Thursday, November 5, 2009

Point of View = Everything

I have to agree with Maureen, that first person point of view is the only one I ever consider writing in. When I write I really try to get in the head of character, and I write the words as her – which feel impossible for me to do in third person point of view. I find third person distracting, taking me out of the narrative too much.

It’s not that I’ve never written in third person. Because I have. The first (failed) novel I ever wrote was told in third person from five different viewpoints. (Oh, and it even had a second person section in the middle!) Okay, it also barely had any plot, but I do have to say I learned something, something crucial about writing: point of view – regardless of whether it’s first or third -- is everything.

A writing exercise that I used to love when I was teaching creative writing was to pick a scene from whatever it is you’re working on, and rewrite it from all of the different characters’ points of view. It really makes you stop and think about what’s going in the main character’s world, and how what she sees says something about unique her.

And now that’s how I view that long-ago shelved novel, as a writing exercise. Because it really did teach me a lot about point of view. Mainly it taught to think about how every character sees and tells a story in different ways. It taught me, that when it comes down to it, point of view is really the eyes, the eyes we as writers get to look through as we tell a story. And it also taught me that who tells the story and how that person tells the story, is really what writing is all about.
When I wrote The September Sisters (shortly after shelving that failed novel), I thought a lot about point of view. I knew I wanted the book to be in first person, and I knew I wanted to use only one point of view. And to me, it seemed immediately like Abby’s story, the story of the sister left behind. But I also considered how the story would be completely different if I’d told it from Becky (the missing sister’s) POV. It might have still been a story about sisters, loss, and coming of age. But it would not have been the same story or the same book, not even close.

And I guess that’s what I’m really trying to say about point of view: the story you want to tell as a writer is important, but it’s probably only half as important as the person you choose to tell the story, as the eyes you choose to look through.


Faith said...

Until this NaNoWriMo, I'd never written a novel in first person... so I guess opposite from you. I much prefer writing in third person, and feel far more comfortable there -- but for whatever reason, when I started this one in third person, it wasn't working, so I switched... and now the MC is directing the story for me, and I'm feeling much better about it.

It's so true -- using the correct voice can truly make or break your story. Point of view is a critical factor!

Donna Gambale said...

Great post! Like Faith, I enjoy writing in third person -- I feel like I get too distracted by first person. My WIP has three alternating points of view, but each is a close third person, which I think personalizes it. I'm definitely not a fan of the omniscient narrator.

Teri Coyne said...

Great post. Although I have written short stories in third person my first novel was in first person and since it took over ten years to write I was in the head of an alcoholic abuse survivor! My second book is first person with a twist -- the story is from two points of view which is VERY interesting. Although the same events happen to both characters the way they experience them are totally different.

Maureen Lipinski said...

Five different viewpoints? That would be so cool!