Who’s Telling the Story, Anyway?
When I started writing fiction I was almost solely dependent on the omniscient third person narrator. It’s become the de facto standard for most fiction because it unobtrusive and…well, because it’s easy. Easy is just a euphemism because no writing is easy, but of all available points of view it is the easiest to write. But in the ensuing years I’ve become enamored of some of the more entertaining points of view.
To be sure, the dispassionate third person POV has a strong place in fiction. In fact in the modern age one could argue that it’s hold on fiction is stronger than ever, because it’s the closest POV to what’s on TV—with no voice between the action and the reader.
But think about the answer to this question. When you listen to someone tell a story—a friend, a coworker, a comedian…—how much does the narrator matter? Is the story the same no matter who tells it? Of course it isn’t.
But if you decide to ditch the bland third person POV, you still have some strong choices.
Lively Third Person: This POV is still in the third person, it’s still someone not involved telling the story, but instead of a dispassionate retelling of events, the narrator brings some personality—some flash—to the story. While not limited to humorous fiction, many comic fiction writers have used this POV to great effect. In fact this one is a natural for humor because we’re used to hearing comedians tell stories.
First Person: In recent years this one has become a personal favorite. But it’s biggest plus is also it’s biggest minus—you have to get to know one character better than you have to know your other characters. You can’t just know the narrator well enough to write him into a few scenes. You have to be able to get into the character’s head for the entire story, bring his attitude, humor, fears, vocabulary to the narrative. If your have a strong, engaging character for your narrator it will solidify your story, but if you don’t know your character well enough, or if your character doesn’t measure up, your story will fall flat.
For many stories there won’t be just one right POV for your story, but choosing an engaging character to tell your story can certainly add a little zing to your story.