Thursday, June 21, 2018

What's Your Protagonist's Point Of View?

You have a great idea for a story. You have your story's point. You have a fully formed protagonist in your head; she is a living, breathing human being. Now you're ready to write your opening sentence

Whoa. Slow down there, Hemingway.

Have you asked yourself one important question? 

What question is that?

What is your protagonist's point of view?

I'm not talking about whether you're going to tell your story in first or third person limited point of view. I'm talking about how your protagonist views herself--and her world.

One monumental fact you need to know about your heroine is that she has a unique and subjective point of view. We as humans all have a subjective point of view based upon what our life experiences have taught us. Your heroine, like everyone else, will interpret everything she encounters through the lens of her unique point of view. 

For example, your protagonist is hanging out with a friend, and a certain song starts playing on the stereo.  The friend raves about how much she loves it. It was the song that played when she kissed her husband for the first time. That particular song evokes pleasant memories in the mind of the friend.

But the protagonist covers her ears and runs out of the room crying. The friend sits there bewildered, wondering what she did to upset her friend so badly.

What the friend doesn't know is that the very same song was playing on a portable transistor radio the day the protagonist's father walked out on her family.  Whenever the protagonist hears the song in question, it causes unbearable heartache. 

That's the protagonist's subjective point of view hard at work.

So, what's your protagonist's point of view? How do you determine this important story-specific element?

Your protagonist's point of view, or any other major character's point of view, comes primarily from one thing. It comes from her specific longstanding misbelief. This misbelief will have significant influence on your protagonist. It continually shapes her point of view throughout her entire life.

Let's say, for example, that your protagonist's sister promised your protagonist a trip to the zoo, but for a long time, didn't make good on it.  Finally, the sister agrees to actually take her to the zoo. 

On the day they are supposed to go, your protagonist approaches her sister with jubilation about the trip.  But the sister drops ten megatons of disappointment on her. The sister refuses to take her.  Crushed, your protagonist bawls on the spot. The sister goes on to say that she would never take such a snotty little brat as her anywhere--not even to a rock fight, much less the zoo.

With tears in her eyes and a shattered heart, your protagonist retreats to her bedroom and flings herself on the bed. She builds a wall around herself, to shut everyone out. Through that emotionally traumatic experience, she reasons that people will only hurt her--especially those she loves. Her sister certainly did.

The protagonist develops the subjective point of view that people never keep their promises. Then, for the rest of her life, she approaches relationships with an inherent distrust toward others. 

You can probably see how much damage her distorted point of view will cause the protagonist. That's the point.

In my young adult novel, From Bad Girl To Worse, my protagonist, Sandra Porter holds the subjective point of view that she just can't do anything right. How did she develop such a subjective and destructive point of view?

First, when Sandra was fourteen years old, she burned cookies in her Home Economics class. Her teacher scolded her, saying that she would never have a happy home or a good husband because she couldn't bake.

Then, when Sandra was sixteen years old, she cooked something for dinner that her drunk father didn't like. He flew into a rage and threatened to beat her.  Sandra kicked him out of the house. Her mother went crazy with grief when her father left.

Sandra blamed herself for destroying the family. Over time, her misbelief evolved into the subjective point of view that she couldn't do anything right--especially maintain relationships.

In order for you to pinpoint exactly what your protagonist's point of view will be, you need to craft a compelling longstanding misbelief for her. It will also help to craft three more misbelief deepening scenes, that continue to shape her subjective point of view to the point where she can't see anything clearly. She sees everything through the lens of her distorted misbelief.

Determining a compelling subjective point of view for your protagonist is a key element in crafting a story that will captivate your readers. They will lose themselves in your riveting tale as they experience all of the emotional ups and downs that your heroine experiences

Happy Writing,

L. R. Farren

P. S. - Everyone has a subjective point of view based upon their own longstanding misbelief, yet they believe their way of seeing the world is right. This includes you.


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