Saturday, February 25, 2012

In the First Person

From the day I started writing (a very long time ago), I've struggled with this odd notion of POV (point of view). Frankly, I don't see what the hollering and bellyachin' is about, but editors and publishers and some writers and readers seem to think it's a big deal so I've struggled mightily to figure it out.

I believe there are some people who are just plain POV blind just like there are people who can't see the color blue. Just when I think I have it right, someone (usually a long-suffering editor or critique partner) will point out that--no--I don't have it right.

A couple months ago I embarked on a new venture. I started a story in first person. And for the very first time, I could actually "see" the difference. "I" as the narrator can only know certain information. And everyone else cannot know or see what I perceive or know. That might seem like a simple concept.

Not so.

I'm writing a love scene. Can I just say it's very odd to write such a scene from a personal viewpoint? For some reason it brings an immediacy to the actions and thoughts of my female character that I've never experienced before as a writer.

No matter how...out there...erotic romance writers might appear to be, there's still a barrier between them and their characters when they're writing in third person. (By the way, is there a second person POV? If so, how does that work?) Anyway, moving along. In first person you can freely describe--or not--all the feelings, emotions, surroundings your character is experiencing. Generally, this is pretty tame stuff.

But what happens when you start describing sex? Average humans can barely acknowledge they even participate in the activity, let alone discuss what they're actually feeling or any fantasy they might want to try out. In first person, the writer is liberated in a truly scary fashion. It's kind of like writing a diary you intend to burn.

Write anything down you want and figure out whether you'll delete it later. I don't know what I'll keep. But I've learned a lot about POV. I suspect when I finish this story, someone will tell me--no--I still don't have it right. Heh. How will they know?

After all, it's all my point of view.



  1. Interesting post :)

    For what it's worth, you have:

    1st person= "I walked to the door."
    2nd person = "you walked to the door."

    Then you have 3rd person close (ie only follows one viewpoint) and 3rd person omniscient (sometimes "headhopping," sometimes simply an omniscient narrator). Technically, everything you're pouring into 1st person, you *should* be able to do with 3rd person close. You just swap that "I" for "she." However 1st has a kind of confessional feel and so seems more intimate a lot of the time. And there's something detached about saying "she" instead of "I."

    A lot of readers don't like 1st person, especially within the romance genre (it's more popular within YA). And a book in 2nd person is very rare and a very hard sell. POV is a fascinating topic.

  2. Also, I like your diary analogy so much, I'm putting it on Twitter. If you feel that way then you're most definitely doing it right!

  3. Lucy--How lovely to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words!

  4. No one gets POV right. I was reading JR Ward book - her POV was all over the place.

  5. I have a hard time remembering the difference b/t 3rd person omniscient and 3rd person multiple.

    We had to write at least one story in the 2nd person for my Creative Writing class last semester. I ended up liking mine, but writing an entire novel in it? That would be rough!

  6. Amarinda--so many "popular" authors write all over it's hard for me to tell which is the right way. :-)

    But then I suspect "correct" depends on how much money you're bringing in... are very fortunate your instructor at least introduced you to POV. I've taken several courses in writing and not one mentioned POV. So you're ahead of the game!

  7. I love to write in 1st person, but one of my editors said I'm not so good at it! LOL

  8. Amber, I suppose that depends on whether or not you respect that editor's opinion. And how motivated you are to get better at it. I've never tried it so I'm having fun with it. :-)

  9. I know, Anny! Writing in first person POV is so different! No, you can't see what's going on behind you - this is what makes it so hard. You have to stay in your character's head all the time. So interesting!

  10. Strangely enough, Julia, I'm not having a problem with that at all. It's all those "I"'s I'm having trouble with, you know? But I'm really enjoying the trip!

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