I had a whole different topic in mind for today’s blog, but Jennie’s Friday subject intrigued me. You see, I don’t think writers just starting out even think about point of view. I know I didn’t. Good writers make it so seamless that readers don’t even realize it is a device used in writing.
When we read a well-written piece, we instantly know the narrator. We should know whose mind we’re in. A writer can really jar a reader right out of a story by inadvertently switching POV in the middle of a scene.
On Friday, some of you discussed how you like to write and I found it interesting how different we are. As an example, Jennie mentioned that she automatically writes 1st person. I, on the other hand, automatically start writing in 3rd. Several of you mentioned that switching from 1st to 3rd in the same piece could interesting and I mentioned I thought it was a bit of a cheat. So, while there are many ways to attack it, I thought I’d explore how change in POV can affect structure.
My work in progress is a Suspense. Because I automatically think in 3rd person, my first chapter starts on a serene morning with a highway worker mowing the sides of a lonely stretch of road. She jockeys the mower to work around one of those roadside memorials that people erect to remember the spot on a highway where someone they loved died, only to uncover a shallow grave with the remains of a young woman in it. If I do it well, it should give the reader the feeling of horror and surprise one would experience stumbling on something unexpected and horrific, while drawing in the reader with a dead body that sets the tone of the story. My outline has me alternating between my detective protagonist and the killer. At this point I don’t want to give away too much, sorry.
However, if I opted for 1st person, the entire plan would have to change. I can’t have the opening scene with a highway worker unless the worker was the protagonist. I would have to have my protagonist responding to a call, where she finds out how the body was uncovered by the mower. I would also have to get rid of all those scenes that I plan where the Antagonist kidnaps and kills, leaving the trail. I’d have to concentrate on the protagonist uncovering clues as she goes.
Of course when a writer uses 1st, you put yourself in the head of the narrator and write what comes to mind. For me it’s very natural and very personal. Using the word “I” makes it personal. It takes a bit more work using 3rd to get the thoughts of the POV character out there. Because you’re using He and She, it doesn’t seem as personal, not as close. But, 3rd does allow a lot more flexibility. Which is why I call switching in the same book a bit of a cheat. Switching allows the author to write close and personal from the mind of the protagonist, but gives the flexibility of letting the reader know something the protagonist doesn’t. I think it’s a lazier way of writing. You don’t have to work as hard writing your way around 1st but the reader can get to know what is in your protagonist’s mind a lot easier.
I have to admit that the 1st/3rd mixes I’ve read, didn’t hit me in a good way. POV is something to definitely give some thought to well in advance of sitting down and beginning a story. I know we’ve discussed this a bit, but I’d like to hear any additional thoughts you have on the subject.
Jennie's can o worms.
Jennie's can o worms.