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Creating Narratives (3/5): Perspective

This entry focuses on narrative perspective. It is the third entry of a five-part series.

Narrative perspective considers whose point of view the story is told from, rather than who's telling the story.

Narrative perspective should not be confused with narrative voice, narrative style or narrative structure. For definitions of these, see part one by clicking here.


Consider the role of perspective in the following example:

George was a clever kid at school who found it difficult to socialise with others. Many teachers, particularly his maths teachers, deemed him ill behaved and rambunctious, but, really, he just found studying really hard. Whatever trouble he found himself in at school, though, I never once had a problem with him; I always thought he was a wonderful friend.

Note in the above example how we are presented several perspectives: George's perspective, then that of his teachers, and then, finally, that of the narrator.

However, it’s also worth noting that the narrative voices [see part one] also change, from exclusively second-person singular to second-person plural, and then to first-person. Various narrative voices can be used in one text to achieve a change in perspective, but a change in narrative voice doesn’t always affect the point of view we are presented — and this is where narrative voice and narrative perspective differ.

Let’s consider another example…

You saw me in the corner of your eye. I startled you. And when you turned to look at me, I was no longer there. You tried to remain calm, but as time went on, and as the noises in the room next door grew louder and louder, you couldn’t resist but to pick up the phone and call me.

Notice in this example that the narrative voice changes from second-person to first-person and back again but that the narrative perspective is consistent throughout. This is because the narrator is not presenting their own experiences, feelings or opinions — i.e. their own perspective. The narrator is presenting themselves as the object, not the subject, and so the perspective remains, in this case, on the addressee, ‘you’; the narrator is seen through ‘your’ eyes, not the other way around.

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