Two people may see the same scene
with completely different eyes.
Here at Writerly Life I’ve talked a few times about the importance of point of view as an element of the story. It’s always true that two people may see the same moment or situation with completely different eyes; so here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re choosing what point of view to stick with in your story.
Who has access to the real conflict?
The first question to ask yourself is whether your character has the correct amount of access. Stories are about conflict — so have you chosen the character who actually is able to see the conflict and comment on it? To see a political conflict from the perspective of the politician’s four-year-old son, for example, won’t capture the sophisticated power struggles at play. On the other hand, writing from the point of view of the parent who is never home won’t work if all the drama is happening at home. You must choose a character who is able to see everything that the reader must see in the course of the story.
Who is in a position to change the story?
The second thing to remember is that it won’t do any good if your character can see everything but can’t do anything about it. Stories run on choice and change; they cannot be passive observation only. Be sure to choose to write from the point of view of a character who has the power to actually change things in the story and have a choice. While there may be many victims in the story, if they are powerless than it is not really their story that you are telling. You’ve got the find the character who sees these victims and makes a choice to do something about it, or else fails to do something about it.
Stick with it?
I began this post by telling you to stick with a point of view, but there are, of course, many situations when changing up the point of view is appropriate. This is more true in novels than in stories, where there’s more room to develop multiple characters. But changing the point of view at a crucial moment can add greatly to the development of your plot. It can add to mystery and suspense, or give us the final revelation the story needs. So if something is being held back in the course of your story, consider saving a switch to a more enlightened point of view for the very end. It’ll be the final punch of emotion that your reader needs.