Saturday, November 7, 2009

The 'I's have it! Or do they...?

Just so's you know... I am writing this entry in FIRST PERSON SICK (oh, so sick of being sick... again...) and that's why it's late. *kaff* stupid public transit germ factories *snork*

Right. So. POV. (I love acronyms, btw: "Hey! I can't figure out my POV in this scene - it's like my characters have gone MIA! WTF?")

I've used a variety of 'em in my day. And I'm not sure I have a preference - at least not a general preference; I always, of course, wind up having a very specific preference for the individual work, even if it takes a couple of tries to figure out what that is...

Like my fellow Girls, I too am somewhat enamored of first person. The immediacy of thought. The intimacy of emotion. The "I" factor...


But... but... but...

First person, it does have it's challenges.

The first book I wrote was written entirely in first person. That was cool, because it really let me get deep inside the character, and - in this particular instance - I couldn't have written it any other way. Problem was, the main character was living a second life, had a complete set of memories from his first life, and - over the course of the story - had to tell his story from both a past and present perspective, often including key scenes from his past that had occurred after his death. I had to relate those things through anecdotal evidence from other characters, and everything was filtered through the main character's dual perception.

Yeah. I know what you're thinking. No wonder the damn thing took me so long to write.

In that particular case, plot, structure, characterizations... absolutely everything was a product of the POV I chose to write in. It was... challenging. It was also the book where I learned to write. A worthy exercise? Absolutely. I hope you get to read it someday, 'cause I personally think it kicks a fair bit of arse. (er... and probably needs a fair bit of editing - I was over-fond of adjectives in those days...)

Since that time, the projects I have finished have been written in third person (the book that landed me an agent), and third person close alternating between 2 POVs - those of Sonny Flannery and Kelley Winslow in, of course, my WONDROUS STRANGE trilogy.

The first project was interesting because it gave me a chance to get inside the character's head, while also retaining a degree of 'directorial' control and commentary. It still poses some of the same challenges as first person, ie - you can really only tell the story from one person's perspective, but it lets you focus in close or pull back into a medium or wide shot (to use that aforementioned director-speak) as needed. It's nice and versatile.

As for the WONDROUS books, writing in dueling 3-p-close perspectives, and alternating form chapter to chapter was a ton of fun, because I was able to attack the story from both my protags' perspectives. I was able to get so close, it was almost first person, but able to keep the big picture in view at the same time. It gave the structure and dramatic flow of the story a kind of drive that I wouldn't have gotten with only one perspective. But it was occasionally hellacious to write, if only from a purely logistical stand. Still - I couldn't imagine writing this story - the story of two people from two completely different worlds, who actually, unknowingly belong to those different worlds... it just wouldn't have worked any other way. Still. Oy. It was tough to wrap my head around some days.

In her post, Maureen kindly mentions that my chosen method for these books was not, in fact, madness. That it works. *And here we heave a sigh of relief!* I really appreciate that. Hearing from another writer that you pulled of a tricky bit of the trade (especially hearing that from a writer that you, yourself, admire) is balm to the writerly soul.

I haven't tackled anything major in second person or omniscient yet. Not because I don't appreciate these POVs, I just haven't found projects to suit them yet.

Second would, for me, take a very particular story. It is, I think, the POV where the story and the format are distinctly predicated each upon the other, more so than any other viewpoint.

As for omniscient - I may tackle that next. We'll see. But first, I think I'll need to get rid of this cold, in order to clear up some head space!

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.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Who's speaking?

Hi NG Followers,

I've just arrived in Atlanta. I've been driving for several hours now! The reason for the trip is that I have a signing at the Barnes and Noble in Buckhead. It starts at 7:00 P.M tonight and if any of you live close, I'd love to see you there! I'll be in Knoxville, Tennessee tomorrow night at the Turkey Creek Borders.

Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter is written in first person narrative. Like Maureen, that POV comes the most natural to me. I never considered writing the novel any other way. I will say this. It has its challenges. For instance, in first person the protagonist has to be careful about what she says and the opinions she expresses. The reason is she runs the risk of turning off the reader. And after all, our goal as writers is to create a sympathetic heroine.

One of the drawbacks of first person POV is that all of the emotions of the other characters are left up to the opinion of the protagonist - or through the dialogue and body language. The readers are never fully aware of how the other characters are feeling.

I am looking forward to trying third person narrative with my third book. But for now I'm concentrating on book number two, which is a sequel to Whistlin' Dixie. And between writing that one, working at my day-job and traveling to promote Whistlin' Dixie, I've got just about as much as I can possibly handle.

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Total Bias

Like Tracy, I've always had a specific preference for a particular type of POV. But unlike her, I've always been a first person kind of gal. It honestly never occurred to me to write in anything other than first person, and I'm not sure if I could pull it off.

See, for me, writing is all about a close voice. While I enjoy books that are written in the third person, I absolutely the feel of getting into a character's head--sometimes easier when the story is written in the first person. Hearing the main character's thoughts, emotions and quirks. It's about reading a book and feeling like you're in on the main character's most intimate moments. I've been told that my writing has an almost gossip-y, feel-like-you're-talking-to-your-best-friend feel. And I honestly don't feel like I could achieve that in third person.

But I can see some advantages to writing in third. Being able to listen to more than one character and seeing how the plot unfolds from multiple angles are two really cool advantages--something that I think Lesley pulls off beautifully in Wondrous Strange.

Regardless of my immediate preference, as agents say: story trumps all. So while I might prefer first person to third person and past tense to present tense, what I really want is to be entertained.

What about you guys? Do you have a preference?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Point of View Ramblings

I love this topic. Mostly because I've been thinking about point of view recently, and how I managed to stumble into writing in first person when I always (and here's a secret I've never admitted in public) HATED reading first person books.

Seriously. I did.

I would actively not purchase books that were written in first person, I disliked that point of view so much. But then, a funny thing happened. I wrote a book that had to be told in first person. Oh, I tried third person, but guess what? It so wasn't right for the story, so I wrote the book the way I felt it should be told, and that was in first person point of view.

And an even funnier thing happened: that book sold.

So, with the sale of my first book, A TASTE OF MAGIC, it seemed I had to re-think my take on first person told tales. After all, if I wanted other people to give my story a chance, then I definitely had to take a chance on other stories I'd previously refused to read. And I found a whole new world of books to love.

From A TASTE OF MAGIC, I wrote A STROKE OF MAGIC, and then A BREATH OF MAGIC, and all of them are told in first person. Of course, they're part of a series, so sticking with first person for this series makes sense. But I've also found that I really enjoy writing and reading in first person point of view. And yep, this is something I would never have believed as little as three years ago.

I still love third person books too. That hasn't changed. Now, what I focus on is the story itself, the voice of the narrator(s), and the characters. So, with that in mind, here's my take on point of view, from this writer's standpoint.

Let me preface with a reminder that the following is MY opinion.

When I decided to write A TASTE OF MAGIC, I started off in first person--because it felt right, but then, due to my aforementioned dislike of first person, I tried to re-write the opening chapters in third. It so didn't work. The rhythym was off. The tone was wrong. And, I found that I really needed the deeper PoV to tell Elizabeth's story the way it needed to be told.

Plus, dare I say it? The story was just funnier in first person. The wit was stronger, the angst went deeper, and--maybe even more importantly--the story flew from my fingertips. In third person, the same story with the same dialogue and the same action just didn't have the easy, breezy feel I was going for. And the words definitely did not fly from fingertips.

However, I'm working on a proposal now that is in third person. And for this particular story, first person wouldn't work at all. I need to have several point of views in this story (well, you can do this in first person, but I prefer third), for one thing, and for another, I'm going for a little less breezy. Besides which, my gut tells me that third person is right for this book, just as my gut told me that first person was right for A TASTE OF MAGIC. And hey, that book sold, so trusting my gut seems like the appropriate method to use.

So um, yeah, my take isn't all that scientific. I decide on point of view by what feels right, by the characters, and by the story I want to tell. And then I give it a whirl. And hope for the best.

Though, even now, it still surprises me that I've written three books in first person. That I'll be writing at least one more in first person, and that I'm even looking forward to it. And, strangely enough, while I've written so much more in third person (stuff that hasn't sold, btw), I'm finding that writing in first person seems easier.

But that won't stop me from writing this current proposal in third. Growing as a writer is essential, so I'm pushing myself forward and...yep...hoping for the best.

And, in the meantime, I'm reading books that are written in first and third and am enjoying them for the stories they tell, and am appreciating the way they're told.