Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Experimenting with POV

I'd have to say I haven't been too tempted to experiement with POV. I've pretty much been third person all the way. It's what I read most often, after all, and logically what I want to write. True, there has been some "accidental" experimentation with some scary head hopping. This was in the days before anyone told me that was "wrong." Ahh, those were the days. I fondly remember blessed ignorance.

But when I finally got around to accepting why this head hopping actually caused confusion (Really? Huh.), and consequently thought I better pay attention to some rules for my own benefit, various solutions appeared. One solution: write in first person to "lock-in." And, I thought, "good idea," before going my own way with deciding to continue to write in third person, but with one POV. This was my minimalist method. That, and a bit of insecurity that I better learn to walk before I run. Logically, if switching POV is awkward, then minimize the occurance. I didn't have to use first person.

I'm not sure where my ambivalence to first person came from. Oh, I suppose I can guess. It goes back to simply sticking with the familiar and not feeling confident to experiment. Besides, experimenting means work and rewrites, etc. Yeah, that's part of it. Even if I do the method of writing in first person and changing it over to third later, well, that is probably why I haven't tried it!

So, my one character POV method worked...for a while. It made sense, actually, in my WIP with a ghost character, to stay solely in his head for a long time. It's natural (as far my idea of how a ghost would feel) to be an observer and distanced from the other characters, and I did feel "locked-in." Without switching, the reader really gets to know this hero. If I do say so myself, he's really a great guy. *sigh* But what about the heroine? Who is she? By observation, she seems an unlikely match for the hero. Why is she so fragile? Why does he love her? Is she worthy of this wonderful, alpha hero? I needed to get into her head.

Solving this problem seemed to be to write the first chapter in the heroine's POV before the long period spent in the hero's POV. (In the midst of all this, I grudgingly admit that I am, actually, experimenting with POV. Darn it anyway. *grumble* No matter how I try to simplify and walk before I run, things get complicated.) I expect a lot with POV. In one introductory chapter, I have lofty goals (and pressure) to make her so identifiable and sympathetic to the reader that the absence of being in her head for several chapters is missed (much like the hero misses her).

I've tried. And while I think it's the right move, I still don't like my first chapter. The action I like, but it's too separate from the rest and lacking something just outside my grasp. Mostly, I put this frustration on the back burner and keep going, figuring, as is my pattern, I'll revise Chapter One and get better handle on it...eventually.

Then, I had a long break from my WIP. I'm still in that break (i.e., return to college!), but these characters are far from forgotten! And, as sometimes happens with time away, an odd idea is taking shape.

Recently, in my lit class, I read the unfamiliar (i.e., not a romance) style of multiple POVs in first person. All I can say...I was lost. Not totally, but I missed a lot. Worse, I not only missed a lot, but I was simply wrong. And did I ever feel gullible!

My problem: who to believe. For some reason, I took as gospel truth the thoughts of the first person character. It didn't really occur to me that this character was lying to him or herself. Add a multiple first person account (from different characters) of the same event, and I floundered to decide who was telling the truth.

I'm still amazed. Where the heck did this trust come from? After kicking myself for lacking the understanding to grasp literature and my dismal ability to be a discerning reader, I thought, hmmm, so that's why some people write in first person. I'd heard this before about first person, that it can give an impression that the story is true. This kind of went in one ear and out the other. Yeah, yeah, but I get sick of reading "I."

But what about for a short time and mixing first person with third person? Is this something that would help me for my first chapter? Could I then slip back into third, and stay there? And who am I asking permission from anway? *LOL*

One concern, of course, is "romantic conventions." Is this going to be a hard sell? Heck, so is the rest of this paranormal story. :) The only way to find out is to try it. What it comes down to, is if it's a tool that works, use it.

Have you experimented with POV? What are your thoughts of first person or mixing first person with third person POV? What weight do you put on romantic conventions when experimenting?

LINKS:

Here are a couple handy links if considering experiment with POV. The first is a .pdf document of a nice overview of POV in a handout given out by author Susan Lyons at a RWA Conference:

Look Who's Talking.


Also helpful, for considering reasons for mixed use of POV is a blog posting by author Gail Gaymer Martin:

Mixing First Person and Third Person POV in a Novel



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