Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Point of View

I have a strong preference for third person close... so strong, that I'd never tried another until November when I wrote a YA mystery in first person for NaNoWriMo, but the book I am currently editing had initial INTENTIONS to use first person for the ghost. I had written a prologue that was then set aside and I couldn't find it when BuNoWriMo (The Burrow held a WriMo last June) started, so I just wrote... it came out in 3rd person. I found that prologue, though, when I started editing and realized first person really was a lot stronger for this particular story.

Very soon after I started the change I found this great blog post from VR Barkowski about a conversion SHE had been doing. This post from Sarah Ahiers also talked about point of view... and I thought maybe it was time I dived in with some of the things I think I'm learning.

(really Kahlotus-->)

For starters, I'm not sure I would have even NOTICED most of this had I not done this CONVERSION. When I wrote my YA Mystery in November it was just sort of natural... modern teenage girl... just a year older than my own daughter... I didn't feel like I had to think that hard (I say from a pre-looking again PoV)

Converting a PoV though, that was originally written in 3rd person... and a far more UNUSUAL 3rd person... has taught me several things...



First, Who IS SHE?

Helen, my ghost, died in 1952. She committed suicide at age 15 to escape the horrors of the mental institution where she has been placed because her widowed father wasn't sure how to deal with her epilepsy... So she has come out of a scene like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest...

And finds herself among modern delinquent teens...


More than 'She to I'

(<--Also just outside Kahlotus)

As a 3rd person narrator, I have some adult words that I used to describe the action. Helen would not talk that way. There is also a formality to 1952 that no longer exists... and a respect for elders modern teens seem to have forgotten.


“She pondered the idea” becomes “I wondered if maybe”
“She'd despaired on” becomes “I dreaded”
“Helen smiled” becomes “I loved this, one of my few joys”
“perhaps” becomes “maybe”

Because see... Helen is YOUNGER than me, and also lacks my confidence. So her language is simpler and holds more hesitancy.


Observations

As narrator I can make attributions about other characters that Helen CAN'T—there is no way she would KNOW...

For instance, I had an observation of 'Lily, the least pregnant of the pregnant girls'--but Helen doesn't know that. None of the pregnant girls can see her, so she hasn't talked to them. Lily becomes, “The pregnant girl whose belly is smallest”

I also have to give some uncertainty to what she thinks the actions of others mean.




Character's world and Affect on Word Choice

One of Sarah's points had to do with her (male) character and a critique she'd gotten about (questionably) female words, but that triggered my TIMING issue...

As narrator, I could say “Helen had never seen a computer before”. As HELEN I have to talk about the strange briefcase with the TV in it. There are a lot of modern things that Helen has no framework for and I had to carefully watch for those and make sure I put them in terms SHE might have to think of them in.


This has actually been a really fun exercise in character development. It is harder to maintain the voice for me with “I” than in 3rd person, because in 3rd person I am me telling a story. In first person, I have to be my character. But this means I've had to think about more aspects of her.


Side Note:

My daughter is participating in a sleep study for the next three nights. I still plan to BLOG, but it's possible it won't get done before I leave for the lab, so they may be posted later on Thursday and Friday...


Content generated by Hart Johnson
First Image official Kahlotus City Data, second, 'Geocache for Devil's Cataract'
All posted first at Confessions of a Watery Tart

Happy HING day!

24 comments:

Cold As Heaven said...

I always write 3rd person. Don't want to be too closely connected with the protagonist, since he sometimes does things I wouldn't do >:D

Cold As Heaven

Rachael Harrie said...

Interesting to hear about your thought process as you make the changes :) I used to write in third person, until I discovered how much more naturally first person flows. Now...not sure if I could go back!

Rach

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I can imagine that would be an interesting exercise, too--trying out 1st person for an important scene of the book, just to get into the character's head better.

I did a sleep study a few months ago. Didn't sleep much with all those wires on me! And they took forever to put on.

Adina West said...

I have a definite preference for third person as well...though for a new project I'm considering a first person narrator for what is essentially the story of two other characters (if that makes any sense at all outside my mind).

Don't you find though that even in third person when you're writing close POV your word choice and language changes to be appropriate for the character? That's always my clue that the POV is close enough. That it's not just going to sound like me (the writer) putting thoughts into the character's head.

Jessica Bell said...

I've written in both third and first. I love both options, and yes, it as quite amazing what you can and can't write about in first person. That's where creativity comes in! :o)

Hart Johnson said...

CaH-it's TRUE in a way, but think about Lolita--I think part of the elegance is that being in that guys head you really get how deluded he is, so it draws the reader in. But it is really tricky. I really think someone should totally master 3rd before trying 1st anyway. 1st is too easy to sound like a diary instead of a story.

Rachael-I still enjoy 3rd, and I usually use more than one PoV and I don't want ALL of them in first... I think it depends on the story though. I think for YA it is often best, but I have a hard time taking it seriously for anything 'heavy'.

Elizabeth-I've read that--in fact Nicola recommended doing a 1st person scene before trying to write a query so the voice comes across, even though the query is 3rd person present (something I think I will try next time I query) And yes--those wires are wacky! Their beds are SUPER comfy though, to balance it.

Hart Johnson said...

Adina-I really THOUGHT my word choice had been appropriate to the character! But going through, it is still different to speak as Helen. Some of it may have been changed anyway, though I felt as 3rd, her formality showed more, where as 1st, it was her timidity. And the 1st for others can totally work (think of the Book Thief)

Jessica-yeah, I'm not sure creativity is my strong suit *snort* Actually, though, this is more like a puzzle to me, and those I can do...

Teresa aka JW said...

I like writing in third but just lately I wrote a short in first. I got confused a few times, but it's cool. I had a couple of people read it before submitting and they said they felt more like they were in the middle of it--written in first.

Great post.

Old Kitty said...

I tend to write in first person on first draft and later change to third. I guess it too is my way of getting under the skin of my characters initially then distancing myself in the later edits.

Thanks for a thoughtful post!! Hope your daughter has a fab sleep study!!! I don't really know what that entails but it sounds good! Take care
x

Carol Kilgore said...

I've written a few short stories in first, but longer manuscripts have all been in third. They're quite different. Good luck!

Katie Mills said...

My last manuscript was my first attempt at first person present and I fell in LOVE with the pov. My two first novels were all in third person close. It's important to try new things I think. If I hadn't given it a shot, I wouldn't have realized how much fun it is!

Terry Odell said...

I write deep 3rd, which is almost the same as 1st. One of my first writing 'lessons' was POV, and I'm a stickler for it. It's hard, and often readers don't notice head hopping, shallow POV, or author intrusion, but I believe they also don't know why the book didn't resonate for them.

I usually write 3rd, but I wrote a couple of police procedural short stories, and the protagonist demanded 1st person. However, it was still past tense; I have found only one or two books where 1st person present (or any person present, for that matter) has worked for me. I feel distanced, somehow, as if it's someone narrating a dream sequence.

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

this was a really great post. I'm like you and typically have a preference for a 3rd POV so switching over to a 1st POV is a bit of a challenge for me. I haven't quite pulled it off yet, but i'm working on it.
Also, i hope your daughter's sleep study goes well. My brother did one a few years back and it resulted in him being able to sleep again and led to his mild narcolepsy being cured

Hart Johnson said...

Teresa-I think that is the thing... deeper in the story, and sometimes you WANT that, and sometimes you don't.

Jenny- THAT is actually an EXCELLENT idea--first person to really set the voice but then changing over... LOVE that!

Carol, that was where I was on the matter 7 months ago--exactly... in fact in October I still was, even though my June project had 'intentions' I think it's been good for me...

Katie-It was pretty fun to do the November one in first... this CONVERSION to first, not so much!

Terry-I am still in past tense, too. Though it was actually HARD, once I switched PoV to keep it... the instinct is to write first person as if it were happening, but my other two PoVs are 3rd and I couldn't change TENSE in the book! (and I am like you--takes a LOT for me to get pulled into present tense. It has happened--Hunger Games are 1st person present, but it has to be basically thriller for me to forget my annoyance.

Sarah-cool that they cured your brother's sleep trouble! Daughter doesn't have trouble but we have family history of some stuff that they think might affect sleep (namely depression)--they are watching brains of depressed and non-depressed teens who have and do NOT have 1st degree family members and comparing their sleep brains... And I have definitely found this a challenge, but of the 'good for me' type.

Talli Roland said...

I like third person but I also really enjoy first person. POV is so interesting, isn't it? I love the effect it can have on a novel's voice.

Melissa said...

This was really interesting.

I can write third and have several stories where I am planning on doing this but I like writing in 1st better. I'm very good at sinking into my characters minds and thought processes so it comes more naturally than being more of an observer.

Ciara said...

Great observations. I prefer to write in 3rd POV, but I get some grief because I write YA. I'll just have to wait for the wave of the next trend. :)

DCAllen said...

I work with lots of different perspectives and have found that it's VERY VERY important to decide early on which is best to tell the story FULLY. The novel I'm working on now (although I've taken a break) is written from the perspective of the third person omniscient narrator. This narrator has access to all of the characters' thoughts. Tricky. It's been a journey.

Helena said...

Okay, I SWEAR I left a comment earlier. I am not hallucinating (I think). Then again, my computer seems to be getting funky again. So I thought I'd try again and just say that I find writing in first person easier, whereas in third person I always seem to need to go back and flesh out the characters more.

Helen Ginger said...

Sounds like a fun experiment - and you've learned a lot that you can apply to that piece and to others.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a lot of changes to consider. I've not attempted first person yet. If I decide to brave a third attempt to write a book, I'll consider it though.

Hart Johnson said...

Talli--pretty amazing what a difference it makes!

Melissa-it's a good skill. I've been resistant, but I may become a convert!

Ciara-that YA thing makes a big difference--it is a rare adult book in 1st person. That was one of the reasons I gave it a shot, actually...

Chris-I've never braved omniscient! (ironically, since I would argue with just about anyone that I know everything) I think it is so much harder to do well!

Helena, I hate that! (the blogger pixies, I mean)--I'd never perceived a problem before, but you may be right, that it is easier to set voice...

Helen-it's true! I don't mind work nearly as much when I learn something.

Alex-you know what might be fun first person? Write your series... several.. and then 1st person write a SON of your MC trying to live up to his famous dad.

Holly Ruggiero said...

Yep. I'm learning all sorts of thing writing in first.