What I'm reading: The Eagle Catcher, by Margaret Coel.
Thanks to Sharon for those wonderful insights into the inner workings of a Navy SEAL.
I recently read a book by a very well-known romance/romantic suspense author and it gave me another look at what a writer can do with Point of View. Deep Point of View means the reader sees and knows only what the character sees and knows. Yet it's possible to deliver only the information that the author wants to disclose while still being in that character's head.
First, it's a testament to this author's skill that although I knew I was being set up, and had a pretty good idea of the final twist, I wasn't tempted to stop to analyze the 'hows' or look for clues or slipups as I read. But once I got to the end, and my suspicions were confirmed, I went back to see whether the author had in fact, "cheated" in her use of POV.
And, no, she hadn't. Which is probably why she's a best-selling author. And if you'll leave a comment, I'll enter you in a drawing to win my copy of this "mystery" book so you can see for yourself.
I don't normally like spoilers, but there's really no way to demonstrate the author's technique without giving away some major plot points. I won't name the book or the author, but you may recognize it if you've read it. If not, and if you do read it, I hope I haven't given too much away. As I said, I figured it out very early on, and the story is still a good one regardless of whether or not you know the 'truth.'
The major storyline revolves around a set of identical twins who are very close. Almost on a whim, they've changed places for a night, so Twin A is pretending to be Twin B. Twin A is murdered, and Twin B sets out to solve the crime.
Having read enough mysteries, I had a very strong hunch that Twin A was really Twin B, and that all would be revealed. Which it was, but not until almost the end of a 550 page book.
So, how did the author do this while maintaining deep character POV? First, the twin was not the only POV character in the book. There were numerous others, including the hero and quite a few others. But whenever it was the twin's POV scene, the author NEVER used her name in dialogue tags, or internal monologue. Each of these scenes would begin with another character mentioning the twin by name, or some other way to ground the reader in whose scene it was. How was this done? Here are some paraphrased examples.
"Can I get you anything, Jane?"
"No, thanks," she said.
"Jane, why don't you take this extra chair?"
She accepted with a nod of thanks.
"Good afternoon," the pleasant voice on the phone said.
"My name is Jane Doe."
You'll notice that another character is responsible for setting up the scene, establishing the POV character. After these openings, the character's name was used only in direct dialogue, when spoken by another character. Otherwise it was all pronouns. So the reader never saw the character thinking of herself by name, which avoided that sticky situation of being in a character's head and having the character "lie" to the reader. Of course, that didn't stop the character from lying to other characters, but that's part of a character maintaining a deception, and isn't "wrong" or "cheating." As far as the reader was concerned, there was no reason to wonder whether this was Twin A or Twin B.
Of course, the author also didn't go into any introspection on the part of the twin, so one never saw thoughts like, "she hated lying about who she was, but…" Yet there was no spot in the story where this seemed like the author was skirting the facts. It's not right to play coy with a reader, and this book was an excellent example of being "fair" while hiding the truth.
Don't forget. I'll send my copy of this "mystery" book to one lucky commenter. Winner announced this weekend.