How Point of View Changes Content


A long time ago, while I was living in Japan after college, two of my best friends from school got married. In my absence, they invited my parents to serve as Pinch Guests. I got three letters describing the wedding and they could have all gone to three different weddings for all I could tell. My mother described what everyone wore (and what is tulle, anyway?). James, the best man and a musician, described the bachelor party and the music for the wedding and reception. The bride wrote about how Wonderful everything had been it was just so Wonderful it was Wonderful! I suspect she could not remember a thing that had happened. This is an example of the Rashomon Effect, which as Wikipedia tells us is “contradictory interpretations of the same event by different people…. It is named for Akira Kurosawa‘s film Rashomon, in which a crime involving four individuals is described in four mutually contradictory ways.”

We have seen this used in lots of films and TV shows, from Hero and Gone Girl to the X Files and Garfield and Friends, and often the use is to shift blame or take credit, but I think it is fun to show how two different characters see an event and choose what they focus their attention on. You walk into someone’s living room and you might notice the interior decoration, but I am going to notice the absence or presence of books and what genres the owner reads. So in theory, if I have written a scene from the point of view of an American interior decorator and I change the pov to that of a Japanese businessman, the whole scene should change.

“Rashomon Effect.” Wikipedia. 24 March 2015. Web. 19 April 2015.

7 comments on “How Point of View Changes Content

  1. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    This reminds me of the “parallax view,” which was also an interesting movie as well.


  2. Widdershins says:

    This is why we be writers … to mess with people’s heads!!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. PJS says:

    “All things exist as they are perceived, at least in relation to the percipient.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just go to a family reunion and listen to several versions of the “same” story. Yep.
    This is another reason eye-witnesses are so unreliable as to facts in a courtroom trial, even though they are convincing to the jury. However, the effect (pov) offers so many rich and inviting possibilities for the writer or storyteller!!

    Liked by 1 person

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