The Importance of Character Perspective

Experiencing the story from a character’s perspective is one of the most valuable and critical elements of a story. It’s through the character’s eyes that every plot point plays out and seeing how they react and change during those moments is what makes a character endearing and a story memorable. The impact is only truly felt when it is described and experienced through a character that the reader has been with for the story. Not only that, but it is a crucial element of character development to see how they react to one another as well as the events of the story. Their thoughts and feelings as the story progress is what makes it far easier to understand.

But how is this perspective portrayed? How do stories convey this concept of character perspective effectively? It’s different depending on the medium of storytelling but the sake of this topic’s focus I’m going to stick to books and writing. In literature, there’s several different methods of writing perspectives that tell the story in different ways. Most of the time you’ll see books written in either third person perspective or in first person perspective. These are often the most common types of perspective as they’re easy to follow and understand and give an excellent insight into a character’s thoughts, feelings and actions. While there are other types of perspectives, part of the challenge of writing the story is that not only does it revolve around the characters and the plot, the perspective plays too important a role not to be factored in as the story is being written.

Third person perspective is probably the easiest method of writing a story as it is limited to everything that character experiences in the chapter. I say chapter as it allows for an easier time to bounce from character to character with proper transitions. It allows for an easier time to develop perspective characters as the reader is allowed to know their thoughts and feelings within that moment. A character’s inner most thoughts allow a glimpse of how they begin the story to how they view things at the end of the story. There’s many good examples of these kinds of books but I find The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan and The Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo to be good examples of books that juggle the perspectives of several characters that create compelling and intriguing stories.

First person perspective is a bit trickier as often it’s told through the perspective of only one character throughout the entire book. This creates the challenge of developing the full cast of characters through the lens of a singular character. Unlike third person perspective where the writer can bounce from character to character to give a different insight into each character’s thoughts and feelings, first person perspective requires the main character to be there to witness the development. It gets even more complicated when the perspective character isn’t the protagonist. But that being said, it allows for a bit more creativity and somewhat ease of writing as the author only really needs to worry about the perspective character’s trajectory and then worry about the supporting cast. In a third person perspective story, the author would have to consider several characters almost at once as there may be a point where perspectives shift. First person narrative allows for a more endearing and emotional attachment to the main character as the reader spends so much time with them. Skyward by Brandon Sanderson and The Shadow of the Fox series by Julie Kagawa are some of my favorite books with incredibly loveable characters.

Now these two perspectives aren’t the only ones but they are the ones that are most commonly used and arguably the safest for authors to use. The challenge in writing a story is difficult as it is but to try and use more complex and unfamiliar methods of perspective can be a very dangerous gamble. Assassin’s Creed The Ming Storm by Yan Leishengis an example of omniscient third person narrative that made what could have been a good story incredibly strange, confusing and at times frustrating to read. Omniscient refers to everything is known at all times when it happens through the story. In The Ming Storm, the perspective jumping from character to character within the same scene during the action or dialogue is incredibly confusing and takes the reader out of the moment. It was a dangerous gamble that, for the most part, failed.

Character perspective is an incredibly important and complicated challenge for authors when planning out a story. Perspective is how the reader interacts and understands the narrative being told and if that isn’t clear, it becomes a hinderance to the story. It’s safe to say that when planning out a book, it’s vital to consider the perspective as that will not only detail how the story is told but also how the reader will engage with it.

Hope this helps!

– Raphael

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