Point of View and Plagiarism

I love:  patrons.  Too bad I don’t have any!  Ha!

No no, just kidding!

Portrait of Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, a patron of Beethoven’s, by Antonín Machek (1775 – 1844),. Think he’d slip me a little green to finish my novel? Come on, Ferdy….

 Image: Wikimedia Commons

 I love:  point of view.  Or POV for short.

The two most common types are first person, where the narrator is a character in the story and speaks using “I.”  The other one is third person, in which characters are referred to as “he, she, it,” etc.  Second person, or the “you” version, isn’t as prevalent, although for a while it was kind of trendy.

First person is usually limited to what the narrating character can see, hear, and is experiencing.  Sometimes the first person narrator is merely telling the reader what already happened, as in Eudora Welty’s story “Why I Live at the P.O.”  Other times, the story is unfolding as the person is telling it.

Example:

Tom and I went a little ways into the woods and spread out the blanket.  He helped me unpack the picnic basket and his fingers brushed mine.  My skin twitched all over like I’d just touched the electric fence, and my thighs trembled.   I just knew we would do it later.  My mind was already ticking off details to share with Shirley Jean later on, if we could get on the phone without our daddies hearing us.

The unreliable narrator is a version usually found in first person POV.  This narrator typically misinterprets or makes mistakes in the story that the reader finds apparent.  Toni Morrison’s Jazz has several narrators like this.

Second person is a little harder, which may be why it isn’t used as often.  If you’re not careful, it can sound rather awkward.  It tends to work best in present tense.

The morning sun slants across your pillow, and you screw your eyes shut as if to ward off its inexorability.  You feel your bones heavy like armature in the soggy papier maché of your flesh.   Your breath sucks over a tongue thickened with liquor fuzz.  You fumble for the alarm, and sit bolt upright.  9:37 a.m., its green numerals crow.  You’re late again.

Third person has different styles.  Limited third person keeps the narration firmly in the point of view of one character for the entire work.  Readers discover the other characters through their actions and the narrator’s impressions of them.

Roy tumbled into the hole, clutching at the sides.  He didn’t scream, but emitted weird squawks that drove frigid shivers up Carly’s back.  The squawks ended abruptly with the sharp, wet thud of a body on the fence spikes at the bottom. 

Her little girl didn’t ever have to know.  No one will, she thought.  The nightmare was over.   No trial, no dragging Amber through the hateful humiliation of testifying about what Roy had done.  A burst of elation exploded within her, a desire to run all the way to the hideout in Texas, where the two of them would cross the border tomorrow night. 

 Sorry, I got carried away, heh heh.

Third person omniscient tells the story through multiple characters’ points of view.  Each scene or chapter (or however the writer constructs it) is a different perspective, and equal weight may be given to them.   I like this POV because typically I end up with four main characters.   Omniscient POV gets inside everyone’s heads.

Dramatic third person, or third person objective, still has the multiple characters but doesn’t really let us in on feelings and thoughts.  It’s more removed, like watching a play.  The reader is seeing and hearing the action and dialogue only.  It’s a good way to move action scenes along, or to create contrast.

Harrison set the glass down on the table with a gentle click.  Amelia watched him, her eyes never leaving his other hand, still in his pocket.  The bulge didn’t move.   He half-turned away from her, then whipped his hand out.  Earl’s straight razor gleamed in the light.  Her mouth gaped in a soundless gasp.  The stillness of the library was not shattered by a scream, only the pattering of blood from her crimson throat. 

 We see what happens like a fly on the wall, but we aren’t told directly what Harrison and Amelia are thinking.  Although it’s pretty obvious!

I hope my examples were clear.  Doing this for blog posts is good practice for me, anyway.

——

I hate:  plagiarism.

Any artist or writer wants to be original.  It’s the height of rudeness to take someone else’s work and present it as your own.  In most academic settings, it can be grounds for expulsion from the class at least and the school at worst.

Once in a while, plagiarism is unintentional.  Most of the time, it stems from ignorance of proper citation procedures.  Other times, writers can incorporate something they recently encountered unconsciously.   The latter is much more rare, however.

Occasionally, writers are accused of plagiarism when their works use common ideas and themes.  While plots, settings and characters can be copyrighted, ideas and concepts cannot.  Nor can titles, actually.  So I could write a novel called Twilight and it could be published and have nothing to do with idiot teen sparkly vampire love.  But it’s unlikely I would get away with using Bella and Edward as character names and set my story in Forks, Washington

Now please kill me because I used Twit-light as an example.

Buffy tumblr by likeyoumeanitlikeyoudo and stfabray

3 thoughts on “Point of View and Plagiarism

  1. Nice explanation of POV! I would rather no one killed you however. Although the crime was grave, it would be a shame to miss seeing what you do next.

  2. Hi, Good to read your descriptive POV’s . I reckon maybe my story that is appearing in my AtoZ Challenge is in first person. Hopefully I am doing an okay job with it. (Come visit me and see, if you haven’t already been there :) ) I know I am having a blast doing a serialized blog – writing it as I go. Never tried writing a story that long before. Best regards to you. Ruby aka Grammy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s