The Science of Writing: It’s a Matter of Perspective- Point of View in a Story

by Josh Beaumont

“There are always two sides to every story” is a line we’ve all heard whenever an argument is at hand. The same idea applies to stories. In fact, given the amount of characters and multitude of events a story can have, there can be many more than two sides to every story.

Suppose you’re telling a story about World War II. Are you going to view the plot through the eyes of an infantry soldier? Or are you going to get a leader’s perspective and show how they respond to the war’s developments on a far-reaching scale?

There are numerous things to consider when choosing a character’s point of view (POV) for your short story or novel, but this blog post will cover only two of those considerations. Selecting the correct character to provide the lens for the narrative is often the difference between a riveting story and a forgettable one.

Without further ado, here are two important things to consider when choosing a POV character for your story:

Is this character in the best position to witness this story?

Telling a story from the POV of the main character is a no-brainer, but in order to maximize the effectiveness of using that character’s perspective, he or she has to be in the best position to experience the most out of the events of the plot.

For example: Eddard Stark is the catalyst for nearly every event in A Game of Thrones (Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire). The king moves to make him his right-hand man, he rules over the north as Lord of Winterfell, and his actions and decisions in the book ultimately shape the rest of the series. He is in the perfect position to capture the most plot development, and to lend his perspective of what’s going on.

Can this character bring a perspective unique to any other characters in the story?

Characters who are developed enough to offer their own angles on situations are invaluable to a story’s impact on its readers. Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) provides an excellent example for this point. Through her eyes, we see from a child’s perspective the escalating race issues and the way her lawyer father deals with them. When we see the story through her eyes, the events become all the more powerful because of a child’s outlook on life. Scout brings a unique point of view to the reader, and the story is infinitely better off because of it.

The perspectives through which a writer chooses to tell a story are as important as the story itself. Conflict, character development, and resolution are only possible through the proper POV. Choosing the best possible POV helps the reader relate to and empathize with the story, its characters, and its events, which is the ultimate purpose of storytelling.

Josh Beaumont is a Professional Writing major.

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