Tuesday Tips: My Point of View on Point of View

This Tuesday’s Tip comes at the request of a reader.

home-office“How do you choose point of view? I am trying to write for the first time. For some reason I am at a battle between 1st and 3rd. I would really enjoy hearing your thoughts on this process.”

POV is a great place to start!

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irst, let’s get a basic understanding of POV so we’re all on the same page. 

There are 3 basic points of view: 1st Person, 2nd Person, and 3rd Person. There is also omniscient POV, which we’ll briefly touch on, but I’ve never met an editor that allowed that POV. Keep in mind, this is my blog so this is my opinion. Every author has their own style and some of the bestselling books have broken all the rules.


First Person

eyesA budding author should know, upfront, this one is hard to sell. 1st person POV is written in the narrator’s perspective. This occurs by using the pronoun “I”. “I” is a tricky little bugger, more so than “She” or “He”. My first novel was written in 1st person, but many small presses will not even consider 1st person, so I never published it. Rewriting it in a different POV was simply too daunting a task at that stage of my career, so in a drawer it sits. However, some very popular books (True Blood and Twilight ) were written in first person. I personally think larger New York publishers are more flexible when it comes to 1st person POV, but it really depends on the editor and your story.

[pullquote-left]Little known fact… The Surrender Trilogy was originally written in 1st Person. It took me two months to rewrite the first book into 3rd Person. It was also originally called The Hooked Trilogy and that original version still exists on my computer under the title: HEROINe {Hooked 1}.[/pullquote-left]

Second Person

2nd Person is rarely used in fiction, especially romance, to my knowledge. This is a style that includes the reader by using “you”, pointingbut not as in dialogue when a character might refer to another character as “you”. This style speaks directly to the reader as if the author is giving instructions or a play by play. (Example: You will see, the more you practice one point of view the more natural it will become for you.) Imagine that in a romance novel…it would read like an instructional Cosmo article. (He put his what on my where?!?) 

There are rare cases “you” slips in to a 3rd Person novel, but that’s a rule breaker. The author has to be sly in order to make this work. Most times the editors prefer the author to use the word “one” (Example: There is a moment in life when you one knows for a fact you’re they’re getting older.)

My suggestion to any budding author is to steer clear of 2nd Person.

Third Person

If you are trying your hand at writing for the first time, 3rd person is where you want to start. Why? Because most new authors sign with smaller presses (I LOVE working with both Penguin in New York and Secret Cravings Publishing, a smaller/newer press, so don’t assume one  experience is better than the other. Small presses can teach you a LOT!) and most smaller presses only accept 3rd Person Past tense.

pointThird Person is the narrator’s retelling of events. This style is achieved with the use of “he” or “she”. There is an art to 3rd Person POV in that a good author makes it very deep. One does not need to be the character in order to know exactly how that character feels. I will eventually do an article on Deep POV, but if you are planning on writing a novel, you need to know that term and read everything you can find on it. Deep POV is your guide to making 3rd person read like 1st person. It is a book’s link to the reader on a very personal level, the same level that makes readers empathize and fall in love with characters.  When done right, it is so clear and sharp the reader will believe she is the character and get lost in your story. That’s the goal!


[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ome quick tips on Deep 3rd Person POV:

 

  1. Avoid using the character’s name. Give the name enough for the reader to remember it, but then stick with “she”. Randomlypov using the name of a character tends to rip the reader out of the story.
  2. Do not start paragraphs with “she” (or “he”).
  3. Try not to start sentences with “she”. This becomes torture to read. (Example: She turned the knob. She wasn’t sure what she expected. She jumped when the light flashed on and everyone yelled surprise. She started to cry.)… Oh, blah! Too much telling and not enough showing…How about… (Her fingers curled around the cool knob as she sorted the mail, hardly glancing up as she her feet crossed the threshold. The moment the light flashed on she her shoulders jerked with surprise. Multiple voices shouted, “Surprise!” and her throat constricted as her vision blurred with tears.)…See how you can feel her reactions? That’s called showing.)
  4. Avoid phrases like “began to” or “started to”. The reader wan’t to experience the story in the moment. (Using the example above: She started to cry. vs. Her vision blurred with tears. See how one keeps the reader in the moment, where the other merely prepared them for the action? Always keep them in the moment as things are happening.)

Omniscience POV

This is straight up not allowed in romance novels. This is having a godly POV, knowing what happens before it does, or what is going on where the character couldn’t possibly see or hear.  (Example: If only Eleanor knew this would be the last time she’d ever see Kyle….Umm…how do you know if she doesn’t? Are you a fortune teller? The reader really doesn’t like feeling like the last to know or feeling like they are keeping a secret from the heroine or hero. It becomes irritating and spoils some of the mystery or angst. The story should read like a live happening of events, unfolding for the first time as each individual reader turns the page, because THE READER’S imaginations is bringing those characters to life.)

Tenses:

timeThere are three main tenses: Past, Present, and Future.

Don’t overwhelm yourself. Stick with 3rd Person Past Tense (Remember, my opinion is just that…an opinion. I’m only offering the advice I have based on my own experiences  and preferences.) I personally find it very jarring to read present tense, because most romance novels are written in past tense and it’s what I’m used to. Every reader has their own preference, but I do believe most publishers prefer past tense. And there is nothing worse than having to rewrite the tense of an entire novel–trust me.

Tense Examples:

Past: She entered the apartment. (Common)

Present: She enters the apartment. (Less common)

Future: She will enter the apartment. (Awkward. Just don’t.)

POV Examples (all in past tense):

1st: I entered the apartment.

2nd: You entered the apartment.

3rd: She entered the apartment.

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]o to the reader that asked my POV on the subject of POV, I hope this helps.

My personal advice, try writing your first novel in 3rd Person past tense. It’s the most widely accepted style in romance.

And remember, even though you’re not the character, you must write like you are. You can only tell what the character knows. That’s what POV is all about. If someone is watching her, but she doesn’t see the spy, then you must leave it out until either the POV switches or she becomes aware that someone is watching her. If she smells something delicious in the other room, you can only describe the scent until she identifies the fragrant object. If there is a loud screech, you must describe it, but if she didn’t see what caused it (perhaps a car or a bird of prey or maybe even an infant) than the reader is left in the dark until the character further investigates. Understand? Good 🙂 You only have the character’s senses at your disposal, but that’s okay. Romance is sensual business. Get cozy with the senses. All those weirdos sniffing the air, making faces at their laptops, and feeling objects…they’re authors. Embrace the senses and be a little weird. Your readers will thank you.

I hope this helps any readers on the verge of turning writer. Best of luck on your new novel!

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