Friday, October 10, 2008

On Writing: Multiple POVs in the First Person?

Earlier in the year, I subscribed to a writer's book club, and now each month whether I want it or not, I get a 'how-to-write' book. I know there are varying opinions on this kind of educational tool, and no doubt, there's a gluttony in today’s market. But I've found some are worth reading, like The Mind of Your Story by Lisa Lenard-Cook. In Chapter 5 “What's Your Point,” Ms. Lenard-Cook writes, “The main question to keep in mind as you consider point of view is, whose story is it, anyway? … [O]ne way to determine who will tell your story is to decide who will be changed by the events that unfold.” Good advice, and this is the springboard for my current post and dilemma.

I've been working on a story where my protagonist ends up in a potentially fatal predicament. I wrote it in the first person and later realized the antagonist is equally absorbing. I thought of changing to the omnipresent 3rd person but felt it would lack kick. I finally decided to use first person to tell the story from both character's point of view, trying to clearly distinguish who is speaking in each section.

I think it works fine, but I wonder if there will be gripes about making such a transition. Several people who've read it have said that it works for them. Of course, the big test will be whether it’s accepted or not.

Has anyone else come across a similar problem? If so, what was it?


Ray said...

David - there are lots of people out there who want to tell you how to write a book. And, yes, there are good ones and bad ones and in the time that has been taken poring over differant theories would be better spent writing a book.
The best guides to writing are the books you read and the authors that you admire. Construction, perspective, description - every writer has learned from his peers.
But style - that imprint comes from your own personality.
It's all a learning curve.

sandra seamans said...

Have you tried third person limited? It's close to a first person narrative but doesn't jar as much when you switch characters. I used it in a story recently and thought it worked well.

And Ray's right about the how-to books. You can go absolutely nuts trying to find a theory that fits your voice. The books I liked best were David Morrell's "Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing" and Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird". I've used other books to teach me the basics of genre, but these two books really teach what it is to be a writer from people who know.

David Cranmer said...

Ray, I couldn't agree more. Originally I joined the club for a couple of books that I thought would be great references like names and scientific details. After that, it seemed every other title was a rehash of 8th grade English. Definitely reading Chandler, Hammett, Christie is the best education of all.

Sandra, I always appreciate your comments as I hadn't thought of using third person limited. I'll also have to look into the two books that you mentioned. What's interesting is about an hour after I posted this my story was accepted.

Barbara Martin said...

David, I would suggest third person limited, something I learned while reading the Bob Mayer-Jenny Crusie blog "He Wrote-She Wrote".

Not all writing books are created equal, something I've learned the last few years. I read books by authors I would like to emulate while adding my own personal touch.

Congrats on your story acceptance. Now you have to tell us where and when we can read it.

David Cranmer said...

Barbara, I'll put up the links to the stories when they come out. Thanks for suggestion and the book info... these are things that I will check into.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am trying to write my second WIP novel from two POVs, first person for the daughter, third close for the mother. But I get tripped up when they;re in the same scene. It's trying my patience but I'll give it a bit longer.

David Cranmer said...

Patti, that would be challenging for sure. I had quite a bit of difficulty with mine and I'm not sure I will attempt the rotating first person again. My story did get accepted and I'll let you know when it's coming out. Good luck on yours!