Don’t Fall for a Point of View Gimmick

Point of view.

Joy, another gimmick turned to rubbish by fakes, rakes, and automobiles.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Hi—

should i write a story from the viewpoint of a dog?

i like the new perspective and i want to explore

this.

—lacy alaine renard, decatur, alabama

I’m at a crossroads of a loss. Do we deconstruct this godawful attempt at an e.e. cummings impression, or strike at the heart of an already hackneyed approach? May I use your email for next week’s diatribe? Thanks.

To shoot down your simple inquiry: don’t. I can count on one calculator the number of stories written from a dog’s point of view. I can count on one hand the number of those that are good. And only after that hand’s gripped a detonating M-80.

Might as well flush the toilet and funnel through the many drain pipes that such gimmickry leads to.

Viewpoint of a three-toed sloth:

“The hunter trekked through this lonely tangle of forest, chasing after—wait, I cannot see him now. Maybe he’ll come back. Look. There sprouts more algae upon my back. I have spent six hours moving my arm to reach the algae I noticed yesterday.”

Viewpoint of a goldfish:

“He paced rapidly, kicking a shoe about with a cuss or two following. Hates his job. Why does he hate it? I’m not sure. He’s kicking that shoe now, cussing for some reason. He says he hates his job. That’s sad. I feel sad. Now I see him kicking his shoe, but he stopped. He hates his job? Since when?”

Viewpoint of a fly on the wall:

“Hard to tell why she pulled him in here. The lights were dimmed. Pregnant? But how? My compound eyes would have welled right now, but I don’t cry over these things. I’ll be dead next month, so I couldn’t tell you what’s to become of her child.”

Viewpoint of a giant squid:

“The camera floated down to cut a wedge of light through the debris, plankton, effluent of those in the higher waters. They don’t love me, these sick voyeurs. I’d cast a tentacle of spite, but then they’d—WHALE!—

Unless you’re going all-out, keep it simple when it comes to point of view. Keep it safe. Keep it sound. Keep people reading.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

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2 comments

  1. I agree for the most part. If you want to do a creature point of view, it’s probably best to stick with ones that are already known for their intelligence (it’s much easier to believe a cat narrator than a jellyfish), but you also better understand that your story will forever be relegated to cheesy children’s fiction. And even then, thinking on it it seems most animal fantasy is still in third person anyway.

    I, however, would totally read a book narrated by a giant squid, at least if it was the kind that destroyed ships and stuff.

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