Sunday, September 6, 2009

A little bird told me (some things about point-of-view)

I'm always interested in practical point-of-view (POV) questions, and I'm trying to work out what POV to use for several different stories I'm working on right now.  Good examples show up around you of you look.  I found one today.

I'm reading a new manga (Japanese graphic novel) series called Black Bird.  I have to say that I'm impressed by the author's use of restricted point-of-view. It works well here.  Really well.

It seems like a close third person.  We're with the heroine, so we see only what she is present for.  This POV works well when paired with a mysterious character. 

They were friends as children, and he had to leave ten years ago, but he promised to come back and marry her.  Awww, what a cute childhood promise.  Beautiful memories of first love. 

Ten years later, he's back.  Only he's not human, and it's obvious from pretty much everything he says and does.  Where did her beautiful memories of first love come from, and where did they go?  In between her fighting off his somewhat aggressive advances and him trying to save her from lots of other inhuman creatures trying to eat her, we learn that he's been thinking of her all the years they've been apart, and he wants to marry her yesterday.  She's not interested in marrying anybody, especially not someone who only wants her but doesn't love her.  Only he may actually love her; we just can't tell.

In this case, the love interest can only be known through what he says and does when the heroine is there.  He's not one for long, soul-searching monologues, either, so we're scratching our heads trying to figure him out from short lines of dialogue and baffling actions.  He's not a human; he doesn't think like a human.  He acts, but his motives are somewhat unknowable because they don't come from a human mindset (obvious from what we see and hear).  The only framework we have for interpreting him is the main character's experiences/memories and our experiences as humans.  It's pretty brilliant.  The author is showing us, not telling us and bludgeoning us over the head to be sure we're "getting" the character.

I'm impressed.  I want to try it.

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