Choosing Perspective: First Person vs Third

The gobbledygook mess that is my current WIP is throwing more challenges my way. I had problems writing the heroine’s voice so I changed to first person and wrote the next 3/4 of

Still waiting to see if my primroses survived the winter.
Still waiting to see if my primroses survived the winter.

the novel that way … and now I think I’ve changed my mind. The question is why this is worth the extra work this will require (although why I keep changing my mind about everything is a good question too. However, no answer to that just now.)

The issue is first person vs third person perspective. And the limits and strengths of both.

An obvious strength of first person perspective is clearly allowing your reader to truly experience the story and experiences through your character. I also found it easier to get into their head when I was able to use the pronoun “I.” Even in works where I have written in third person, for some reason I sometimes find it easier to get into first person POV (point of view) to be able to literally get in my character’s head. This can allow for some very “in” jokes, and perhaps I was influenced to try out first person POV because I’ve been reading some great books (like the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the Grave series by Darynda Jones, and the dragon books by Katie MacAlister.)

That said, the reason I’ll be changing to deep third person is because I’m finding first person rather limiting. And, even in those great books, especially when it comes to romance, I’m frustrated that the non-POV character (usually the male lead) becomes a bit “shadowed.” Even when you try to show their experience and have them share their story with the heroine in her perspective, it remains the heroine’s story. Frankly, this is a problem for me because I believe a romance should be about both of the characters, showcase both of their stories (even if one has greater obstacles and a more significant character development arch), and allow the reader to see how both characters find love.

The other problem: despite the many issues I’m having with this current WIP (work in progress), somehow or other this is my favorite hero I’ve created so far. In truth, I probably like him more than the heroine, and I can’t bear for his story to be neglected.

To me, the choice of perspective (even choosing which character’s perspective a particular scene is written in), always comes down to who has the most at stake. And in this case, while my heroine perhaps has the most at stake, my hero still has something to lose (and gain) as well, and I think it’s only fair he gets to share the stage equally.

Of course, I’ve frequently been known to be wrong (and change my mind). 😉

So, to you: Have you read a book written in first person perspective (written completely using the “I” pronoun like a confessional almost), where other characters came through extremely vividly? If so, would you mind sharing the titles?

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re all having a fantastic week out there. It looks like spring has finally decided to arrive. 🙂

The Journey to Publication, Writing

It’s All in the Perspective: Considering Your Personal POV and Journaling

I’ll start by saying that I’m not discussing matters of POV shift and usage IN your writing, but rather, the effect your personal POV has ON your writing. And a great way to monitor and track your own POV is through journal entries where you can view them with some objectivity and distance.

Yes, I suppose I’m still going on about the new year, but my own ambivalence led me to consider past journal entries, and what I found both amused and surprised me. Because I found I was experiencing the same things in my life, the same struggles, even though my life now is considerably different than in those previous years. What I think this tells me – and you – is that sometimes the most important perspective we have to beware of is our own, because it’s the same excuses, the same feelings of inadequacy, the same fears that can hold us back from creating the best things we can, from becoming the best people we can be.

I’ve been writing about resistance and how to overcome it, and I think a huge part of that always must come back to the idea that we create our own reality and our own experience of reality. Sometimes we get so caught up in the present (not such a bad thing), that it becomes difficult for us to get perspective and decide whether what we “know” is indeed fact, or perhaps a result of our own perspective.

Writing in a journal often happens when you’re swinging on either a high or a major low (at least for me, since I’ve never been able to keep up with daily journaling – if you are, power to you for it). Looking back on past entries, you’ll probably quickly start to see patterns if you can avoid getting sucked into the experience of that past day. For example, when I look back on past journal entries, it’s clear evidence that I’m falling into the same traps for writing bad habits and emotional swings. Are you doing the same thing?

Every year I seem frustrated by my lack of progress the previous year – I can never achieve enough to be satisfied, it would seem, so perhaps I’ve set impossible goals.  I continue to see time slipping away from me, and feel I’m living in some kind of limbo – but rather than waiting years more for what’s after that limbo, why not see that perhaps that IS my experience of life? Indeed, I may want more – and by all means, goal-setting, future-planning, these are all essential, but what about living in the present? What about experiencing and appreciating the life that IS?

Journal or diary entries are a great way to judge how you’re feeling at a particular time, and to also watch for habits and tendencies. How do you feel when you start the first draft of a WIP? How long before you start to droop, around what word count or number of days writing? At what point do you think the whole piece is crap and want to throw it all away? And finally (yes, I’m skipping a few steps), at what point do you come back to the beginning and think the WIP is worthwhile, and actually, it’s pretty good?

This can be extremely helpful when you’re in the low point of the emotional rollercoaster that often accompanies a WIP. If you know where you are (ie: a high point or a low) you can moderate your response and anticipate what will likely come next. Mostly, you can get over the over-emotional crap, and just get on with what’s important: the creation and your writing. Because after all, that’s what really matters, right?

And hey, if the retrospective doesn’t help your writing, at the very least you can look at a past rotten day and think at least you survived that and you’re not experiencing it today.

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and hoping today will earn a “wonderful day” journal entry. J