When writing fiction, there are many ways to write a story, except when it comes to the characters. There are basically only two ways to write about them – as the narrator, in third person, or first person using the character’s voice or perspective. The writer uses the characters’ Points of View to help the reader get inside the minds of the characters. That’s all well and good if the story is written in third person and begins the story by getting into the heads of the main characters. This does not work at all in first person because how is the main character to know what another character is thinking? He/she can deduce how another is feeling by their actions and expressions, but the writer cannot suddenly jump into the head of another character 2/3 of the way through a novel!
I must confess, I am guilty of doing just that, years ago when I first began seriously writing. Man, did my writer’s group jump all over me for that one! Here I was, sailing along, telling Joel’s story starting with him running away from bullies as a kid, to losing family members, to his fleeing the country to avoid a murder charge. He finally goes looking for his sister in New York, but she isn’t at her last known address. He makes a fuss in the wee hours of the morning and is arrested for disturbing the peace. With little English under his belt he tries to explain his actions to the NYPD but isn’t understood. Enter the pretty female detective who fluently speaks many languages. She helps him out.
Now, I really like this female detective and suddenly she’s telling me her life story. Naturally, I want to tell it on the page as well. Then she gets pushy and starts to take over, pushing Joel aside and getting her own ‘air time’ as it were. That’s when the Group started screaming! Well, they never actually screamed. They just kept saying, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” And they were absolutely right!
We writers have to be very careful with PoV so we don’t have our readers running away from the story or putting it back on the shelf and never going back to it. This morning, I mentally took this novel off the proverbial shelf and started looking at it with fresh eyes. I have been thinking about all the versions I have on my flash drive, trying to figure out the best way of handling it, if I want to get it published. Do I break it up into His Story/Her Story/Their Story where each section is written in their particular PoV? Do I alternate chapters starting with his bully scene in the first chapter, jump into her perspective during that time period in the second chapter, then go back to his story in the third chapter? Do I work her into the story right from the beginning with a few paragraphs here, a few paragraphs there interspersed with his story. Or, do I ignore HER completely and just tell it from HIS PoV all the way through?
As much as I hate to do it, I think my last alternative is what I will end up dong. Since I have her back story written already, it will be easy to work in bits about her life through conversations once they meet in New York and only tell my readers about her feelings through Joel’s eyes. Somewhere down the line, I might write Her Story as its own entity, going beyond Their Story in New York and follow through to another adventure, perhaps. I must be strong. I have to stand up to her and say, “You can’t bully me!” even though I can already hear her in the back of my mind pleading with me to let her have her say.
Does that sound a little crazy? Perhaps, but aren’t all writers a little crazy? Well, imaginative, at the very least! 🙂
Have you ever struggled with PoV? How did you handle it?