Sunday, January 9, 2011

Point of View - Choosing Your Narrative Perspective and Scope

In science fiction, the point of view (POV) of your narrator determines a great deal about how you convey facts and events to the reader.

This is particularly important for science fiction because we are limited to the narrator's own level of knowledge.  If, for example, the narrator is one of the characters in the story, then only information from that character's own knowledge can be included in the narrative - everything else must be introduced through dialogue.  And this can be very useful in developing the tension in a story.  One common technique is to tell the story from the the point of view of a complete newcomer to the fantastic place.  LeGuin does this with the Genly Ai character in The Left Hand of Darkness.  As a newcomer to the planet Gethe/Winter, Ai is able to tell us about the strangeness of the place in terms we'd understand.  More importantly, he realizes which aspects of Gethen culture we would find strange.  Other chapters in the book also include reports from previous surveyors - their objective analysis of hermaphrodite culture simply couldn't be given by a character who grew up understanding kemer as simply the way life.

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