Point of view. Looking at all the things that figure into a story, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But point of view is one of the most important parts of any type of writing. It determines how you see the situation – what biases, background, and diction you’re exposed to. Books would have a completely different feel if you switched the POV. Imagine the Hunger Games in third person past, or Harry Potter in first person. Choosing the right POV is vital.
Usually, it’s not a big problem. There’s a clear protagonist, the person who stars in and tells the story. Easy. But sometimes… things get complicated.
Here’s an example. I started a new project a few weeks ago (that got derailed by the IB Hell Week that ensued, which has later become Hell Month and indeed may be shaping up to be Hell Rest-of-the-Year.) Anyway, I thought up an idea, let it sit on a back-burner for a few days to make sure it didn’t lose its luster, and then started work. Two chapters in, I realized something very unfortunate: my main character was dull as dirt. Duller, actually. Dull as… erm… plastic. Or something. The point was, she was boring. No interesting back story, no personality – I was just using her as a question asking device to get information from a side character, Raianne, who was infinitely more interesting and had more personality in her little finger.
I knew what I had to do. Annoyed but resigned, I set out to rewrite the two existing chapters from Raianne’s point of view. This took longer than anticipated, as my computer decided to torture me by turning itself off, without autosaving my work. I turned the computer back on, redid the chapters – and the power went out. I’m not making this up. A few hours later, when the power came back on, I redid the two chapters yet again, and made another horrible discovery: I needed to do split narrative.
I’ve addressed this in other posts – split narrative is a nightmare to write. You’ve got to plot it out so you can make sure your characters are narrating at the right time, you have to make sure their voices are different… I had left my NaNo novel with the hopes that I would never have to do split narrative again. But the best way of telling my story was with two voices. With a heavy heart, I scrawled – ‘Split narrative. Vance?’ – on a post it note and stuck it above the computer, where it’s remained. I haven’t gotten beyond those two chapters, because of the aforementioned Hell Week/Month/Forever, but once I do, I’ll have to rejoin the endless cycle of plotting and time-juggling that’s needed for split narrative.
This just goes to show that your story can surprise you. You might end up writing about someone or something that you hadn’t intended. And chances are, it’s going to drive you crazy.
But that’s part of the ride, right?