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Article - 'Writing Perspectives' by Xanqui

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

If you're into writing, and need some ideas for a writing style, this article may be useful for you. NOTE: this article was NOT written for game makers.

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Game-makers beware! This article is not written for you, but for the new writers of this community. If you are at all interested in getting into writing, and don’t know where to begin, this article will help you get an idea of what kind of writing style you would use. This article will focus on the categories of writing styles known as perspectives. What is a perspective, you ask? It’s the point-of-view of the characters in the story. Oh right, and thanks to Dn7 for inspiring this article.

There are four perspectives that are most commonly used. There is first, second, third, and first-person narration. First-Person Narration is very similar to third person, but it’s slightly different. I’ll explain it when we get there.

Keep in mind that you should only ever use ONE of these perspectives. If you combine them, it can get very confusing. The only two that should ever be combined are first-person narration and first-person.

First Person Perspective
If you know what a First-person shooter is, then this is easy to understand. You are reading from the character’s perspective, following his every move throughout the story. The thoughts, feelings, mood, and actions of the character are all portrayed. Words like “I” and “me” are commonly used throughout the story. Here’s an example if you still don’t understand.

As I crawled through the dusty pipe, the smell of urine filled my nostrils. It felt as if I was breathing the fire of hell itself, but I had to go on. I had no other choice.

Every meticulous detail in first-person should be there. This example was bare compared to some of the better first-person writing.

Unfortunately, a lot of writers like to start out with this style. My advice to you: don’t. Unless you are writing something like “The Diaries of Me”, first-person is very difficult.

Advantages: Allows writer to give great detail on the main character, as well as allows the reader to get into the story much faster.
Disadvantages: Detail, detail, detail! Also, it prevents the reader from knowing what other characters are thinking.


Second Person Perspective
Before you read this, let me get this straight: Second Person Perspectives SUCK! I do NOT recommend this to any new writers, or anyone for that matter. English teachers would kill you if you ever turned a story like this in. Think of a game that faces towards the front of the character, and you see the character’s face the whole time, and everything behind him, and nothing in front of him. Sounds difficult and annoying, huh? It is. Here’s an example of it in story form.

As you crawled through the dusty pipe, the smell of urine fills your nostrils. You feel the fires of hell enter your lungs. But you have to go on, you have no other choice.

What? I didn’t do any of that! Why would I ever crawl through a dusty toilet pipe? (don’t answer that).

However, this does not mean you can’t use this. There IS a way to use this to where it doesn’t suck. If you’ve ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where you flip to the pages that coordinate with your choices, those are usually written in second person. If you plan to write one of these, good luck, and be careful.

Advantages: Can be used in Choose Your Own Adventure novels.
Disadvantages: Again, you can’t focus on other characters. You’re focusing on the reader, which is stupid. Don’t use this.


Third Person Perspective
You’re probably thinking right now that NONE of the perspectives are good for starting. Well, here’s one that IS good for starting. Third person is the perspective I use for all of my writing, and it is the one that I enjoy reading the most. Why? Because it allows focusing on MANY characters, instead of just one. Think of this as an RPG like Final Fantasy, where you see the character from many different views, and the game switches between characters occasionally. And now onto the example.

As Alex crawled through the dusty pipe, the smell of urine filled his nostrils. Meanwhile, Jesse waited outside, wondering if Alex would ever return. She feared for his life. But she knew that Alex had to do this. There was no other way around it.

See how it allowed me to focus on two characters? Of course, you can always focus on one character more than another. You could focus on one character the whole time, by simply replacing “I” with “he” or his name.

Third Person can be used in many different ways, and allows a lot more to be shown in a story than any other perspective. Also, it is a very good starting perspective because the writer doesn’t need to go into extreme detail of characters.

Advantages: Focus on many different characters, focus on events that don’t relate to the characters, and so much more.
Disadvantages: None (but if you think there are, then tell me what they are).


First-Person Narration
This is one you won’t see very often, but it is one of the more interesting perspectives. Think of this as a real-time strategy game, where you are the commander, and you control your soldiers. You are a character in the story, but the ones doing things are the soldiers. You’re just watching it. Here’s an example. This will be from Jesse’s perspective (the narrator), but Alex is the main character of the story.

As I waited for Alex to climb out of the pipe, I wondered if he would come out at all. I was afraid, afraid that I would lose him again.

The feelings of Jesse were portrayed, but the character doing things was Alex. As I stated earlier, First-Person and First-Person Narration are the only two perspectives that should ever be combined. They are very similar, except that the main character is different.

As for new writers, I would recommend this as much as I recommend first-person.

Advantages: Focuses on feelings of a less-important character towards the main character.
Disadvantages: Very difficult to write, as writers will often end up focusing on the narrator, rather than the main character.



The only perspective I would truly recommend that you NOT use is second. It is a stupid perspective, and should have never been introduced into the world of literature.

Now, for a little comedy, here are ALL of those perspectives combined!

As you waited for Alex to climb out of the pipe, I knew that something was wrong. He had been in there for at least ten minutes, and you were getting worried. I wanted to go in after him, but you told me not to, because he was probably stuck.

Whoa…that sounded like a crappy e-mail RP. Meh, I thought it was funny.

Don’t let this article deter you from any of the writing styles (except second). If you want to focus on a single character, go with first. But if you have a lot of main character, go with third. If there are two characters you want to focus on, First-Person Narrator might be the right thing for you. Try each one out (except second) to see what you enjoy the most.

And remember, practice makes perfect for all perspectives (except second, because it can’t be perfect. It always sucks). It has taken me four years to get where I am, but I never gave up on it. You must be truly devoted to write a novel. But for you short-story writers, it won’t take nearly as long.

If you liked this article, and found it to be helpful, please tell me. I may turn this into a series about writing styles. I am working on something new for GamingWorld for Article Writers dealing with giving the audience what it wants, but I need plenty of feedback in order for it to work.

Now…START WRITING!