WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: WHO ON EARTH IS TALKING? (part 9)

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

As you write your children’s story a certain question (one of many) will pop into your head; who is narrating the story? Of course you are the writer, you are putting the prose on paper, but whose words are you using? From whose perspective are you telling Johnnie Rabbit’s story? The literary community call the perspective of a story the point of view, and it is so powerful it can make or break your story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let us review your process and your story thus far:

You had a brilliant idea to write a children’s picture book about the adorable Johnnie Rabbit. You did an inordinate amount of background work–you researched rabbits and the market for books about them and similar animals by reading tons of books, you plotted out your story, you built character bibles for Johnnie and his supporting characters, you determined where and when the story takes place–the setting, you added the occasional dialogue between characters, and you strengthened your prose by incorporating the senses. Yet a nagging question persists; who is telling the story?

Point of View (POV)

All stories are told from a perspective–a vantage point as some writers describe it. This perspective is the point of view which indicates who is doing the narration. Point of view is a subtle and complex concept. It does not necessarily rely on first, second of third person narration, but depends on whose “head” the narrator is in when he/she tells the story. For example, you write, “Johnnie hopped over the fence onto Farmer Jones’ property as if he owned it.” Who determined that Johnnie hopped over the fence in such a manner? Maybe if Johnnie told the story we would hear him say that he was really scared and apprehensive when he did the hopping. The narrator tells us how Johnnie hopped based on her perspective. As a result, the narrator will be limited to what she sees, hears, and knows.

First, Second and Third Person Point of Views

Articulating your story from a first-person point of view involves the writer narrating the story usually as the main character by using the pronoun I. This means that she tells the story through her own point of view. This kind of narration is limited since the writer cannot go into the “heads” of other characters to know their thoughts. Children’s stories are rarely ever told using the first-person.

The second-person point of view is rare in any type of fiction. It entails the characters being referred to as you. Using a second-person narrative is difficult for adults, therefore it is never used in children’s books.

The third-person point of view involves the writer narrating the story through a certain perspective and using the pronouns she, he or they. There are variations to third-person POV such as limited, omniscient, and limited omniscient. Writing in the third-person omniscient, gives you the opportunity to play God, since you see, hear and know everything about all the characters, however, this type of writing can be onerous. The third-person limited POV is one in which the narrator knows much more about the other characters than a first-person narrator, however, she does not know everything. Most children’s books are written using this point of view.

It is important to be consistent in your prose; in other words, do not jump from one “head” to another! A good way to determine which point of view to use in your stories is to try them out by writing drafts in each category. Select the one that you are most comfortable with.

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