Point Of View

When crafting narration, it's important to choose the point of view from which to tell the story, for example:

• First-person narration is when the narrator speaks of him-or herself. I needed to find out. This point of view is generally limited to what the narrator knows at a given point in the story.

• Second-person narration may be found more often in print than on screen. It has the narrator addressing the audience as "you," as in He asks if you want a soda, and you say yes.

• Third-person omniscient is the most commonly used form of narration; it is written using "he" or "she," and the narrator can slip in and out of anyone's thoughts or actions. For example, The mayor was well aware of Smith's plans. And from his campaign headquarters, Smith knew that the mayor's response, when it came, would be fierce. Most often, this narration is described as "objective," meaning that it is limited to factual information that can be observed or verified. However, as discussed in the first chapter, it still has a point of view, no matter how balanced or neutral it seeks to be.

• Third-person subjective uses the "he" or "she" form, but is limited to the same point of view as first-person narration. In other words, I might describe the writing of this chapter as She sits at her desk and types, wondering if she'll meet her deadline.

Beyond the narrator's point of view, there is also a point of view in the words being spoken. Even if you've chosen an omniscient narrator, you want to be careful not to jump back and forth between points of view, but instead situate the viewer. For example, if you begin to narrate a Revolutionary War battle from the point of view of the advancing British, you don't want to suddenly switch to the American side without signaling to the audience that you've done so. In other words, the following (imagined) scene is confusing: British forces prepared their charge as the Americans assembled near Boone Hill. General Washington ordered his men, a ragtag group of 300, to stand firm. The soldiers advanced, a force of nearly 2,000 in territory that offered little resistance.

Told from the American point of view, the scene might go like this: The Americans were assembled near Boone Hill when they got word that British forces were advancing. General Washington ordered his men, a ragtag group of 300, to stand firm, as nearly 2,000 British soldiers advanced toward them.

From the British point of view, it might go this way: British forces prepared to charge on the Americans who were assembled nearby. A force of nearly 2,000 men, they had little difficulty with the terrain as they approached Boone Hill, where General Washington was waiting with a rag-tag force of about 300.

Obviously, your writing should fit the visuals. But it's very easy in a case like this to quickly lose track of who's fighting whom, who's advancing where. One way to help, as the filmmaker, is to maintain a consistent point of view.

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