Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Approaches to POV

In early July I took on a new challenge, restoring a hand-crocheted bedspread I estimate to be at least a hundred years old. Exquisitely detailed work - and likely done by kerosene lamp! - but it looked as if someone at some time had put it in a washing machine. (Unbelievable, I know.) The fringe had been torn off in several places, as if caught in the rotor, and there were a LOT of holes in the design itself, as well as a multitude of places where the original yarn and previous mends had broken and had to be tied off before they became new holes!

But when a man brought the bedspread into our Crochet Club and asked if anyone could fix it, I was the only volunteer. Probably because I was taught to "mend," and most of the work involved was plain, old-fashioned mending with needle and thread. Of course, if I did my work correctly, you won't notice anything except possibly the lighter color new fringe. (The owners are hoping to use the natural remedies of lemon juice and sunshine to lighten the yellow of aging, and someone on Facebook also suggested Oxyclean.) Below are views taken the day before I returned the bedspread to the owners.) And yes, I should have turned my cutting board upside down before laying out the bedspread, but I didn't, so please ignore the blue graph lines!



My apologies for postponing this week's announced topic, but I realized I had more to say about Point of View—that I had not pointed out what a variety of writing styles can be accommodated by what we call "First Person" and "Third Person." Your choices are likely far greater than many of you realized.

Definitions:  "First Person" in its most basic form is a story told from only ONE person's Point of View: 
     I fell in love on a Friday. 
     They tell me my mother was a queen . . .

"Third Person" is the most common form of writing a novel, using a person's name or the pronouns "he" and "she" in the narration:
     Emily hit the brakes hard, but it was too late.
     She was gone. He'd lost her, now and for all time.

Variations on a Theme:

1.  One First Person POV. Over the years I've heard a number of Romance authors declare they "hate" First Person books. Allegedly, this is because they demand to know the Hero's Point of View, as well as the Heroine's. And yet my Regency Gothics, told entirely from one woman's POV, are my best-selling books. Frankly, Gothic novels only work in strict First Person because the Heroine must feel alone, cut off from what others are thinking and doing. (If she knew the Hero really cared for her and meant her no harm, much of the suspense would be lost.)

First Person, with a sole narrator, also works well for Mysteries. I'm sure you can think of a good many famous mystery stories told in First Person.

2.  First Person - Multiple POVs.  Some books are written from different Points of View, all of them in First Person. WARNING:  If you do this, give each section a label. "David," "Sam," "Virginia," "Blue Robot," etc., so readers will instantly know which "I" is talking. Otherwise . . . major confusion.

3.  Mix of First Person & Third Person. This has become a fairly common device, particularly in Mysteries. (See the works of James Lee Burke or Linda Castillo.) These "mix" books are frequently part of a series narrated by a continuing Main Character in First Person. The view points of others in the story - sometimes a villain, sometimes a sidekick, sometimes a victim - are told in classic Third Person. The switches in POV are easy to spot because our Hero/Heroine always narrates in First Person, while Third is reserved for Secondary Characters, almost inevitably interspersed by the Main Character's POV to avoid confusion. 

Note: If you switch from one Third Person POV to the next without First Person in between, you must establish who is narrating in the first few words of the new section.

2.  Third Person - ONE POV.  Not common, but these books do exist. They are books told from a single Point of View but are written using "he" and "she" instead of "I."  I usually find myself going, "Huh? Why didn't the author just use First Person?" But to each his own. Just keep in mind that it is possible to write a Third Person book from the POV of only one person.

3.  Third Person - 2 - 4 POVs.  This is the most common form of novel writing - what most of us expect when we pick up a book to read. In Romance, for example, readers expect to become acquainted with the viewpoint of both Hero and Heroine, with perhaps the viewpoint of a Villain thrown in. Or a sidekick , a precocious child, or Great-gramma Tillie who wonders which descendant is most worthy of her fortune.

Note:  There are some books of this type that go along as expected, and then—oops!—you realize the author just threw in a one-sentence remark or a short paragraph from a minor character's Point of View. I personally like these little inserts. They provide a fresh viewpoint and keep readers on their toes. (The famed Regency author, Georgette Heyer, did this all the time.)

Grace Note:  Third Person POV is such a habit that I was on Chapter 2 of my third Regency Gothic, The Demons of Fenley Marsh, before I realized I had written Chapter 1 in Third Person instead of First!

4.  Third Person - Multiple POVs. As noted in previous posts, Multiple POVs can keep things lively or they can seriously detract from the point of your story. For example, over the course of four books in my Blue Moon Rising series, I portray seven or eight serious romances, including one that ends in tragedy and one that ends unconventionally. But I tried to never lose sight of the fact that the four royal children and their significant others were the primary focal points of the series. And I made an effort to present the secondary romances with considerably less time than those of my main characters. (I can only hope it worked.) To repeat what I said last week: KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE GOAL. Don't distract readers by going in too many directions at once. 

Action/Suspense authors like Tom Clancy and Jack Higgins handle Multiple POVs exceedingly well.

5.  Author POV.  This is "storyteller" mode, an approach that works better in stories with less emotion. Author POV means YOU, as author, are standing back, DESCRIBING what is going on, as opposed to getting inside your main characters' heads and letting them reveal their own stories—allowing readers to see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. Author POV is deadly in Romance, something to be avoided as much as possible. 

That doesn't mean you can't describe your Main Characters, but almost all books are better for being told from the Main Characters' own Points of View and NOT the Author's. To repeat:  DO NOT "tell" us what is happening or what people are thinking. Let your characters "show" us.

~ * ~

For a link to Royal Rebellion, click here.

 For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, click here.

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