Whose Point Of View?

When you begin your writing project, have you ever waffled between which point of view (POV) you should use with your story?

As I began writing book one, I never questioned which POV I wanted to take.  I wrote in the first person because I believed it was easier to “capture” a voice that way.  And, the same goes with the second book, although it was definitely a bit more challenging since it was written from the viewpoint of a thirty year old male in 1925.  (what the heck, I figured women = twenty thousand words per day, men = seven thousand.  Hm, okay, stay cryptic.  That sure made writing his dialogue a lot easier.  🙂  )

When I began the third book, I played around with third person. (not because it was the third book…)  I wanted to see if I could establish a voice, despite the fact I felt first person made it easier to do.  I think I only wrote about ten pages before I found I didn’t care for it.  The writing seemed flat and I felt I was having trouble with that voice thing that is so important.  I stopped and went to first person, which, of course tells me, I have some work to do in the future as I don’t think I need to write every book from the first person.

Using first person POV means the reader only hears the narrative coming from the main character, (MC) and that what this character perceives or “thinks” may not be accurate.  The story unfolds with the reader learning things along the way, just like the character, so, the reader should question the main character’s reactions and thoughts.  What they perceive about a story situation may not turn out as you believe.

With third person, the reader is getting the story narrative delivered by an “objective” voice and we are able to understand what the characters are learning and going through because this narrator explains their thoughts and feelings as we progress through the story.  I’ve read that most writers/authors use this POV.

Very rarely do writers use second POV, (you, your) as in “you opened your front door and there was no one there.”  (although, just writing that one bitty sentence is a little creepy if you ask me….brrr.)  One example provided for a book written in second person POV more than any other is the book BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY by Jay McInerney and it ended up being a best seller. (1984)  Other authors (Carlos Fuentes, Nathaniel Hawthorne to name a couple, as well as some passages written by William Faulkner, and others) have used second POV.

There are even more POV’s, like omniscient, (narrator knows everything about all the characters) and limited omniscient (narrator knows everything about only one character – major or minor)  Many classics are written using OPOV like Dickens, Austen, and Tolstoy.  And a few other examples I found were DUNE, written in third person omniscient, as well as other examples of POV, like cinematic POV, and deep POV, which means the narrator can “at will” jump about and share the thoughts and feelings of various characters.  Yikes.  That seems like very complex writing, at best, but I suppose if a writer can pull it off, go for it.

I think just stick to first person or third… how about you?


COMMENTS

  • Averil Dean

    April 25, 2013

    Reply

    I struggle with this problem not only at the beginning but all the way through, and I completely understand about trying to find a third person voice, which is what I’m doing at the moment. I find it easiest to write the scenes in first person for the first draft, then switch to third in revision. It seems like this would be a cumbersome way to go about it, but actually the revision is easy to do and it really gives the voice a boost.

    • donnaeve

      April 25, 2013

      Reply

      That sounds like maybe a good way to approach it the next time around for me. I’m hell bent on writing a book in 3rd person!

  • Paul Lamb

    April 26, 2013

    Reply

    For my current mania of Fathers and Sons stories, I’m switching between first and third person narrators. I use the first person (so far, anyway) when I want to portray the character as feeling aware but actually being clueless. All three of my characters will have a story they narrate before I’m done with them.

    But, honestly, I don’t think too much about this kind of thing. I guess I’m more of an organic writer than an analytical one. I just write the words as they flow and maybe tinker with them later. I’m sure in my narrative I could be guilty of switching narrators between sentences, but it sounds/feels right, and no editors have ever objected.

    I’ve always asserted that a narrator should essentially be another character, at least in the writer’s mind, with as much background and agenda as every other character. And this includes the third-person narrator.

    • donnaeve

      April 26, 2013

      Reply

      I go about writing similarly, (organic) believe it or not. I think I decided to post on POV’s because the editor I work with had suggested I write in third person since my other two books were in first. But, like I mentioned, I didn’t care for it, and thought it was dull/bland. The way you write sounds intriguing, i.e. the changing up. I read that short story of yours (I think it was titled MORON SATURDAY…?) and I love your style. It was very free flowing and natural. The Fathers and Sons stories sounds great – funny I just got my latest Larry Brown book (my current mania) titled FATHER AND SON. I haven’t started it yet…usual backlog.


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