Help me welcome my guest, author Lorena Streeter, to Terry's Place today. We've talked about Point of View here before -- let's see another take on the subject.
My perspective...vs her point of view: writing 1st person vs writing 3rd
Unhappy with the way my heroine was behaving—or at least my writing about her behaving—I took a leap this summer from the world of 3rd person point of view (POV) to the world of 1st person POV.
It was a little like stepping off a stair without noticing the ground was six inches farther away than I'd thought. So, for what it's worth, here are some of the things I didn't expect to find when I switched to telling "my" story instead of "hers."
1. 1st person changed the story. I expected the POV change to limit the story, but I didn't expect the story to gain a whole new emphasis just because I couldn't portray anything the heroine (whose POV it is) wasn't privy to. If I wanted it in the story, either she had to be there, or someone had to tell her about it. This may be why traditional detective stories are often written in first person, and suspense novels (where the reader often knows whodunit before the protagonist does) usually aren't.
Because you aren't able to drop clues via the villain's (or victims') POV, you have to find a way to increase the heroine's awareness without making it obvious or lame. You have to build the suspense/horror/etc through the readers' identification with the heroine and what she (and no one else) is going through.
2. 1st person deepens the emotion. Because we're deep in her POV anyway, relaying her thoughts and feelings is simple—just remember to avoid the words "thought" and "felt." Okay, I expected that—in fact, it's the main reason I took the plunge. But then there's...
3. Sex. Here's what I didn't expect: that writing a simple kiss in the 1st person POV would be a challenge (I know, anyone who knows me is laughing at this. But 1st person is so...personal). My solution? Write the scene in 3rd (thanks to a suggestion from my critique partner) and then do the changeover.
4. 1st person makes it really hard to dig into the villain's motivation. It has to be done through the things that happen to the heroine, or are observed by her. On the other hand, it's a great test of storytelling skill to draw that picture through the small glimpses the heroine has.
5. Author intrusion. Easier to sneak in when you're writing in 3rd person. If I tell you my heroine went to a park, you have a particular image in your mind, just from reading the words. That image will probably change if, in 1st person, I tell you "I" sat down on a merry-go-round, the wobbly metal kind like I'd skinned my nose on in the 1st grade. For the story, that might be all that's important. Certainly, for the heroine, that's all that's important right now. But what about later, when I send her back to the same park, but the villain is hiding behind a tree? My heroine was so focused on her memory of Bobby Taylor pushing her down so she skinned her nose, she never noticed that right off the playground, the woods are really thick....In third person, I can impose some of what's important to me on what the heroine sees, and not have to make her notice that there are oak trees all around her...and so I can set the scene just a little bit for you.
Mostly, these are technical/mechanical details—the one challenge that really threw me was the first one I listed—how it actually changed the story. I'd expected to change certain things, naturally, because I knew the heroine wouldn't be able to see/hear/feel them. But I had not expected that removing the other two POVs I was using would shift the story into a completely different path...it taught me a lot about what my heroine was/is really doing in the story, although I don't recommend it as a way to dig into your heroine's goals and motivations. There are shorter ways to do that!
Lorena Streeter is a central Florida writer who writes romantic suspense with a paranormal twist. She also writes erotic romance and is published in that genre under the name Lara Dien. You can check out her writing blog—which generally reflects whatever she's thinking about at the time—at www.laradien.blogspot.com.