Point of View

After last week’s disappointments, I really struggled with planning this week’s lesson on point of view. I wasn’t sure how much detail would be too much for the class. Should I just introduce first-, second-, and third-person narration? Or should I also get into third-person objective, limited, and omniscient narration? The third-person specifics seemed like a risk for a group who might not grasp the difference between first and third, yet I really wanted to share the fun of objective, limited, and omniscient. After much debate, I decided to go for the whole shebang. As always, I made handouts. I found samples. I created examples. I planned writing exercises. I bought brownie bites to share. I took a deep breath, and I jumped in. And it went great. Everyone understood all the points of view — even the sci-fi guy — and proved it through the writing they shared with the group.

First, we tackled first, second, and third person. For the first exercise, I asked the students to write a short paragraph in first person about what they did that day. Then the students paired up and interviewed each other about their day’s events. They wrote about their partner’s morning in third person, and their afternoon in second person, and then we shared the writing and talked about how it felt to use each point of view. One student automatically used present tense when writing his piece in second person, which gave me an in for talking about tense. Without my suggesting it, many of the students then took a moment to try writing in both second person and present tense, and they immediately saw how much easier the words came.

Next, I introduced the three types of third-person narration. For this exercise, I described a scenario in which a man and wife go to a restaurant, the man orders coffee, and the waitress spills it on his lap. That’s all the detail they got. I then asked the students to describe the scene in full using each type of third-person narration. And, for the most part, the students nailed it! We worked through a few hiccups, but otherwise this exercise proved to be a great way to help them understand the differences between the three types of third-person narration.

Remember the one student I mentioned in the last post who seemed engaged during the first class and disinterested during the second one? Well, last night he said, “I love this. Will there be a Creative Writing II?” I could have hugged the guy.

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