currently playing on my iPod: Fidelity by Regina Spektor
My current WIP is written in 1st person POV because I enjoy the immersion effect of reading 1st person. But this week, I began adding scenes written in 3rd person POV from the perspective of my main prot’s counterpart. Most books today include multiple POVs. I thought today we’d explore three ways POVs are presented in novels and what those techniques can add or take away from your manuscript.
1. Alternating 1st person POV
I’ve seen this technique put to good use in a few YA novels recently such as Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. Ms. Stiefvater simply labels each chapter with the name of who is “speaking”. 1st person places the reader right in the shoes of the character so that their feelings become the reader’s as well. The problem with 1st person is that the writer is limited to revealing only what that particular character sees, hears, and does. Including another character written in 1st person relieves some of this challenge in that the writer may additionally reveal what that second character experiences. A writer must be careful though because this style can quickly become confusing for the reader.
2. Alternating 3rd person POV
Many historical fiction writers use 3rd person so that they may fully reveal the situation in context through several characters’ eyes and ears. The writer may discuss the character’s appearance without making the character seem vain. The writer may, if he or she chooses to be omniscient, explain what that character does or does not know about the events in the story. Many writers find it clean and simple to use 3rd person to explore the events in two, three, or even four characters’ lives. I personally feel less attached when reading 3rd person, but that is only this woman’s opinion.
3. Alternating 1st and 3rd
Writers like Vanora Bennett (Portrait of an Unknown Woman) and Diana Gabaldon (Dragonfly in Amber) have used this technique with great success. The main protagonist in each is written in 1st to help the reader really experience the story. Additional character’s events are written in 3rd so that the reader may learn more about the situations involved. This is my favorite style. The story is enriched with details from many sides. It’s great fun to read about the main protagonist through the eyes of another character. I prefer 3rd for these other characters because I find I am less confused than I am with alternating 1st. I know, as a reader, if I see “I” then the main protagonist is running this section. Once again, it’s just one woman’s opinion.
Many more approaches to POV exist and I encourage you to look for them in your favorite books. What do you prefer?