Thursday, 19 November 2015

Your Point Is? By Anne Stormont

Make sure your readers get the whole picture, give them a leg up and point them in the right direction...

I see things differently from my husband. I don't mean we have major disagreements or irreconcilable differences. But as I'm only five feet tall , and he's six foot two, we do differ in how we perceive the physical world. In our youth, when attending rock concerts or rugby internationals (before stadiums were all-seated) I would perch on his shoulders in order to see the show or the match.

More recently we were on a road trip and we stopped at a designated lookout to take in some stunning mountain scenery. My husband took some photos. Later when looking at the photos, I was surprised to see not only the mountain range, but a lake situated at the foot of it. I hadn't seen any lake when we'd stopped at the viewpoint. The trees at the foot of the slope, in the foreground above the lake, had obscured my view. Whereas my husband could see it no bother. Two people at the same viewpoint came away with two quite different points of view.

This interaction between viewpoint and point of view in the real 'out there' world can also apply to the internal world of the mind when a reader processes the written word. And it's something writers should bear in mind as they write. Writers are communicators after all and we want to convey the whole picture, not just give a partial view.

Any author who's ever had their work reviewed by several reviewers will have found that the point of view arrived at by readers can vary widely regardless of how unambiguous the author thinks they were in their presentation.

A writer presents their story, article, feature or review from a viewpoint, from a particular stance, at a particular angle, and that will have a big influence on the opinion or point of view formed by the reader. We  need to take our readers to the viewpoint, take them to the source of our story, poem or article, hoist them up onto our shoulders if necessary, and ensure they can see the lake beyond the trees.

There is, of course, another even more subtle tweak that authors of fiction can give to viewpoint and that is in deciding who will tell the story.  It can be a first person, third person or even a second person narrator. And let's not forget the omniscient narrator, who is not present in the story at all, but has access to all the action and thoughts of all the characters. That choice of narrator is one of the most crucial that an author has to make. And having made the decision we must then be consistent and remain true to that narrator's view. Each type of narrator carries its own implications as to viewpoint and  point of view for both the characters and the readers.

So, there's a lot going on with point of view. It's both subtle and complex. It has both cause and effect within it. Understanding it is crucial if your writing is going to be effective. And that's true for all genres.

For readers, when forming an opinion about what they've read, a lot will of course depend on their own experiences and prejudices, but what's crucial for authors to do is give a clear and unobstructed view of what it is they're presenting in written form. 

Words are an author's currency, but get viewpoint and point of view wrong and that currency becomes worthless.

Postscript:

While writing this article, the most recent awful events in Paris and Beirut have taken place.
And my awareness of the implications of viewpoint has therefore been heightened. I believe there's a responsibility upon writers to choose our words carefully and deliver them in as honest and clear a way as possible.

The deeply felt reactions to these ghastly happenings have been expressed both verbally and in writing, on TV, radio and in the newspapers. But nowhere more so than on social media. Social media has made writers of us all of course, but I think there's an onus on those of us who call ourselves professional writers to be careful, considered and calm in all our posts, articles, poems and stories.

Yes, we should write with passion and feeling, yes we should express our opinions and give our own point of view. However, we must be mindful of and transparent about where we are coming from. We shouldn't deliberately obscure or distort what can be deduced from our viewpoint.
We should be both true to ourselves, but also honest towards our readers.

Words are powerful .Writers can be a force for good or bad. We can affect another's point of view. We can provoke thought and action. The pen can truly be mightier than the sword.

So, whether we write newspaper articles, biographies, poems, short stories, crime fiction, historical fiction, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, literary fiction, children's books, cookbooks... Whatever! We can offer enlightenment, entertainment, solace, or challenge. Please let our points of view be a force for good, for the furtherance of liberty, equality and brother-and-sisterhood.

In the words of Martin Luther King 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.'

So let all of us who are writers in whatever format or genre treat our words as candles; candles that illuminate our viewpoints and the points of view of our readers.

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Anne Stormont is an author-publisher. She can be a subversive old bat but maintains a kind heart. As well as writing for this fine organ, she writes fiction for adults – mainly of the female-of-a-certain-age persuasion – and for children, when she goes by the name of her alter-ego, Anne McAlpine. She blogs at http://putitinwriting.me  – where you can find out lots more about her.

Websites at: annestormont.co.uk  and annemcalpine.co.uk


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