from Within

I have always noticed that one of the great powers of writing lies in it's ability to alter my perspective of reality. If the world is something that we all share, my perspective is a unique angle to the world. When I am reading someone else's work it gifts me the luxury of seeing the world from their angle, it essentially broadens my perspective.

I have always figured that the thing which we call God, Allah or Brahma would be a being who could perceive all perspectives of the world simultaneously.

Alas, let's make sure I do not get derailed by metaphysics.

As individuals, our lives seems like a linear destiny. Like rivers that briefly intersect with one another.
As individuals, our lives seems like a linear destiny. Like rivers that briefly intersect with one another.

The Minds I

I have lived my whole life as if I am looking through a camera which I call my mind. This is my personal point of view. This is what writers call the first person perspective.

The first person perspective is the most intimate perspective, but it is also the least reliable.

My mind is my most private space. Even when I am talking to someone I don't like I can retreat into my mind and judge them silently, where nobody else can hear. This unique privacy means that inside my first person perspective (that is to say, viewing the world through my mind) I get the most private and censored details of what is happening. This makes this perspective incredibly honest as I reveal to you exactly what I feel, but this also has it's limits.

When I see the world through my mind I am restricted to the information that my mind processes. I cannot see what is behind my back and I cannot hear what other people are thinking. This makes me an unreliable storyteller. I can only assume what others are thinking, and I can only guess what is the truth.

The level of my reliability depends on how honest I am, and how much you as the reader trusts me.

You can only guess what someone needs to hear in order to get the best from them, this is why leadership is such a great talent.
You can only guess what someone needs to hear in order to get the best from them, this is why leadership is such a great talent.

Getting into Your Head

To know what somebody else is thinking you would have to know them better than they know themselves. Imagine if you could visit a past version of yourself. What would you say?

You would be overwhelmed with emotion and you would sit down and tell them you know how they feel and think because you have been through everything they have been through.

You would say "You like that girl and you should go for her, because you will regret it otherwise. You should call your dad and apologize because he may not be around much longer. You need to stop criticizing your sister, it's hurting her, and your only doing it because of your own insecurities."

This type of experience would be intense for the past version of yourself. Here a person shows up and tells you what you think and its correct! This would blow your mind. It would be like someone being able to see inside your head and speak directly to your mind.

This is the second person perspective. It is the most invasive to the reader as it addresses them as if the writer can see inside their heads.

You can see that when this is correct it would be very convincing and engaging because it would seem that the narrator is talking directly to you, even talking directly to your soul. You will notice many public speakers and teachers would use this perspective.

Whereas if it is done poorly, say implying things that you don't actually think or feel, it would break the spell and you would say "this is b%"@sh*&".

So there you go reader, now I'm sure this is the best article you've ever read... but it's not finished yet.

Omniscience would be the ability  to see it all
Omniscience would be the ability to see it all

The All Seeing Eye

Sometimes the writer finds themselves telling someone else's story. Say if someone the writer loved passed away. The writer would like to write a tribute to the person.

They would write their life story like they watched it as a distant observer: "Micheal was born in 1959 and grew up a happy child."

This makes the third person narrative. This narrative can almost seem like a God who floats above in the clouds and watches over the lives of the many but never gets involved. The God one day then recollects what he has witnessed with his all seeing eye. The God can explain separate characters lives and thoughts with equal intimacy because The God has witnessed them all.

The third person narrative carries the most authority, but is the least personal.

The Immanent Deity

One day this God perspective, who could see all the characters running around separately, decided to have some fun and dive into the characters and the characters minds.

When the God saw Rachel running to the shop he zoomed inside of her mind and gave us the details of her frantic rushing first person perspective, then the God returned to the skies and hung around for a bit. The God then saw that Maria was meditating in an open park so the God flew down and began speaking to her mind. The God told her "Maria, fair play, like what you're doing here, but you left the oven on." The God then returned to the sky and allowed the story to take it's next turn.

This narration is known as the Multiple Perspective Narration, and is becoming more and more popular since major novels like Ulysses by James Joyce. It is essentially all the points of view mixed into one, and it can make for very exiting stories when used well.

The writer advises that you first learn to use each perspective separately before you mix them together, as they all have their different idiosyncrasies that are there for people to play with, and lastly: the writer would like to thank you for reading.


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    • Buildreps profile image


      3 years ago from Europe

      Interesting Hub to read how you see things from your perspective! I agree fully wit your views here. I think that it becomes easier to 'know' how someone feels and thinks when you're able to switch off continuous judgement. Let's say you become more neutral which makes it easier to crawl in another skin. Voted up!


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