Monday, September 19, 2011

Choosing the Right Point of View

How many writers actively think about point of view and how they're going to tell their story?

If you as a writer, want to be successful, you'll give some thought to it before sitting down at your computer. It can make or break your story.

This became clear recently when I was critiquing stories by two of my fellow-members of the Port Yonder Press mentoring group I'm in this year.

I am most comfortable writing in 1st Person--i.e., I said, I did. And while I don't exclusively read first person stories, I am drawn to them more than their third person counterparts (i.e. he said, she did.)

This came across to at least one of my crit partners in a pretty obvious way--both of them got suggestions from me to switch from third to first person.

Why would I suggest this?

Because the story they were telling needed a more intimate experience, at least in my opinion.

There are a lot of reasons to take into account when you're choosing your point of view. Most authors and writing coaches indicate that scene-to-scene, you should write from the POV of the character who has the most to lose in any given scene. This works better when you're in 3rd Person, when it's more acceptable to switch from John's head to Mary's head, then pop into Peter's across three scenes.

But that's not always possible, especially if you're writing from a singular point of view, whether it be first person or a very tight third.

I ran into this problem when I was writing the first few drafts of Homebody. My problem? I'm a bit of a romantic at heart, and while Homebody is told in first person point of view, there were several scenes I needed to tell that would work best from a second person's perspective.

My solution?

A very unorthodox approach. I switched to 3rd person for several scenes so I could show things from MC Amanda's boyfriend's POV. Being able to work from Rick's (the boyfriend) perspective opened things up. I was able to show things that Amanda wouldn't know, including several scenes where Amanda wasn't even present. While he (Rick) doesn't show anything critical to the mystery in the story, it does open things up to the romantic side, one where Amanda has been cold far too long.

This is an approach I have seen infrequently in novels: the most notable example I can think of is a particular Alex Cross novel by James Patterson (although it's been several years since I've read any of James Patterson's work, so I can't recall which one.) But, it *is* out there, it's just used infrequently. The important thing to remember is you have to be a good storyteller before you start breaking the rules of storytelling. While I'm not sure I'm a great storyteller yet, this was what worked for me in how I tell this set of stories.

I'm hopeful an agent and an editor will agree.

Until next time,


Giles Hash said...

POV can be a tough decision. So far, I've only written books in 3rd person. But that's the style that fits best for the story being told.

My favorite series, though, is written in 1st person: The Dresden Files. Great series that just wouldn't work in 3rd.

Great post! :D

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