Wednesday, August 29, 2012
1st Person, 3rd Person, Omnipotent…Which One Are You?- Part 2
A few weeks ago, I shared information and examples of the three popular forms of point of view writing. If you missed it, follow this link.
How do you know which one is best for you?
Over a year ago, when my writing journey began, my writing was all over the place as I tried to decide what POV to use. Nearly every author I read wrote in 3rd person. Some broke down each characters actions and thoughts by separating their voices with the use of chapter breaks. Others used scene breaks. Some did neither and head hopped.
As a reader, none of the differences in their writing styles bothered me. As long as the story was good, and I was able to decipher the differences in character, I was pleased.
As a writer, I see things differently.
Most writers, when starting out, strive to emulate the writing style of our favorite authors. Nora Roberts was my first introduction into reading romance, so I wrote the way she wrote. What came out was what I thought of as a seamless flow of character(s), all thoughts and emotion in a scene. In other words, telling the story from the POV of all characters involved in the scene. There were no chapter breaks. There was no defining moment of a character POV changed. The scene progressed with the POV of all major characters involved.
The first book I read that used the 1st person POV was, don’t laugh, Twilight. I enjoyed getting deeper into the characters mind and seeing the story told from the way Bella saw it. Yes, it was biased and no one else’s personal opinions were understood beyond what she felt or imagined them to be, but after years of head hopping, it was refreshing. My favorite book in the series is Breaking Dawn where we were introduced to Jacob’s POV when Bella was unable to speak. Talk about exciting! ‘Hearing’ his crazy thoughts and not just being told by Bella what his actions were, we got to got to know his goals, motivations, and inner conflicts. Too bad we never got to see the same happen with Edward!
(I have no examples to offer when it comes to Omnipotent works because I can’t think of one, though I am sure over the years I have read a few. If I’m not mistaken, this form of writing is typically found in English literature. My understanding is that it is not a popular style chosen by authors today. I could be wrong, so forgive me if I am. )
It wasn’t until I attended a writer’s workshop that I truly learned how do decide what POV works for me. The instructor said this: take a scene, write it in 3rd person, then write it in 1st person. Read it aloud. How does it sound? Does if flow smoothly, does it sound rushed? Can you, the writer, identify with the character, does the voice sound natural? Which one do you feel the most comfortable writing?
For me, it was 1st person.
Writing in 1st person allows me to experience my characters emotions and thoughts as if they were my own. With 3rd person, I feel as if I’m on the outside looking in, as if there’s a glass door allowing me to peer into my characters without knowing how they truly feel. My writing style allows me to step into the character’s skin, their clothes, and their lives. I feel their emotions as if they were my own. I taste, hear, see, smell what they experience. I become them to the point that when the scene I’m writing is a happy one, I am happy. If they are in pain or sad, I cry, literally, right along with them. At times I am so wrapped up in my writing voice that my family will walk by and as if everything is okay. It is then that I know I’ve truly channeled my characters voice. I never connected with my characters that way when using 3rd person. (can anyone say straight jacket? lol)
I have heard many say 1st person writing should be for YA novels, not adult fiction, and definitely not romance. Why? Because 1st person stories are told from just one characters POV. If the plot is not entertaining and the supporting characters strong enough to interact with the leading character, readers can get bored, quick. My hat goes off to Janet Evanovich who seems to have mastered the single 1st person narrative. Her Stephanie Plumb novels are highly entertaining, and her characters easy to fall in love with. The entire series is told by Stephanie Plumb alone. Her witty remarks, quick wit, mixed with the colorful cast make reading her latest exploits something to look forward too.
I found my writing style by taking the best of all my favorite authors and developing my own style of writing 1st person.
The goal of my stories is to show the depth of the heroine and the hero’s evolution as they progress through the novel. There’s no head hopping. There’s no confusion as to who’s speaking, or what they really feel. I use chapter breaks, not scene breaks to separate the two. And occasionally, when story calls for it, I introduce a third person’s viewpoint to break it up a little, but not just for the fun of it. Each character is planned and serves a purpose. My goal is that the reader is well aware of everything each of the characters have experienced throughout, good, bad, and the oh so fun in-between.
How does the publishing industry feel about the use of the various POV’s? Each genre is different, but since I write romance, I can tell you this: it’s frowned upon. During my querying process, I had an agent, who loved the story, tell me there were a few things she wanted me to change, but the biggest was switching from 1st person, to 3rd person. Her reason, the Big Six wouldn’t take an IR/Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction story unless it was written in 3rd Person.
Wasn’t. About. To. Happen.
The Butterfly Memoirs are about the character’s personal experiences as told by them, like a memoir. The definition of a memoir is: an account of one’s personal life and experiences; autobiography. It would not be the same written as 3rd Person.
Thin about it, do you write your diary in 3rd person?
I didn’t let that stop me. (By the way, a year later, as I prepared to query my manuscript, I sent it to the instructor whose writing class I took. She’s an author as well as an agent. After reviewing it, her comments were about technical issues. Never once did she say it should be changed to 3rd person).
The best advice I can give when deciding which POV to use when telling tell your story is this: learn the rules and use them. Discover which ones you can bend and bend them. Experience writing the scene from each point of view and decide which one sounds the best. Which one allowed you to channel your character the most? Then, tell the story the way you want it to be told. If it’s a little outside the box because you don’t want it to be the norm, go for it. Believe me, there are readers out there who feel the same way and will be happy to see support you.
My novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken, will be available September 20th. If you haven't yet, read the first chapter. After that, grab a copy and see how the use of 1st person has worked for me!
Until the next time, Happy Writing!
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