Modified Objective Viewpoint

One way to achieve more intimacy is through modified objective viewpoint. In modified objective viewpoint, the narrator does not claim to know the character's inner workings, but makes guesses about them. Sometimes the guesses prove wrong, resulting in what has been called an "unreliable narrator." In other words, in modified objective viewpoint the narrator describes honestly what is going on, what any sensible observer would see, and draws the same conclusions as the reader would. As long as the author does not cheat the reader, it's okay. But an unreliable narrator who is lying, or who is not telling all he should, is not an acceptable narrator to most readers.

Here's an example of modified objective viewpoint with an unreliable narrator who is not cheating:

Phoebe awoke that morning snarling. She had had a fitful sleep. Maybe she was having bad dreams about Charlie. Maybe she'd caught a cold. Nobody really knows. It was found out later she drove the old Chevy pickup into town that day and bought a used .38 Colt single-action and a box of shells for eighteen dollars. The clerk said she had a strange look in her eyes, full of hate. What thoughts must have gone through her head as she drove out to the old Tucker place. Images of her husband in bed with another woman flashed through her mind like lightning bolts, perhaps. She must have thought: I'm gonna kill that bitch! Then, as she came through the door in a cold, blind rage, she pointed the Colt at the two of them, pulling the trigger over and over again . . .

Even though the viewpoint is objective, the reader feels more intimacy with the character because the narrator has created the illusion of a subjective viewpoint. The narrator is not claiming he actually knows what goes on in the character's mind, but is only making assumptions. The viewpoint is objective because the narrator is viewing the character from the outside, giving no true report of subjective states.

The other common narrative viewpoints are all subjective, which means the narrator has access to the interior mental and emotional states of at least one character.

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  • leo
    What is modified storytelling?
    8 years ago

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