Viewpoint (Narrative Voice)

You’ve shifted to a new point of view here. Are you writing in third person limited? I wrote, and then wondered what in the heck I meant. What was wrong with shifting point of view, anyway? My reader’s ear said it was wrong, but if she was writing in that narrative trick called omniscient, she could presumably survey the world from the mind of any character in her story. Why was it not working? When is it good, acceptable, legal, to shift viewpoints, and when is it head-hopping?
I realized I knew nothing. I needed answers.

From “Seven Aspects of Viewpoint” by Mary K Swanson

This is the beginning of a six thousand word essay/paper titled Seven Aspects of Viewpoint I wrote on the troubles with narrative voice. In it, I tried to work out a better set of definitions and delineations. 

I talk about stream of consciousness, free indirect speech, dialog, and the unreliable narrator; explain what other people have had to say about narrative voice over the last one hundred plus years; and then argue why these ideas need to be revised and sharpened. 

I thought about posting the whole thing here, for want of a more appropriate forum, but it was just too long for a blog. Plus, I want to know what you think: does narrative voice, what I’m calling viewpoint, give you any trouble?

An illustration of perspective as an aspect of narrative voice from my essay, Seven Aspects of Viewpoint.

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