Before finishing up the last few sections of Rust Hill’s book I want to put a bow on the previous extended discussion of point of view. We’ve already seen that the focusing power of point of view is inevitable, and therein lies a great deal of power. Characters you choose to relate a story through will necessarily come to the fore and grow in prominence and meaning, while other characters will recede.
Just as history is written by victors, and biased as a result, stories are told by biased despots we call authors. While most authors see themselves as benevolent, the fact remains that authorship is unchecked power. To be an author is to be a god.
Whether you tell a literary story in third-person or first-person point of view, whether you focus on a single character or present various points of view concerning a central event — a la Rashomon — you alone have the power to decide what will and will not be told. Stories structured like Rashomon have unique power precisely because they force us to confront and acknowledge subjectivity in a narrative context, but they are still subjective because somebody decides what will and will not be included.
Authors get to determine who has a voice, and as in life that power is everything. If you can’t speak and there is no one to speak for you, you don’t exist. Without veering too far afield, I think it’s a useful exercise for writers to consider the points of view inherent in everything they come in contact with over the course of a day or a week. What is the point of view behind the commercials you see and hear? Behind the news? Behind the politics of the day? Who is being spoken for? Who is not being heard?
If authors have absolute power, and they do, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and it does, then authors need to be particularly vigilant about their own abuses of power. And that includes making sure that point of view is not used to limit or omit voices that ought to be present in a story. It’s hard to disprove a negative so most readers will never notice such an omission, but it will have an effect on your work, and not necessarily the effect you intend.
Whether writing for art, entertainment or both, the best authors aspire to and attain balance between the fantasy of their fiction and the truth of the human experience. If a story is about something that happens to someone, then the lens we experience that story through is point of view. Its a microscope, a telescope, a prism and a mirror, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that lens not only brings the power and poetry of your words into focus, but to life.
— Mark Barrett