Establish story’s point of view in opening lines
Every story has an angle or perspective from which it is told. You establish this perspective, called point of view, in a story’s opening lines. Which point of view you select deeply affects the way the story can be told.
Consider the following scene, told from an outsider's perspective, as if the narrator were looking down upon the action so that he is able to see all:
Even before the sun rose, Evod and Nevar prepared themselves for the race. Silently, they inventoried supplies, examined their craft’s hull, and unpacked Nevar’s ceremonial suit. Evod inspected each items with a drill instructor’s eye, discovering problems that really weren’t.
If the story instead were told from Nevar's perspective – so that we "hear" what he is thinking and only through his eyes know what Evod is doing – the above scene would have to be written in an entirely different way:
Nevar turned over the food pack in his hands in the pre-dawn light. Silently he examined the craft’s hull and then unpacked his ceremonial suit. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Evod staring at the control panel, fretting again about a problem that really wasn’t.
Selecting the best point of view is important because it needs to be consistent throughout the story to establish unity of effect. Without a consistent point of view, the reader can lose track of who the story is about, and dramatic tension is weakened. The story thus loses its sense of purpose, which ought to be carried through all its elements.
Editors often advise selecting the viewpoint of the character who has the most at stake, and as a general rule, it is a good guideline to follow. But point of view selection is a more sophisticated process than simply writing the story's perspective from that of the antagonist or main character. Sometimes the main character’s viewpoint is unsuitable for revealing the story’s theme. A goof example is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which is told by a friend of the main character, Jay Gatsby, a tragic man who can’t see that his hedonism and inability to move on from a past love is his fall.
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