How important is the point of view (POV) to a story? How important is the tense? My answer? Very.
We all know how much it can affect the immediacy of a story, the reader experiences and the closeness of character to the reader, but I would go even further to say that it will shape the authors words.
Writing to me is a fluid process. I write often without an outline, but connect the words and images and thoughts together as I go along. This can lead to trouble.
When I write and know I could do better, that I have ruined the story in some way because it isn’t as true on paper as it is in my head, I know I have forgotten to consider the two simple – or not so simple – literary elements: POV and Tense.
Below are four versions of two sentences, each with different variations of Tense and POV.
Glowing deeply, within the black reflection of the screen, the light begins to haunt her. Looking further into the distortion she wanders into a future shaped by the past.
The light glowed deeply, within the black reflection of the screen, as it began to haunt her. She then looked further into its distortion and wandered into a future shaped by the past.
Glowing deeply, within the black reflection of the screen, the light begins to haunt me. Looking further into its distortion I find myself wandering into a future shaped by my past.
The light glowed deeply, within the black reflection of the screen, as it haunted me. So, I looked further into the distortion, wandering into a future shaped by my past.
Writing the sentences above proved to be a great exercise. I could feel myself straining to keep them confined into almost identical sentences. All I wanted to do was let loose and let the chosen tense and POV carry me away.
The first variation, present tense third person, I could see an almost Alice in Wonderland story blossoming.
With the second variation (past tense third person) I could see a shattered piece of constant flashbacks and forwards as the character contemplates life in an almost science fiction world.
For the third variation (present tense, first person) I picture a narrative driven story with a down to earth character just trying to live out her day to day.
With the fourth variation (past tense first person) I see a character driven to meet her future while trying her best to not let her past affect it.
It’s crazy how the seemingly simple modes of narration can effect the author’s perceptions just as much as the readers. Now to figure out which direction I would like to go in.
Tune in next time when I discuss the difference of female and male perspective! Just kidding, I dislike gender stereotyping.