top of page

Changing your text's perspective

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

Understand what Focalization is, and how you can use it to guide the reader through your story.

Source: Unsplash

Focalization is given many names in the narrative medium, such as narrative focus, narrator type, and others. So you may already know what it is, but do you know how best to incorporate it into your writing?

Focalization is the narrator's perspective, his or her direction of the story, and this directly interferes with the way the narrative will be developed because depending on the focus that is given to a character, the reader's whole perspective about the events in the story also changes.

There are three main types of Focalization, each with its own qualities. However, it is common knowledge among many writers that certain kinds of Focalization don't work very well in specific genres of narrative, so I will elaborate a bit on each of them below:

1 - Internal Focalization

Internal Focalization is a real dive into the soul of your character when the narrator is fully aware of all his or her feelings, desires, intentions, and thoughts.

This type of focalization works both in stories narrated in the first person, when the narration comes directly from the protagonist, and leaves the reader dependent on his perspective of the facts that occur in the story, and in the third person, which allows the narrator to express what the character feels, giving a more neutral view of the facts, but this type of narrative needs the reader to feel that there is a real connection between the character and the narrator.

This type of focus is often used in autofictions, a genre that portrays stories from the character's point of view, and when well executed, can leave the reader in doubt as to whether the author of the story experienced the situation himself.

2 - External Focalization

External Focalization is very similar to the camera perspective in movies. The reader follows the facts unfolding through the external actions, without knowing what is going on in the characters' minds.

This type of focus works in the third person because for it to occur, it is necessary that there is a distance between the narrator and the character.

Because it is not possible to recognize what is going on in the characters' minds when choosing this type of focus, it is fundamental that the author knows how to express the characters' intentions and feelings through the description of their expressions and actions, so that the story does not become confusing for the reader unless your goal is to create mystery and suspense, then, this is an excellent way to make the reader not know who to trust.

3 - Omniscient Focalization

In Omniscient Focusing, the narrator knows everything. He knows each of the characters and what is going on in their heads, he knows the plot of the story, including facts that have not yet occurred, and he also understands the universe in which the story is set.

In this way, the narrator knows things that not even the characters know yet, which is why this type of focus is chosen by many authors who need to insert readers into complex universes full of details, because it is the narrator himself who can introduce the story from a neutral perspective, telling not only about each character, but the scenario that compounds the story from the beginning, involving historical, cultural and political aspects in a more natural way.

However, the disadvantage of this type of narrator is that his omniscience causes an absence of mystery, so he is not indicated for stories with police or suspense plots, after all, with this type of narrator, the reader will have all the information of the story.

"What is most important to me is that my narrator's voice is believable, and that, though it is clearly an absolute fiction, it has the emotional resonance of memoir." - Chris Bohjalian

But remember: Your narrator is not you! Your entire story goes through the narrator, so you need him to work in your favor in the composition of the story, so you need to be careful not to omit too much to the point of making the reader suspicious or by giving away important details right away, which can make your reader lose interest. To choose the best focus for your story, think about where the story is going, which characters the reader should identify with, and what feelings you want to provoke.

Write in the comments:

Which type of Focusing best suits your writing style?

bottom of page