Friday, April 28, 2006

Points of View

Both online and in person, our writers' group has been having quite a discussion lately about POV. Many thanks to Shalanna for posting this on our group's website, quoting from a handout she received from Fantasy author Patricia C. Wrede:

"Third-person intimate is very similar to the effect you would get if you wrote something in first person and then changed the pronouns:

He walked into the room and sized it up. The babe in the corner was stacked. He saw her eye him, then turn away. That's a come-hither look if ever I saw one. He started in her direction.

Essentially, you stick to one character as your POV - everything is seen through his or her eyes, and you don't give anyone else's reactions or thoughts except as seen through the eyes of the viewpoint character."

That's exactly the way I've been writing Gino's Law, only I wasn't italicizing his direct thoughts, like the ones containing "I," "me," and "my."

I had not heard the term "third-person intimate" before. It's a little different from third person, where you can switch POV characters from scene to scene. I thought I was doing something like third-person limited, which is like third person, except you stay with only one character's POV.

Alrighty, then. There's a name and a definition. That's better.

The first novel I wrote, The Earthquake Doll, was in third person, with two viewpoint characters. I didn't switch the POVs within a chapter, though. If a chapter started out in Isoko's viewpoint, it stayed there all the way through until the chapter ended. The next chapter could continue in her POV, or it might switch to Susan's POV.

In third person, Wrede says, "you can set your reader at a distance from a scene or make it almost as intimate as first person. In many ways, third person is the workhorse POV of fiction."

I seem to have a better "voice" for third-person intimate than third person. It's much easier for me to write. The words flow without my having to make so many conscious word choices during the process of writing.

This makes me wonder if I should try the first-person POV for my next book, on the theory that the closer I get to the character's thoughts, the better. However, I've heard that people generally don't like first-person stories as much as third. What's your point of view about all this? Do you have a preference for POV, either in your own writing, or in the kind of books you like to read?