The Sweetie Chronicles

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Choosing the Right POV

Picking a POV for my WIP is feeling like the bane of my existence right about now. When I first started this novel, I started telling it in first person from my heroine's point of view. Then, I decided to mix in the points of view of the other characters in the story, like Crash, Noah, and Carmen. Even the villain, perhaps. So, I added third person limited point of view for these other characters. The result, in my opinion, was a story that started to move too slowly. I had to take too much time to introduce each voice and situation. I was literally 30,000 words into a 75,000 word novel about the zombie apocalypse and there had yet to be a hint of a zombie. It was madness!

So, I backed up. I decided to write mainly from Parrish's (my heroine's) point of view. First person as if she were writing in a diary. The only other POV was going to be the witch, whose part I was going to tell in third person limited, spaced throughout the story. Unfortunately, this didn't work either. The diary seemed too limiting. It set Parrish sometime in the future going back to tell her story. I just couldn't really see it happening. Plus, in the second book (since this is going to be at least a trilogy), the friends get separated. I won't be able to tell everyone's story from Parrish's point of view if she doesn't know where they are.

And just like that, I'm back to square one. I thought we'd take a look today at some of my favorite teen novels. I'm just going to give some short examples of text from them so that we can look at the use of point of view. How much difference does something like this really make? G says he doesn't ever really notice point of view in a story. It's just either interesting or it isn't. Do you agree with that? Or is POV important to you as a reader?

Example 1: From Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Book 2 of the Hunger Games)

When I hear the screams of the crowd, I think it's because I must look stunning. Then I notice something is rising up around me. Smoke. From fire. Not the flickery stuff I wore last year in the chariot, but something much more real that devours my dress. I begin to panic as the smoke thickens. Charred bits of black silk swirl into the air, and pearls clatter to the stage. Somehow I'm afraid to stop because my flesh doesn't seem to be burning and I know Cinna must be behind whatever is happening. So I keep spinning and spinning. For a split second I'm gasping, completely engulfed in the strange flames. Then all at once, the fire is gone. I slowly come to a stop, wondering if I'm naked and why Cinna has arranged to burn away my wedding dress.
First person point of view throughout the entire book, and told in present tense, as if the action is happening at the same time I am reading it. At first, it honestly took me some time to get into this point of view, but once I was in, I was hooked. Carrie Ryan's YA zombie book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, is also told in this same POV. It definitely works to draw you in, but would it work for a multi-cast type story like mine? Where one chapter is Parrish and the next is Noah? It might feel like too much head-hopping.

Of course, I could always go with multiple first person points of view with past tense, which isn't such a strong pov when it comes to tone like the Hunger Games.

Example #2: Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

I lay facedown across the sleeping bag, waiting for justice to find me. Maybe an avalanche would bury me here. I wished it would. I never wanted to have to see my face in the mirror again.

There was no sound to warn me. Out of nowhere, Edward's cold hand stroked against my knotted hair. I shuddered guiltily at his touch.

"Are you all right?" he murmured, his voice anxious.

"No. I want to die."

"That will never happen. I won't allow it."

I groaned and then whispered, "You might change your mind about that."
You still get that closeness of the first person thoughts and feelings and narrative, but the tone is different with past tense instead of present. It might be able to work like this if I switch to other point of view characters, but I'm not sure. Sometimes in YA, it seems like first person seems to just fit since it's so much easier to portray that youthful voice.

Example #3: Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Seeing them now, at night, the ruins felt much more real to Tally. On school trips, the teachers always made the Rusties out to be so stupid. You almost couldn't believe people lived like this, burning trees to clear land, burning oil for heat and power, setting the atmosphere on fire with their weapons. But in the moonlight she could imagine people scrambling over flaming cars to escape the crumbling city, panicking in their flight from this untenable pile of metal and stone.

Shay's voice pulled Tally from her reverie. "Come on, I want to show you something."
Third person limited throughout the book, it follows Tally Youngblood's thoughts. This book drew me in and made me feel close to Tally, but in a different sort of tone from Catching Fire. It just gives a different feeling. But if I'm going to do something like follow six different characters throughout the book, maybe this is the best way to do it. Third person limited, or close as some people say.

Example #4: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of the year. For another, he really wanted to do his homework but was forced to do it in secret, in the dead of night. And he also happened to be a wizard.
A short example, but isn't it amazing how she draws you in and makes you want to keep reading right from the start? This is more like third person omniscient, right? More like a separate, all-knowing narrator who is describing the setting and characters. She tends to follow Harry most of the time with the narration, but it does switch over to other characters, particularly when the reader needs to see what Dumbledore or Voldemort are up to. But for the most part, she teeters close to Harry, but in a different sort of way from the Uglies third person. It's less like Harry telling the story, and more like some one above the story instead. Does that make it any less personal? Not the way she does it. But this is J.K. Rowling we're talking about here, one of the greatest writers of all time. It worked for her story, but will it work for mine?

So with these four examples, it's still difficult to make a decision about which POV is best for my story. I think what I need to do today is write a scene each way and see which one fits better, sounds better, matches the tone I want to set. And any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated :).


Chaotic Girl March 12, 2010 at 3:16 PM  

For an author that uses all the characters' points of views try Jodi Piccoult.

Sarra Cannon March 12, 2010 at 3:18 PM  

Thanks for the suggestion. She is definitely an author I hear a lot of great things about, but I haven't read anything of hers yet. Might have to stop by the store and pick one up this weekend!

Sarra Cannon

Young Adult Indie Author

I always secretly wanted to be a cheerleader. And a witch. Now, I write about both. The first five novels in my Peachville High Demons Young Adult Paranormal series are available now in ebook!

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