Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Brief Hiatus/POV Concerns

Gracious! Has it already been a week since my last post? Wow. I've been working on several newspaper articles lately, and I have one more piece to finish before the end of the week. Between the research, interviewing and the writing itself, I'm keeping quite busy. Not that I'm complaining. Quite the contrary. These days, I'm grateful for whatever work I can get.

Anyway, today I thought I'd pose a question to you all about my current WIP. As I've mentioned before, it's a YA sci-fi novel tentatively titled, The Shifter Files, and I'm totally and completely psyched about it. As much as superhero stories have been done to death, I'm hoping to tell the same ol' yarn in a fresh, exciting way. Most of the characters are still pretty sketchy, but they have the potential to be really dynamic. I just need to flesh them out...a lot.

Therein lies the problem. See, the other day I came across this post by YA author Dawn Metcalf (via Super Agent Janet Reid's blog). Metcalf doesn't mince words when it comes to her dislike of first-person narrative, despite the fact that it's practically the standard point-of-view in YA fiction. And yet, she goes on to sing the praises of Avery Cates, the narrator and protagonist in Jeff Somers' The Electric Church. Here's an interesting snippet from her comments:

"...there is no question in my mind that Avery Cates is not “redeemable” – he will continue to kill people, he will still make bad choices, and he will continue to do horrific things in order to keep himself alive and I’ll still want to read what happens to him...I can empathize with Avery Cates (even though I’d never want to meet an Avery Cates!) but it’s not because I can sympathize with him; it’s because in the pages of Somers’ book, I am Avery Cates."

That got me thinking--well, perhaps I should say worried--about how I'm handling TSF. I adore my heroine. She's tough, she resourceful and she doesn't think twice about shooting her mouth off at shapeshifting terrorists. She's a heck of a lot cooler than I am. So when the idea for TSF first popped into my head, my first instinct was to tell the story from her perspective. And it worked the beginning.

Problem is, the further I get into the story, the more I find myself wanting to pull out of her head and take a bird's-eye view of everything. I feel like I'm losing my heroine's voice. Like Avery Cates, she's an assassin, and sometimes I wonder if the impartial, observatory tone of third-person would be a better fit for the story. On the other hand, I'm nowhere near finished developing her yet. It could be that the reason I'm struggling with her voice is because I simply don't know her well enough yet.

I'm halfway through the story right now, so I feel the need to choose one way or the other. I'd hate to discover that I was using the wrong point-of-view the entire time and have to completely rewrite it.

What do you ladies and gents think? Any thoughts? Suggestions? How do you determine which point-of-view to use in your stories?


  1. I think I would try writing about her some more. Do some character sketches, writing about her from omniscient POV and from the POV of someone else in the novel. Remember Gatsby? It could be that the person best suited to tell your story is a peripheral character, a watcher. It could be that you need her voice, but a different format. Or that you even have a multi-voiced novel.

    Get to know her (and the others in the novel) a little better, and you'll know a little better what to do.

  2. Fluffy Cat,
    Thanks for the great advice! I love the idea of writing from a different character's POV. You know, that never even occurred to me! That's part of the reason why I loved The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald carried it off beautifully.

    Having multiple POVs sounds good as well. You've given me a lot to think about. I'll let you know how it turns out. Thanks again!

  3. Soooooo feel your pain. Am revising the POV in my big WIP right now. Ug! But it'll be worth it in the end...hopefully.

  4. I can't read first person POV. Bluntly put, it drives me nuts. It is EVERYWHERE right now. I do not like how it limits me in my perception of the character. I usually write in at least two POV's and that way I can explore the characters much more and how they view each other, which also reveals character.

    But, having said that, I think each story will tell you what POV to use. I *did* use first person POV in a story once, I think, but it is by far NOT my favorite thing to use.

  5. Angie,
    Oh good, it's nice to know I'm not suffering alone, lol! Best of luck with your revisions, hun. If you need some cheerleading to get you through it, just let me know :)

  6. Melissa,
    I hear you there. That's part of why I'm struggling so much with this decision. First person POV can be the most annoying thing in the world when it's done badly. Worse than a root canal.

    At the same time, I can see why so many YA authors opt for it. It can work very well for characterizing teens, who tend to be pretty "me, me, me" already. Haha!

    I'm sure you're right, though. The story will let me know what it "wants," so to speak.

  7. At the end of the day, the descion to choose the method of POV will always fall on the shoulders of the writer. Which means to say, that despite the research and the advice that other writers' will give, its ultimately up to you to determine which voice best suits your characters; even if it turns out to be in first person, or in another form, that might not be equally as popular to express. If you hold true to your characters, and to the voice that each of them is bringing to you... you cannot steer wrong, in allowing yourself a bit of breathing room, and seeing if there might be a hidden narrative character lying in the midsts of darkness,... somewhere closeby to your lead character. Perhaps a companion or an acquaintance. Or, maybe someone peering in from the outside altogether. It could even be a supporting lead who has a new perspective to share, that gives levity to the story, but helps guide the perceptions of the reader. Do only what feels right to you. Trust yourself. And, only yourself.

  8. Anon 5:20,
    Very true. In the end, I'm going to trust my own instincts. I just wanted to get some advice from others who might have struggled with this same decision before.

    Thank you for your wisdom. I plan to take some time to flesh out my characters and see what they tell me. I'm sure they'll lead me in the right direction.

  9. I wish you luck in this. I don't think I have much to add then what other people have already said. I am struggling through my own POV problems with the manuscript that's going through the query stage. It's absolutely horrible to wake up one morning and say, "I wonder if I shouldn't have done it in first person." Now every story I want to switch around, wondering if it works better in third person.

    Dare I say this? But there is a published book someone once did in second person. Imagine that.

  10. Michelle,
    Thanks so much for the well wishes. They are truly appreciated :) I hope you can find peace with your manuscript, too.

    As much as I'm struggling with my WIP now, I imagine it's even harder to let it go out into the scary publishing world. Well, don't worry. I'm sure your story is fantastic just the way it is!

  11. Came to read about Google calendar and dribbled down to your POV discussion. Ah, interwebbery.

    I assume this is the first draft. This is where you play! Change your POV right in the middle, no problem! If you've written in first person the first half, then switch to third person the last half. What's the harm? When you're done and go to revisions, you can decide which POV serves the whole story better.

    Maybe you'll decide to switch back after two chapters. Whatever. IT'S YOUR FIRST DRAFT. ANYTHING GOES. You can go back and retell the same scene from eight different characters' POV if you want. Tell the same scene with six different outcomes. To me, in the first draft, nothing is wasted effort. All the writing tells you more about your character, your plot, your setting, even if you don't end up using it. It will inform what you DO use.

    Give yourself choices. Stir the pot. Hey, you're YA, baby. Make trouble!

  12. Lisha,
    That is such GREAT advice! I like the way you think! Me being the Type A, linear-thinking person that I am, I never would've thought of that on my own. And yet, when you mentioned it, it made so much sense.

    To answer your first statement, yes, this is the first draft. Somehow I forgot that, LOL! I guess the perfectionist in me wanted to get everything right the first time around, but as you said so eloquently--I need to play! Why not? Thanks so much! Brilliant stuff!