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Monday, October 25, 2010

Let's talk POV

Hello Fellow Writers!
Let's talk Point of View (POV). Most fiction these days is written in first or third person POV.

As a quick reminder, first person POV is when the author writes "I stared at the man across the room - what would he look like naked?". 1st person POV uses "I".

Third person POV uses he or she, although we can still be in a person's head in the third person. For example "She stared at him, wondering what he would look like naked."  When using third person it's important not to "head hop" - as in She wondered this, then he wondered that, then she thought this, etc. If you want to hop to another head, you can use a section break.

Oh, I think I just used second person POV there - "You" - as in "You can use a section break." So I suppose while second person POV is quite rare in fiction, it may have  place in non-fiction how-to books, perhaps?

I loved Meg Cabot's YA books The Princess Diaries. They were all written in first person. The problem with first person is that if your protagonist doesn't see it happen or think about, then the reader doesn't know about it. With third person, something can happen plot-wise in your book on the other side of the world, and we the reader can still learn about it.

Which is better? There's no answer - it's whatever works for your book. I think that first person POV often flows easier for many people since that's the sort of writing we're used to - in diaries, in emails, blogs, etcetera. It's almost an instant way to build rapport with your reader. On the other hand, there's all those darn restrictions. What if I really need to know what my Hero is thinking? Too bad, no can do.

I was thinking about this because I'm still pondering what to write this year for NaNoWriMo. An urban fantasy, which I would write in the first person? A contemporary romance written in the third? An abstract piece written entirely in 2nd? J (Don't worry, I'm just kidding about the last one!)

What POV do you prefer to read? To write?

8 comments:

  1. I've heard some people say they refuse to read first person POV. I don't mind it, but sometimes I ache to see what others on the page are feeling. What's their motivation. I like Kristan Higgins. She writes first person POV. Fun, fast moving stories. But honestly, I couldn't get through her last book. I needed more.

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  2. I suggest playing with a few ideas for those different genres and seeing which one sticks out at you as the most interesting. There must be one that seems more fun than the other. One that you sort of have an idea for scenes for. Maybe you've got a great character for one genre over the others. If you put three ideas down and keep going back to one, then that's the one you should focus on for NaNo. Worked for me! I've picked my idea and I'm halfway or more through the outline. By the time Nov 1 rolls around, I'll be itching to get started!

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  3. I've written a few 1st person POV during Nano. I'm leaning more toward 3rd person now.

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  4. Hmm. I guess I probably should go with third person POV... still unsure what to write, though. I want to write something that can become a series.

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  5. First person has it's place in fiction. Part of the problem is getting diverted. The cozy Mrs. Miller series is done first person but I really had to remove a lot of things when I revised. There was a tendency to go off on a tangent. One of the books I read once was an erotic romance done in first person. I know it wasn't supposed to be funny but it was. One has to choose the story where it will work/

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  6. Oh no, being funny when you're *not* trying is awful! *shudders* Happens to the best of us I guess. I know I recently re-read a short sci-fi erotic story I wrote maybe a year ago and laughed my tush off, it was so ridiculous, lol :)

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  7. First, I don't understand Wendy's comment. Unless you're head-hopping when you're in third person, your limitations regarding the non-POV characters on the page are exactly the same as they'd be if you were in first person. You get the other characters' reactions through your POV character, filtered through your POV character's lenses.
    I have NEVER understood any of my characters as deeply as I understood Aidon and Steph, and I've never experienced a character's emotions or psyche to that degree. When they speak for themselves, they take you to a whole different level.

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  8. I get what Wendy's saying, since if you're doing 1st person POV then presumably it's for the whole book, so there's no way to just switch to another chapter and get another POV like with 3rd person.
    So far consensus seems to be liking 3rd person better...

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