Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

NaNo Prep Tip# 3: Point of View October 28, 2011

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 1:56 PM
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Just a few more days until NaNo starts. I’m already having second thoughts – I already have too  much homework. What will happen if I fail? – but that’s part of the experience. You just force a smile and keep on going, using the idea of utter humiliation as a motivator.

A good thing to know before you start your book is what point of view you’re going to be writing in. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

First person limited: All you can see/hear/know/understand is filtered through the head of one person. This helps readers connect to a character faster, but it limits you. If there’s some crucial piece of information that the character doesn’t know but the reader should, you’re stuck. Some authors make up for this by doing the cursed split POV story, which I shall never speak of again. Another shortcoming is that if the character thinks too much, is rather dull, or whines a lot, readers might get sick of it and put the book down, as they have no escape. This is best for a character with a strong, original voice.

First person omniscient: Very rare, unless the character in question is a mind reader or some sort of outside observer. The only example I’ve seen is The Book Thief. It’s a tricky POV to do well.

Second person: Choose your own adventure style. I’ve seen bits of it used in Cry, The Beloved Country, but usually this POV is just tacky.

Third person limited: The most common type of narration. Think Harry Potter. It’s not told as ‘I’, but we only hear the thoughts of one character. This allows the writer more room to maneuver, but still gives the reader someone to focus on.

Third person omniscient: The narrator can see into all the character’s though processes at will. We usually don’t see all of them at once, but jump around. Think Runemarks. This allows the reader to know things one character may not, which comes in handy if some of the characters are idiots.  However, it’s generally best to still focus on one person, so we get an idea of a central character.

Mix it up: Is one POV not enough? Do several. The Bartimaeus Trilogy, after all, switches between third person limited and first person limited (with occasionally breaches of the fourth wall). First person books might occasionally step outward to third person for behind the scenes action.

That’s all for POVs. But as an additional bit of NaNo prep – now is a good time to notify your friends/family/significant other that you may not be around much next month. Also, stake a claim on a computer. I informed my family of which one I would use. If necessary, claim it by setting up residence there, creating clever booby traps, or leaving scent marks. (In perfume – what did you think I meant?) However you do it, make sure you have access to a word processor. In a few days, you’ll be needing it.



The POV Blues April 17, 2011

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 3:34 PM
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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?