- from Susan
If you’re a writing student, there’s not much I can tell you that far more accomplished teachers than I (including Michael in yesterday’s post) haven’t said or written already.
If you’re a fellow author, you have doubtless struggled with what point of view (POV) will serve your story often enough to be sick of thinking about it.
If you’re a reader – and if you are, know that people like me put you on a pedestal – you have probably wandered into books that don’t quite pull off whatever POV they have taken on, and wondered what could be so hard about it. I read a book recently that insisted on every major character having a voice. The result was confusing as I was jerked from the inside of one head to another. It was a bit like having a separate announcer for every horse in a race, each one taking over as his animal momentarily took the lead. By the end of the book – and, yes, I read to the every end, waiting for magic – I realized none had been given a chance to win my sympathy and I was just happy the cacophony was over.
My Dani O’Rourke series is in first person. She lives an active life, is easily placed in the same room or at one end of a phone conversation, and is a sharp observer of people and settings. Of course, the reader only knows what she witnesses, discovers, thinks. One of the awkwardnesses is having her describe herself. She can look in a mirror once, but even that probably elicits groans from some readers. In subsequent books, it has to come in bits and pieces or in comments by others. And, no, the butcher can’t say, “You look nice with your chestnut hair curling in the damp air and your five foot nine self draped in a trendy coat that doesn’t disguise your slightly plump body.” I don’t care how accommodating your butcher is, he will not help you that way.
I’ve set it aside to get the revisions done for my next Dani novel, but I’m attempting a difficult POV in a stand alone novel: an omnipotent and opinionated narrator, plus a handful of different POVs the narrator orchestrates. Think Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope, but modernized for our times. Hard? Oh, I’d say so. Perhaps not possible to do well. Not fashionable either. But as much trouble as it is to arrive at an effective POV for your story, when you get the right one, your story will begin to soar and it will feel right. My characters in this one and I are waiting impatiently for take-off!