Sunday, August 17, 2008

Still More on Point of View

How do you teach young writers about point of view?

In one of last year's workshop sessions that I led at our local library, I explained to a handful of young writers that point of view is simply the way each of us sees the world... and that each of us has a view of the world unlike anyone else's.

To explore this idea, I asked the children to sit in a circle.

"What do you see?" I asked.

Then we spun around so our backs faced into the circle, and I asked once again what they saw.

After each young writer described a part of the room that only he or she could see, I asked them to lay down on the floor (in a circle, heads toward the center) and gaze up at the ceiling and describe what they saw.

And then, after we got up, I asked them to find a place in the room where they felt they could get the best view.

Some crawled under the tables, a few hid behind a cabinet, a boy stood on a chair.

They loved it!

"I can't believe this is a writing class!" said one girl.

It was a great way to introduce these young writers to the idea of point of view, and it led to an interesting discussion about how writers select different points of view as ways of drawing readers into the story.

Best of all, I think the exercise revealed how each point of view is limited in its ability to tell only part of a story.

The writing exercises came next.

I handed out copies of two stories that I'd cut out of the newspaper. Both stories were about dogs... one about a dog who had wandered from Tampa to Chicago after a hurricane, the other about two Yorkshire puppies stolen from a pet store.

We read the stories together, and then I asked the children to identify the various points of view from which the stories might be told, encouraging them to imagine a point of view that might not have been mentioned.

One girl imagined the story told from the point of view of a flea on the dog wandering from Tampa to Chicago.

Another imagined the story from the point of view of the dog's water dish... missing the dog.

And then I asked them to write their own version of the story... using the point of view that they liked best.

What about you? Do you have a favorite point of view? How do you select a point of view for your story? And once you've selected a point of view, how do you go deeper into it?

Let us know when you get the chance.

For more point of view exercises, visit:

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