Watch Where You're Standing: Voice and Perspective in Fiction

Improving | Fiction
Whether you're starting a novel or just feeling stuck with your writing, return to fiction's single most important question: who is telling this story – and how?

There are certain technical choices that you make when you write fiction. Usually these choices are made at the beginning, instinctively, and you don't even notice that you've made them until you realise you've made the wrong ones. And then, midway through the text, you have to change not just your mind, but the minds of your characters, in the hope of better reaching the minds of your readers.

This course examines these choices. When do you need to make them? How do you make them? What are the options available to you? How do you change your mind?

The choices, broadly, are these:

  • Who is speaking to the reader? Is it you?
  • Where is the narrator standing? What view do they have of what's happening?
  • Are there more interesting places from which you could tell this story?
  • Is there a character who can do the job for you?
  • What narrative voice should you use? First person? Third person?
  • If you use first person, will the perspective be too limited?
  • If you use third person is the perspective too diffuse?
  • Maybe you could use second person? First person plural?
  • Can you be omniscient?
  • Can you just stay out of it entirely?

These are the sorts of questions that should be on our minds as we start to write. And they stay on our minds. They involve a complicated layering of decisions which are interdependent and which can be elusive; involving character, language, intention, and of course, trial and error. This course will reflect on these choices. We'll name, and try to understand, the options open to us. We'll examine how great writers have adopted startling standpoints to create startling, memorable fiction. We'll try to deepen our own appreciation of what we can do, and how we can do it. There are no easy answers, but if we ask the right questions we may uncover new paths into our own writing.

The class will take place from 10 a.m.–1 p.m., followed by writing time in the afternoon from 2–4 p.m.

19th - 23rd July 2021

Availability: In stock

15 Places

Session 1 – Monday 19 July

The perspectives available to you are almost endless. We’ll talk about narrowing down the options while expanding the possibilities, and looking at where you stand, and where the reader stands.

Session 2 – Tuesday 20 July

Using a first person narrative voice. Easy, right? Let’s find out. It could set you free, or it could lead you into a dead end. We’ll be looking at first person narratives from which the author seems absent, and at narratives where the author seems very present indeed. And at voices which seem to dare you to believe them.

Session 3 – Wednesday 21 July

Guest Tutor

Session 4 – Thursday 22 July

The spectrum of the third person narrative voice is broad. From the distant to the uncomfortably close, we examine the places we can get the reader to stand, and examine what they’ll experience there.

Session 5 – Friday 23 July

Have you discovered a way of doing what you want to do? It’s decision time. What sort of experience do you want the reader to have? Can you tell the reader where to stand? Can you ask them to go out and come in again? Of course you can. On the final day, only one thing is certain – anything is possible.

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Keith Ridgway is from Dublin. He is the author of The Long Falling (Faber, 1998, Houghton...

"There's no point staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike - to get your creative muscles working you need to start writing, reviewing and sharing your work."

Helen Shipman