There’s no proper point of view

I’ve written a memoir and started a couple works of fiction, but I’ve yet to attempt a novel. A few ideas have made it to paper and more are bouncing around in my head, but I’m not sure if you, the reader, gets to know about those yet. Am I blogging in the first person or is Ryan blogging in the third person?

As I’m discovering writing, the POV question is one I’ve frequented. I read a quote from an author who said (and I’m roughly paraphrasing to the point of completely making this up), “all decent novels should be written in the third person.” I think my theoretical source has a book-worm chewing a hole in his brain. I do enjoy third person novels (The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy come to mind), I just disagree with the idea that third person is the only way to go.

I read a Nicholas Sparks book (only to research POV! I swear I didn’t like it. Okay, maybe I liked it a little, but don’t tell anyone) and I liked how he used the first person POV. But I began reading a novel yesterday that has my POV spinning.

I have a Recommended Reading page on one of my other blogs, Nobody’s Normal. The books on the list deal with special needs from a non-fiction perspective or are fiction that feature a character with special needs. A reader recommended House Rules by Jodi Picoult because it stars a teenager with Asperger’s, but little did they know they were broadening my writing horizons.

Not only is House Rules a first person novel, but so far it’s being told from the perspective of four different people. Chapter one is titled “Emma” and is written from the mother’s POV. Chapter two is “Theo,” the protagonist’s younger brother, and it’s in his voice, accented by a new font (I’ve never see a font switch in a novel before). Jacob (he’s the one with Asperger’s) tells the story in chapter three, and chapter for comes from Rich, a local cop. Four different first person narrators (so far) with four different fonts, and I LOVE it. (As it turns out, my POV might be off. This novel might actually be considered “Close” third person POV. As you can see, I’m still discovering writing.)

The story is compelling, but it’s the different voices that have me so  intrigued. I’m only fifty pages in, but I’ve already learned that a novel can be told from any POV, as long as it’s a good story and the narrator is good at telling it.

By the way, Nathan Bransford wrote a helpful article on the strategic comparison of First Person vs. Third Person.

Which POV do you prefer to read, and from which do you prefer to write?

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3 comments

  1. Third person seems unfair to me….we don’t experience life with omnicient POV, we are clouded by our own “crap.” Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye, two first person novels that are beautifully messy. The Help also did some first person switching that was fun to read.

    Great question to think about. Love your blog!

    1. I like first person too, generally speaking. The more I read about POV the more ignorant I relize I am. If I ever do get a manuscript finished for a novel I won’t be surprised to have an editor tell me I changed POV multiple times… “Beautifully messy,” I like that.

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