“We are trained as journalists to describe action secondhand, through quotes and observation. Skilled narrative writers put the reader there and let her witness it, have the experience, feel it. That’s much more powerful than a secondhand version of reality.”
– Jack Hart
The learning objectives for this chapter are as follows:
- To better understand POV as an element of fiction as it relates to narrative journalism.
- To gain skills is using POV across multiple genres in order to impact the reader experience.
Point of view is a quirky element of fiction when applied to narrative journalism because of preconceptions. News journalism prides itself on 3rd person objective reporting where there is no hint of a narrator or author telling the story. Fiction plays around with point of view so wildly that we can have a dozen narrators in a single novel. Nonfiction does not have the same freedoms with point of view as does fiction, but thorough research and reporting can give us tremendous opportunity. It all comes down to how we craft and include our research into a piece of writing. The gold standard for nonfiction is to adhere to the facts of a story, and what our sources experience and say and feel are legitimate facts of the story (if those sources check out of course). For example, if you have an interview that reveals how a character “felt” during an event, you can recreate that scene while commenting on the feelings of the character, as that is authentic to the story.
For example, in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, he puts us in the vehicle of the two murderers as they drive to the Clutter household, and we can listen to their conversations and peer inside their minds. This is possible due to an extraordinary number of interviews with the subjects. In Random Family, Adrien Nicole LeBlanc lived on and off with her story subjects, experiencing their lives for almost ten years. When she writes what they thought and felt, she knew them intimately, and conveys those thoughts and feelings using the subject’s own words. If your story subject tells you they “felt scared,” you can write, “So and so felt scared,” and that is honest and true reporting, and yet the point of view is now from the story subject rather than you, the narrator and author of the story. These slight shifts in POV are extremely effective in storytelling, but let’s look at some student examples to see just how this element can be executed:
Point of View and Genre
- Narrative Journalism is often driven by the 1st person POV (as has been discussed at length in Chapter 5) as the journalist reflects on and recounts personal experience involving the story subject(s). While this is very effective, as Isabel Wilkerson demonstrates masterfully in both Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, and The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, as she catalogs her experiences and interactions as she conducts her research, it is not the only POV available to us. Let’s look at this student example to see what we might learn about point of view and genre:
Patrick makes some very creative and sophisticated decisions in terms of point of view, and so this example gives us plenty to explore. The introduction page begins in 1st person, as Patrick invites us into his research process as he explores the hauntings of Greenfield Village. In the fourth paragraph, Patrick introduces Macy, one of the story subjects, and yet, it is as if Macy is telling us her story. This is credit to Patrick’s incredible research and creatively with using 3rd person limited omniscient point of view (delving into the psyche of one character). In addition, you can see him moving effortlessly between these points of view. This is beauty and power of point of view when applied to narrative journalism.
- Traditional Journalism celebrates itself for its 3rd person objective reporting. The narrator (journalist) should not appear at all, and all that matters is the facts of the story. This is useful as far as POV is concerned because it is very easy to identify and to recreate. See the student example by Skyler Anderson below:
What we can learn from online queer communities
As COVID-19 restrictions turn one year old, what can we learn from communities that were organized online before the pandemic?
(Image would usually be featured in this location with caption)
Student at University of Michigan – Dearborn
March 24, 2021
Over the course of the past year, the world has been grappling with the COVID-19 Pandemic. In this time in person interactions have had to be dramatically reduced to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. With the stopping of physical interactions it is a good idea to look towards communities that are used to interacting with each other in a primarily virtual way.
LGBTQ+ communities have often found themselves primarily interacting online long before the pandemic had started. This online interaction had come about out of necessity as queer people often find themselves put into situations where they are unable to be themselves in public facing ways for one reason or another. This has led to vast and extensive online communities with meaningful relationships of many kinds being built up within them. Perhaps the world at large can learn from these communities in these troubling times.
First and foremost online queer communities show that it is possible to build meaningful and fulfilling connections with other people without ever physically meeting them. With the advent of instant messaging between people conversations can be had with people all across the globe in real time. These conversations can be through text, voice, and even video. What can be taken away from this is that non physical communication can be used for much more than just classes or jobs. They can be used to keep in touch with people you already know or even be used to meet new people. With these connections people are able to interact and discuss interests, talk about what is happening in their lives, and even create lifelong bonds with people.
In the modern era there is much more to do than just talk online. It is incredibly easy to interact with others through online multiplayer games by hopping into a call and playing a few rounds of a game with some friends in a community game night. There’s much more than action shooter games too. There are all sorts of websites where you can play internet adaptations of various board and party games. In addition, there are also ways of watching movies and shows together online seamlessly, such as through browser extensions like WatchParty or websites like caracal.
Another big way of interacting with others is through online concerts. While they gained massive popularity in the past year due to lockdown restrictions they began much earlier than that. One particular example is Coalchella, which is a yearly online edm festival that uses Minecraft as a virtual world to host the festival. While not inherently LGBTQ many acts who took part in the festival have queer members.
There is often talk of online connections being “less real” than physical relationships. Yet when the pandemic hit and the isolation and loneliness of being stuck without any physical interactions began it became clear that humans need interactions in some other way. The queer communities that have existed for years online show that there is another way of achieving this essential human interaction without ever physically being next to someone.
Skyler maintains a distance from the material, and she presents the information clearly and without any subjectivity (it doesn’t matter how the journalist feels about the content matter, as the story is prioritized). Still, it is worth mentioning that angle is still present, because Skyler has chosen what information to include in the article and what the central story of the article is (captured in the headline and lede).
- Scriptwriting and Graphica also rely heavily on 3rd person objective point of view, but in a very different way, and to a much different effect. Both forms are all about “showing,” and so there is no commentary/influence from the narrator/journalist. Unlike news journalism, however, the point of view is directly linked to meaning and theme, whereas news journalism is more interested in revealing information. This difference is useful in understanding just how a single point of view can be used and to what effect. See the student example by Skyler Anderson below, focused on the same content matter as the example above.
A Welcoming Community
by: Skyler Anderson
The set consists of 5 rooms with a door on the back wall. Each room will have lights that light up whenever a person’s message is sent. Rather than reading lines, each line will be played using text-to-speech unless otherwise stated to signify that it is a text message. Each room should have a distinct style. Nyx’s room is a punk style with deep purple lights and a trans flag on the wall. Dawn’s room is a pastel style with cyan lights with an ace flag on the wall. Jo’s room is in a country style with red lights and a lesbian flag on the wall. Aera’s room should have a celtic style with deep green lights with the rainbow flag on the wall. Sierra’s room will change with each scene.
SCENE I – NEW MEMBER
Everyone is in their room except for Sierra. Nyx and Jo will be laying on their beds on their phones, while Aera and Dawn will be at their desks. Sierra’s room should be furnished with IKEA furniture, have white lights, and no flags on the wall.
Sierra enters scene by entering room and sitting at desk.
SIERRA Hello, my name is Sierra!
JO Welcome Sierra, what brings you here?
SIERRA Well I’ve begun to question my gender identity so I wanted to join an LGBTQ server to meet some other people and understand myself more.
JO I hope you enjoy this place, it’s really friendly. What pronouns would you like us to use?
SIERRA For now any are fine.
JO Alright well I hope you enjoy it here!
NYX Sierra if you have any questions feel free to ask me!
SIERRA Thanks, I don’t have any at the moment, but everything is just really confusing for me right now.
AERA I get that, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my own identity too.
DAWN Well if you ever need anything feel free to ask, I’m always happy to help a new queer person in need!
SCENE II – VENTING
A few weeks have passed since the previous scene. Sierra’s room now has a nonbinary flag uP and the lights are yellow. The IKEA furniture still remains. Aera and Jo are not in the scene, while Sierra, Nyx, and Dawn are.
SIERRA Folks, I am really going through a lot right now and could really use some help.
NYX Aww what’s wrong Sierra?
SIERRA It’s just that I came out to my family and they are having a hard time accepting me. I’m not in any danger or anything, but they’re really not supportive of me.
NYX I’ve been there. Listen, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Your gender identity is valid and you’ll get through this.
SIERRA It’s just so hard, and it feels like people struggle with using they/them for me.
SIERRA I wish I lived in a more accepting house, in a more accepting area.
DAWN You’ll get there eventually. Just remember that we’re here for you, and will help you through this. We’re a community and we stick together through tough times.
SIERRA Thanks, I really needed to hear that.
SCENE III – GAME NIGHT
This scene takes place a few weeks later than the previous. All the actors should be at their desks. Sierra’s room is now more vibrant and has a lot of plants. The light color should still be yellow.
SIERRA What game are we playing tonight?
SIERRA ooo, What’s that?
NYX It’s a lot like pictionary, but it’s online
SIERRA Sounds fun!
DAWN It is! I’m really good at it!
JO Dawn, you lost the last three games we played :p
DAWN Shhhh I am trying to be cool
JO Try ice.
AERA Alright ready to begin?
A few rounds go by, actors should improvise actions and actually play the game for effect. Screen should be added to the stage so the audience can watch the game as it happens.
SIERRA That was really fun! We should do it again sometime!
AERA Yeah! We try to organize them on every Friday, but we fell out for a bit. Since everyone enjoys them, I’ll try to organize them a lot more.
SIERRA Alright! I really like hanging out with y’all
JO We really like hanging out with you too, I’m glad you decided to join our community. I’m sure the others think much the same.
Again, the point of view here is 3rd person objective, and yet, the effect is completely different. The focus is, of course, on the characters in the story, and while we don’t delve into the psyches of these characters, we do understand their thoughts and feelings through there words and actions. This is a credit to Skyler’s scene and character development. In this way, point of view complements all of the other elements of fiction in order to heighten the reader experience.
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