The Point of Point of View: Developing Your Ideas, Part II

COLUMBIA, SC - AUGUST 10: A young man plays an acoustic guitar on the horseshoe at the University of South Carolina on August 10, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. Students began moving back to campus housing August 9 with classes to start August 20. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Let’s pick up on our idea/title from the last issue, “It’s a Momentary Thing.” We’ve seen it through the lenses of Third Person and First Person narratives; now, let’s see how the other two Points of View affect its development. First up, Second Person Narrative. Here’s our development plan:

  1. Sunlight through the branches: It’s a Momentary Thing
  2. Your present situation: It’s a Momentary Thing
  3. Carpe diem, life and love: It’s a Momentary Thing

Whenever the Second Person pronoun you is the subject of a present tense sentence, it can be dropped to change the grammatical identity of the sentence into a command: “You walk this dappled path alone” becomes “Walk this dappled path alone.”

Moving from one of the four grammatical types to another — statement to question, statement to command, command to question, statement to exclamation — creates a new level of energy. It’s like a modulation from one key center to another. Be on the lookout for chances to ask questions or give commands in your songwriting. It’s particularly easy in Second Person Narrative.

Walk along your dappled paths
While sunlight’s in the trees
The walk you’ve walked so many times before
Feel time slow down on days like this
Beneath the summer leaves
Let every minute be its own reward
It’s a Momentary Thing

In Second Person Narrative, the narrator is attached to you, and should probably remain so. Let’s try the second verse we used in First Person Narrative. 

You’ll spend your time in sunlit woods
Pass through fields of green, 
The paths you’ll travel soon will know your ways 
How you’ll love the choirs of birds
That make the forests ring 
Their echos fill your summer, just to fade
It’s a Momentary Thing

Perhaps we might take advantage of one of the fundamental powers of the Second Person narrator: The narrator knows the minds and hearts of every character. Let’s add the second character we saw in our Third Person Narrative version. 

Walk these dappled paths with him
While sunlight’s in the trees
A walk you’ve walked so many times before
Time slows down on days like these
Beneath the summer leaves
And every instant is its own reward
It’s a Momentary Thing

You’ll spend your time in sunlit woods,
In fields of gold and green, 
Your footsteps marking paths you both have taken
And when your ways diverge for good
His memory still will ring
Echo through the summers till it fades
It’s a Momentary Thing

Then watch the seasons come and go
That endless circling
From early leaves to the dying leaves of Fall
As years slip by you’ll come to know
The gifts that life can bring
Grateful, for you realize it’s all 
A Momentary Thing

Verse 1’s focus is the present, but verses 2 and 3 both access future tense, one of the clear advantages of Second Person Narrative. The narrator (but not the you) can see the results of having a departed lover, and what it all means for the you. It’s really fun to bump around in this world, with all its macro and micro possibilities.

OK, back inside the world. Way in.

Direct Address
Direct Address delivers a much more limited world for the narrator than the other Points of View. Things are pretty intimate here. I is addressing you, so the world of the song exists between I and you.

Adjust our development to include both I and you:

  1. Being together: It’s a Momentary Thing
  2. No matter how we try: It’s a Momentary Thing
  3. Treasure our time, though: It’s a Momentary Thing

Our idea develops differently now, as does the diction, which should be more conversational. One possibility, talking to a departed loved one, reminiscing about times together:

The days we wandered through these trees
Just listening to the birds
Singing as we made our way together
Songs of love, of you and me
Meanings without words
Songs we thought would stay with us forever
Just a Momentary Thing
These woods still feel like coming home 
They always feel like you
And the way they’d echo every time you laughed
We did our best to take it slow
Make every hour new
I can’t believe how quickly they all passed, such
A Momentary Thing

So now I walk our paths alone
Memories flooding in
We’re hand in hand, the sunlight’s in your hair

I touch your hand, it lets me know
The gifts that life can bring
Grateful now for all the days we shared
A Momentary Thing
A Momentary Thing

There’s a lot of I in this development, you having departed. But the presence of the pronoun you makes a huge difference. If we substitute either her or him for you, the color and intimacy of the idea change dramatically. So many possibilities in Direct Address.

As we’ve seen over the last two issues, how you develop your idea is intimately connected to what Point of View you choose. So take your time and think a little about each option: “Where will this take me?” Don’t let Point of View just happen, choose carefully – and especially, choose early.

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