12 April, 2010

Day 21 - What's your POV?

Taxes are done and in the mail, so I'm back at my keyboard writing again and it feels good to be here.  I'm still struggling with the plot.  There are some gaping holes and inconsistencies that I need to work out, but I'm up to 20,000 words.

When I wrote my first MS, I couldn't decide between first or third person point of view (POV).  There are pros and cons for each.  It's most common (but not a rule) for a mystery to be in one POV only.  And, as Donald Murray, my esteemed university journalism professor pointed out, third person POV close can feel as intimate as first person when done well.

That said, I tried both and discovered something interesting: I cannot write third person.  It just doesn't work for me.  That's probably a cop out, and if I tried harder I could do it, but it just feels unnatural -- like wearing someone else's clothes. (I almost said underwear, but that's just too weird.)

I struggled through a couple of chapters before declaring myself third-person challenged.  When I write first person POV, the words flow (okay, dribble out).  That is not to say that there aren't times when I wish I could switch to 3rd person, to sneak in a different point of view or heighten the suspense, but frankly, I'm not that skilled a writer. 

If you write in multiple POV -- and some authors do it very cleverly -- it has to be for a really good story reason, and it has to be consistent throughout the book.  You can't just go jumping into different characters' heads because you want to share some information or a clue with your reader.  That's cheating.  And bad writing.

Some writers can pull off multiple POVs in the same book.  I've read mysteries where author reveals the antagonist's POV just once or twice, letting the reader into his mind.  If done well, it's very effective, but there has to be a system, and a reason, as to when (and why) you switch the POV.  POV, like everything else in the book, has to advance the story and plot, not just be convenient.  Multiple POVs, when poorly handled, is often the writer trying to include things that the main character would have/could have/should have seen, and not a coherent plan for the whole book.  This distracts or annoys readers, and who wants to alienate their readers?

It might be different if I were writing a hard-boiled mystery, where the main character is usually flawed in some way.  Traditional, or cozy, mysteries depend on the likability of the main character.  IMHO, it's easier to like someone when you feel closer, and first person POV is as close as you can come! Sorry, Don, I'm just not the third-person intimate type.

So what's your opinion?  And your POV style? 

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