16 February 2013

It’s all about me

So let’s talk about some of these point of view options that I mentioned.  What I’ll try to do is offer the pros and the cons of using each point of view.  Today, I think I’ll focus on the first person POV.

Just as a refresher, first person point of view is the one where the pronouns are all related to self. I and me will litter the text outside the dialogue.  Some we may also appear.  Everything the writer offers comes through the main narrator’s thoughts.

A good book that shows the good use of this point of view is Hunger Games by Susanne Collins.

What’s the advantage of using this POV?

This is a good point of view when your main character sees all the necessary action and reacts to it.  You see, hear, and feel everything that character experiences.  Everything of importance flows right through your narrator, so your plot will move. 

Most readers will say that this offers a direct connection to the character, allow them to identify with them easier.  They are directly in the narrator’s head, so they find thoughts and feelings easier.

So where’s my disadvantage?

The disadvantage is just as linked to the character as the advantage.  Your scope is limited as you write.  You can’t offer details from what’s happening across the room unless you move the character’s focus to that point.  If something happened two days ago, but your character doesn’t know about it, you can’t reveal it UNTIL the character learns about it. 

Also, depending on the scene, it may be too close for certain scenes.  Imagine the pain and suffering a character getting beaten senseless suffers.  Do you want your reader right there as each punch hits?  For some, yes, for others, no. 

I’ve mentioned twice the idea of narrator, instead of main character.  This is an important distinction.  Your narrator is telling the story, but your main character doesn’t have to be your narrator.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did this with Sherlock Holmes.  Doctor Watson narrated the story, though Holmes was your main character.

I bring this up because it is something that could be either a positive or a negative.  I’ll expand on the concept in another post, but what I want to point out is what literary gurus call the unreliable narrator.  This refers to the storyteller not telling all the proper details, or fracturing the details based on their bias.  The first person narrator could come across as a wonderful narrator, or they could prove unreliable.  How you write the character will dictate whether they are or not.

So when should I use first person POV?
I can’t state for a fact that this story always makes a good first person POV or that one is horrible as one.  Most times, I suggest looking at the scope of the story.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How focused does the story need to be?
- Do actions outside the narrator’s view factor into the story that maybe you’ll need to reveal before the narrator knows? 
- Will the story revolve around more than the narrator and/or the main character? 

Think about these questions as you begin to write, to decide if you want to use first person point of view.

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