Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Point of View (The Debate Rages On)
I hear you all talking (especially you, Khy) about your point-of-view preferences…first versus third person. As a reader, I’d never really given it that much thought, a book worked if it worked. Meaning, the point of view didn’t matter to me if the writer was capable of telling the story, no matter which perspective they’d chosen.
But as a writer, I’ve had to consider this, to think about it, to delve deep into my psyche. Okay, really? Maybe not so much with that last part, I mean it’s not that deep a question. But it does spark some (somewhat) heated discussions, and some varied opinions, even (I’ve discovered) within myself.
I’m not sure I have a strong enough opinion to jump on my soapbox and make a broad proclamation that “I” is better than “he” or “she.” Or vice versa. I think there are benefits to both. (And, yes, I realize there is that pesky second person narrative, but, honestly, I don’t really get-it, so for argument’s sake, I’m going to pretend it doesn’t exist. Just go with me on this one.)
It really comes down to personal choice, to what works best for you. Some writers prefer one point of view over the other, tending to write all (or at least most) of their work from that perspective. Personally, I like to dabble. Switch hit, you might say. The Body Finder is third person, my current project is first, and I really liked writing both of them. Equally, but in completely different ways.
One thing I’ve noticed about first person is that it’s easier to get inside of your character’s head and flesh out their personality. You’re freer to express their internal dialogue, which can add humor/drama/impact. Sometimes. It can also give you a bad case of TMI, so you have to be careful just how much “sharing” you do (you don’t want your character to come across as whiny or bitchy or just plain unlikeable). Also, I think it would be easy to get stuck in that internal world, leading to far too much telling and not enough showing.
And, in my opinion, a writer can just as easily bring their characters to life (in High-Def & Technicolor) in third person, all while adding a broader view than just that one character’s perspective. Sometimes. If not employed properly, it can also lead to flat, cardboard cutout-type characters, and in some cases allow for too many POVs which can muddy the waters.
So what’s the answer? There isn’t one. There is no clear winner. Don’t believe me? Then check out each of these lists and tell me which list we could do without.
(I triple-dog dare you!)
FIRST PERSON BOOKS:
To Kill a Mockingbird (I have to include this one because it’s one of my all-time faves)
The Hunger Games
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
THIRD PERSON BOOKS:
The Golden Compass
The Graveyard Book
(Oh, and what’s this…?) The Body Finder (Sorry, I had to do it.)
(And, okay, yes, I did not search far and wide for these books; I simply turned and looked at my bookshelves. Clearly, I write YA.)
But here’s what I want to know: As a reader or a writer, do you have a preference? Would you rather be inside (or outside) of the character’s heads? Spying on their innermost thoughts and feelings, or trying to decipher their emotions by gathering clues in their actions and studying their reactions?
And which list could you do without???