Point Of View

How does Dramatica define point-of-view (POV)?

I'm trying to integrate my understanding of traditional point of view concepts (e.g. first person, third person etc) and dramatica's four throughlines. If I'm writing in two first person's povs (Main Character and Impact Character), how do I get the Overall Story throughline and the Relationship (MC/IC) throughline across? Asked differently, can I write all four throughlines from the eyes of one character, say the Main Character?

The throughline perspectives are completely different than “voice” which tells the story (first person, third person, etc.). For example, let’s look at the fairy tale, “Little Red Riding Hood.” I’ll have to add a bit of material because the tradition version of the story is almost all Overall Story material, material developed from the objective, external, “big picture” perspective.

Overall Story: A young girl sets out to bring a basket of goodies to her grandmother. On her way through the forest, she meets with a wolf who convinces her to take another path with the promise that it is a shortcut. In fact, it is a longer path that delays the girl’s arrival at her grandmother’s house. In the extra time it took the girl to get there, the wolf was able to get to the house first, eat her grandmother, and then dress as the grandmother in order to fool the girl to get close enough to eat. The girl notices that “grandmother” doesn’t look the same but is too late and it eaten. A passing hunter notices and chops the wolf in two, rescuing the girl and her grandmother, who were eaten whole.

Main Character: Little Red Riding Hood is an overly confident twelve-year old girl who gets into trouble because she is impulsive and overly trusting. Her credibility, and often safety, are undermined by her flights of romanticism and fantasy.

Influence Character: The Wolf is a vicious, yet charming, man-eater that has seen the game in the forest disappearing due to human hunting. He is hungry and growing desperate.

Relationship throughline: The cat and mouse nature of the relationship between The Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood has The Wolf pretending to be another Traveler in the forest in order to fool and mislead LRRH. He manipulates her to take a longer path, promising that it is shorter, etc. and later impersonates her grandmother in order to lure LRRH close enough to eat.

As you can see, the four throughlines emphasize different aspects of the story. The Overall Story shows the “big picture.” The Main Character shows the personal perspective. The Influence Character shows an alternative, and challenging perspective to that of the Main Character. And the relationship shows the passionate counterpoint to the dispassionate view of the Overall Story. The “point of view” used in telling a story, or what I like to call the writer’s voice, let’s the writer describe the four throughlines as if they were from different perspectives, but are not limited to the views available to those perspectives. Here are some examples:

  • FROM THE THIRD PERSON VOICE: Once upon a time there was a little girl named Little Red Riding Hood who was on her way through the forest when she met a wily wolf at a crossroads. Little Red Riding Hood thought the Wolf was charming. The wolf thought Red smelled delicious and was going to eat her when he found out she was on her way to her grandmother’s house. He thought two meals was better than one, so he tricked Little Red Riding Hood into taking the long way to grandma’s house.
  • FROM THE FIRST PERSON VOICE: I was skipping along the path through the forest on my way to grandmother’s house when a HUGE, handsome but strange-looking man stepped in front of me. He had a big smile with very white teeth. What I didn’t know at the time was that he was really a nasty wolf dressed to look like a rich man, but I digress. I found the man very charming and helpful and briefly fantasized having a romantic dinner and running my fingers through his hair. After I told him where I was going, he pointed me toward a short cut that should save me lots of time. If I’d been paying a little more attention, I should have noticed the way he drooled as he looked at me, like he wanted to ravish me on the spot, or worse.
  • FROM THE SECOND PERSON VOICE: You were skipping along the path completely unaware of the danger you were in. You didn’t see the Wolf until you’d practically run into him. If you’d known he was a wolf, not a Wolf, you would have run screaming. But this Wolf charmed you instantly. You told him you were going to grandmother’s house, but you could hardly hide your attraction to him. His hunger for you was equally obvious, but the promise of having you AND your grandmother gave him an idea. He convinced you to take another path, “A short cut to grandmother’s house,” he said. And so you took it.

There are elements from all four throughline in each of the three examples. That is the difference between the Dramatica perspectives and the traditional point of view. For novels, use whichever point of view (voice) you want while telling your story. If you ever write a screenplay, scripts are always told in Third Person, present tense.

How can I illustrate the Influence Character from a first person point-of-view?

I've gone through the entire process for one story and am ready to write it. But I want to write the novel in a first-person point-of-view (from the Main Character/Protagonist's POV). With this POV, I don't see how I can present the Influence Character's throughline. It is how the audience would view the Influence Character; yet, the storytelling is colored always by the Main Character's POV. The Main Character's story line and the Relationship Story throughline are easy. The Objective Story throughline is working (although somewhat colored by the MC's POV, too.)

Concerning your question about the Influence Character POV in a predominantly Main Character (first person) story, there are several points to consider. The first and foremost is the relationship between the MC and the IC (the Relationship Story Throughline). The MC has a perspective (world view) that comes into conflict with the world around him/her. The IC is defined by his or her alternative perspective (or world view), and by how that alternative impacts the MC. One of the two perspectives, the MC's or the IC's, will make better sense and have a better feel than the other. Ultimately, one perspective will give way to the other (for better or worse).

It is easy to illustrate the alternate world view, even from the first person narrative form. For example, Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby is the Influence Character to the MC and narrator, Nick Carraway. Nick Carraway was raised to be tolerant of other's moral shortcomings. By his presence, Jay Gatsby forces Nick to reconsider this long held belief. Ultimately, to quote our story analysis, "The events that occurred in the summer of '22, however, gave him an aversion to the ways of the corrupt and dissolute, and his essential nature changed."

The Narrator

The narrator's "voice"--no matter which character "vocalizes" it--is that of the author. This means that a narrator, by definition, is not part of the story while they are narrating. So, if the narrator says, "A long time ago in a land far away..." it is not the Character speaking, but the author talking ABOUT the story, not speaking from within the story. (By Story, I mean a Grand Argument Story, not the type of "work" in which it is expressed, such as novel, screenplay, ballad, etc.)

Voice vs. Perspective

So now let's talk about the writer's use of voice (first person, second person, etc.) versus the four perspectives in a grand argument story.

An author can choose to tell a grand argument story using only one writer's voice, or several.

Let's use the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH) as an example. Specifically, let's examine the event where LRRH first meets the wolf.

What are the four throughlines?

  • Main Character: Little Red Riding Hood
  • Influence Character: Wolf
  • Overall Story: LRRH is taking goodies to her ailing Grandmother when she is waylayed by a wolf.
  • Relationship Story Throughline: Predator/Prey

Now let's describe all four throughlines using the First Person writer's voice:

MC: "I was skipping along through the forest when a big, black wolf jumped out from behind a tree and blocked my path. I was so startled, I almost dropped my basket of goodies! Boy, was he a good-looking wolf."

IC: "I could see that you liked me by your staring glaze and crooked smile. You wanted more from me than what was in my basket. My mother had warned me about wolves like you."

OS: "What I didn't see was that there was a hunter with a big ax that was searching the forest for the wolf. It seems that the wolf had killed several of his sheep the night before. The wolf knew the hunter was nearby and that made him very nervous."

MC/IC: "The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that the wolf and I had a lot in common. We were both alone together on a desolate forest path, looking for companionship. Sure, he might see me as a tasty morsel, but who says he so safe from he? You know, I think we might make quite a pair...given the right circumstances."

So, for the little examples above, you can see that the four throughlines can be expressed from the first person perspective. In the MC example, the narrator expresses personal (I) observations and feelings. In the IC example, the narrator expresses what the Wolf thinks and feels, and more particularly how the Wolf impacts the MC. In the OS example, the narrator describes events that she could not possible see as LRRH. That's what is meant by the "big picture." In the Relationship Story example, the narrator describes the relationship between LRRH and the Wolf.

You could choose to express the throughlines exclusively in the first person voice, such as the examples above, or you may choose to express them using different voices. Using multiple voices is much trickier because it can be jarring to the reading experience for the audience, but it is a completely viable alternate to the more common "one work--one writer's voice" practice. You may also use the second person voice and third person voice (more traditional) to tell your story.