The character who saw too much

Picture 057Writing from the first person point of view routinely goes through periods in which it is considered amateurish. Sticking strictly with one person, revealing only what they see,  hear and feel  is suppose to simplify the story telling process. But this limited viewpoint works better for some stories. It is the viewpoint that we as humans are stuck with in real life. Attempts to use a more all-knowing view or bounce back and forth between characters at the author’s discretion is sometimes used to disguise a lack of continuity in the story line – i.e. plot holes.

Recently I was watching a mystery movie that began in an interesting manner, but soon disintegrated because there was not enough attention to the details. There were the spooky chase scenes in the fog with shadows disappearing around the corner, but then people disappeared when surrounded by crowds and nobody seem to notice when it happened. Up until the final discovery of the villain’s identity, he had to give clues to the hero (reminded me of some of the classic Batman and Riddler interactions), because only one good deductible clue had been written into the plot. To add to the emotion wringer, the hero agonized in his guilt about not catching the nasty guy rather than buckling down and look for clues that really should have existed.

Of course, this villain’s willingness to give himself away was blamed on the insane genius. In order to keep the tension going, the audience kept on getting  glimpses of him behaving in his terrorizing manner (not enough of a face for a real ID). Now, I know the hero was not suppose to have either seen nor heard these little clips of the villain. However, in the end when he closed in on the criminal, it seemed as if he had become the clairvoyant, magically deducing what occurred from the other viewpoints given to the audience.

Unfortunately, I read too many similar stories. The main character (or super genius antagonist) sees not only his or her point of view, but somehow gleans secrets revealed to the reader. In the end the narrative lacks the credibility and cohesiveness that would have been required by imposing the limitations of the first person point of view.

This entry was posted in Story structure, Teaching writing skills, Writer's resource and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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