Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Novel Report: Considering POV (Point of View)

I may have mentioned once or twice before...POV is one of my “weaknesses” as  storyteller. I head-hop like nobody’s business. I am, after all, the omniscient storyteller, and I want to share *all* the parts of my story…all my characters’ thoughts and feelings about what they are experiencing in the story.

Oddly, people don’t seem to like this. “Too confusing,” they say. “I can’t keep straight who is telling the story,” they complain. Oh, whatever…

But in the past few years of working with writers’ groups, POV is one of the most common points of discussion – not only for my own works. So obviously it’s important.

Well, for starters, there are those readers (and writers) who want the story told from one POV – the person who’s going to guide them through the story, either in a 1st person or “close 3rd person” narrative. And this is a perfectly good way to tell a story. The downside, for me, is that the one person doesn’t know things that they don’t see or aren’t told. And while that’s certainly true in real life, in fiction, I prefer the luxury of seeing into other people’s experiences.

Diana Gabaldon uses an interesting technique in her hugely successful Outlander series. The main character, Claire, tells her story in 1st person, but many other POVs are presented in close 3rd, telling their stories when Claire is not present.

Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series has a sweeping cast of characters, but I believe it is told entirely from Phedre’s POV (although she relates much of what other people tell her).

And Faith Hunter’s kick-ass heroine Jane Yellowrock is doing a fine job telling us her story in 1st person POV.

In Mira, I have, hmmm…3 main teen Settlers and half a dozen or so other supporting younger teens; 2 main adult Settlers and another half dozen or more strong supporting adult characters; 2 main teen MCs (Military Corps) and 2-3 main adult MCs, plus a handful of supporting characters. Of those, at least 6 are actively telling the story in their POVs.

I’ve thought about taking it down to only 1, or 4 (one each of Settler adult, teen, MC adult and teen). But then I struggle with “show not tell” for some action that needs to happen when that 1 or limited set of characters isn’t present.

One of my challenges in 2nd draft writing/editing is focusing POV within a single scene, to distinguish between character storytelling and head-hopping. I am at least becoming a little more cognizant of the shifts – at least when I read aloud to my writers’ group(s), I know they’re going to ding me on POV!

So, what do you think? What kind of storytelling most appeals to you? First person? Single POV or many? What are some examples of what you like? Enquiring minds want to know…

Oh, actual novel update? Returning to the end of the story, where I remain as stuck as ever. But I did crank out a few pages to take to my small writers' group, and they gave me their usual stellar feedback and constructive criticism, so I have some good ideas to incorporate. I wish it were flowing onto the page as easily as it has in the past, but I will take one page at a time if I must.

I *am* going to finish the damn book...

Dogs in House
Houdini, Eggs

Time writing
Too long!

April word count


  1. Writing report:
    Novel editing, Ch28

    Time: ~30min

  2. My favourite POV is close 3rd. Although when reading, I will initially be startled by 1st, and then generally not even notice when I get going. For writing, I find I actually write more 'personally' in third person than in first person, as for me, the fact that the narrative is in 1st seems to make me work less hard to convince the reader that they are in the character's head. In third person, I remember to show more specific things to bring the reader in. I once experimented by writing a short story in first person, and then changing it to third afterwards. I had been advised that this could help me write more immediately and personally -- and it turned out the comments I got were that the narrative was very distant and perhaps I should try writing it in 1st to get a closer perspective. So I think for me, I do better in 3rd person.

    I do like one-POV novels, although I also find it hard to write them! I generally like knowing who the 'most' important one is in a multi-POV novel. Things like Game of Thrones make me quite tired.

    One piece of advice I got (and I'm not sure how completely I agree with this), is that a POV character in a novel should have a 'journey' -- that is, they should have some kind of story arc which changes the character across the course of the novel.

    My current novel has 8 POVs, of which I am cutting 3 in revision. Interestingly, all three have no journey -- they were just there to get some action or perspective across -- and I made the decision to cut them before getting the above advice. The remaining 5 do have personal journeys. There are actually two other characters in the novel with large journeys, and I am now wondering if it is worth adding their POVs. One, probably not, as her journey is reasonably obvious from what you see from outside. But for the other, I am currently struggling (in Ch28!) to get across her feelings without actually being inside her head. Yet if I added her as a POV, there would be 3 POV characters all together for about 2/3 of the novel, and 4 for a reasonably large portion. That feels too 'crowded' to me -- from whose POV do I show which things?