Sunday, April 09, 2006

POV -- mixing viewpoints


i've used both first person and third person in the same book, and this year i read several books with mixed viewpoints. normally the first-person viewpoint is the main character, and sometimes that viewpoint shifts to third person later in the book. or sometimes the main character is always written in first person, everybody else in third.

here's my problem:

i have a character who seems to want to be written in first person. Her story always unfolds in first person in my head and i have to translate it to third. i'm tired of fighting it, and wonder how weird it would be to give her first-person POV.

this book is a sequel. the character is new to this book. She's a main character, but not THE main character. so i'm afraid writing her in first person would be confusing to the reader and jarring. i'm also concerned that it's just self-indulgent on my part.

opinions?

25 comments:

emeraldcite said...

If I'm understanding correctly, I think it would be interesting to see the story from the POV from a non-MC. A bit like seeing Sherlock Holmes from the POV of Watson, right? They're both important, but Sherlock is the "man."

Would this first person character be the main storyteller? Or are we talking multiple viewpoints?

Of course, in the end, a more natural-sounding narrative is easier and better than a contrived one.

anne frasier said...

multiple viewpoints. this person would be 1 of about 5 viewpoint characters. the other characters would be written in third person. that's what makes it kind of unusual. but she's also an outsider who is viewing and observing these people and this town -- which makes me think it might work.

Jeff said...

I have also read a few books lately with multiple viewpoints, none of which were confusing. You say the character seems to want to be written in the first person and that's how you see it in your mind. I'm not sure I understand why you say "have to" translate her to third person. As long as you make it clear who is speaking in first person and at what point in the story, I see no reason not to have more than one character fill this role. Write her with first-person POV and see how it works.

anne frasier said...

the problem is that it falls outside the norm and is probably something you might see more in a literary novel. it works for me, but it might not work for readers or my publisher. there are certain expectations and boundaries within a genre that they might not want me to push. i guess the thing to do is see if the story sells, then ask my editor how she feels about it. it could be considered breaking more than one rule.

Christa M. Miller said...

Can you put her POV in diary form? That might help "sell" the change to your editor.

anne frasier said...

christa, that's a good idea -- but i'm kinda doing that already in another area. :D

writing her in first person isn't a huge deal to me. i can go either way, but it is intersting the way i keep thinking of her in first person. not so with the other characters.

Mark Pettus said...

Is it possible she's going to be THE major character in a future novel?

Is it possible she should be?

Christa M. Miller said...

I didn't mention before, but I had this happen in my current/first novel. I stuck with 1P because it was easier to think that way. However, it turned out, after an agent's feedback, that the POV WAS much stronger in 3P. So I'm doing that revision now and will continue shopping it when I'm done.

Are you in a place where you can talk about it with your agent? I'd be interested to hear his thoughts.

anne frasier said...

mark, i doubt she'll be the major character in another book.

christa: my agent and i don't usually talk about this kind of thing.

after mulling it over for 24 hours, i've decided against the first-person viewpoint. i just think it's too risky and will be too jarring. i'll save it for a different kind of book.

thanks for all of the input!

e-mom said...

---i'm glad you decided against. i just don't like those type of books. they annoy me.
but to each his own

Kelly Parra said...

I'm way late in this con, but her goes my opinion. =D

I've read books with multiple POVs. Some with more than one character in 1st person. It was a little confusing. The ones that read smoothly to me were the books where the one 1st person POV was either the heroine/hero or the villian.

Anyway, maybe you're connecting more with this character that she's coming through easier this way. Hopefully, it goes smooth from here on out. =D

anne frasier said...

emom:

damn, guess i should have just asked you last night. :D

i'm afraid it would have been distracting.

anne frasier said...

kelly, i've had the same reaction. i used first-person viewpoint for the killer in play dead and i think it worked in that situation because the killer was set apart from the rest of the story anyway. and i wanted it to seem different and a little off.

Shesawriter said...

Sounds to me like she's bucking for a starring role, Anne. My gut tells me to reign her in, or give her her own story. Otherwise, it may be a bit jarring to the reader. Just MHO.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Anne, unless I'm remembering incorrectly, Tess Gerritsen's recent VANISH has sections throughout the book that are written in first person by an important -- but not the main -- character, and it works quite well.

anne frasier said...

tanya: opinions seem to be all over the place on this.

rob, thanks! i'll definitely be reading that. and welcome back. :)

Jer said...

Anne, I just finished your latest tome. Unlike a few reviewers, I absolutely loved it.

Yet, when the POV changed from the leading character to one of the three young'ns, it did make me stop. I didn't hate that, and the storyline still worked, but I noticed it--so it made me stop for a moment. FWIW. Jer

anne frasier said...

thanks, jer!

i used to always use a time space to indicate POV shift. a chapter is even better, but not always practical. maybe i need to go back to the time space.

Jer said...

As long as you keep writing these wonderful, scary books... :) Jer

Sandra Ruttan said...

Simon Kernick has used some POV changes in his books brilliantly, and they never seem jarring to me. I think a less experienced person like myself might have a harder time pulling it off, but I think you should trust your gut instincts on how this character wants to be written. She probably won't work for you any other way.

anne frasier said...

sandra, i might run the idea past my editor if they accept the proposal.

jamie ford said...

Speaking of 1st person, did you ever read As I Lay Dying back in college? First person montage style from about a dozen different characters as I recall. Not quite applicable to a traditional story arc, but still cool.

anne frasier said...

jamie, no i never read it, but it sounds like a compelling concept.

Allison Brennan said...

VANISH by Tess Gerritsen. Not only is it an outstanding book (and possibly her best to date), but she has a secondary character in first POV in present tense, and even starts off the book in her POV. It's masterfully done.

anne frasier said...

hi, allison!

rob also mentioned vanish. i'm definitely going to have to get it. thanks!