Current Project: NMMNG
Status: The eternal outline of doom (or success)
My title sounds like the sort of . . . performance "problem" one might need a little blue pill for, and in a way, it is. If you don't have a point-of-view, you don't have a story. However, I have a story, but I'm still searching for the perfect POV. Or to put it bluntly, I have a POV dysfunction. Now, as we all know, we have three main choices:
First Person: I love to talk about me, me, me, me and more me. This is the darling of YA and Chick Lit authors alike.
Second Person: You shouldn't be reading this. You should be off doing your laundry. And if you want to be really annoying, you should be doing it in the past tense: you ate your lunch. And if you want to drive everyone to click the nearest LOLcat just to escape, do it in the present tense: You go into a room, and you look around. And unless there is a stack of cash and a signed contract for a choose-your-own adventure book waiting there, RUN! Don't look back. I'm sure that a huge second-person trend is just around the corner, but since you'll be the one running my story, I'll never know. Don't hand over your story to an anonymous "you," because YOU might not like what they do with it.
Third Person: The dear old grandpappy of fiction. "Once upon a time, there lived a Prince . . ." When writing as the all-knowing and all-powerful author who knows all, sees all, and shares judiciously, this is known as third-person omniscient, otherwise known as "Please, do head-hop your way through this nice Regency novel." Third-person limited or Deep Third Person retains the barrier between author and character, but limits it to what that particular character knows, feels, thinks, smells, etc at that exact moment in time much like first person. See the altar I have made to Suzanne Brockmann and Jennifer Crusie for more on how this POV works.
Now, literary fiction throws all the rules out the window and will often do things like alternate chapters of first-person, third-person omniscient, and deep third person POV all while playing with the time continuum, but if you are up for such POV Olympics, you probably aren't in the market for POV aids. Also, you probably hate POV monogamists like myself who insist that you should choose one POV strategy for your story and stick with it to the bitter end. And even worse, I am a this-life-and-the-next monogamist and think that you should choose one POV strategy for your book series and stick with it until the voices in your head (or pictures, thank you, Debbie) hand you a new universe to play with.
Thus, I'm struggling with making the choice between First and Third Person POV for my current WIP. As I have outlined this book, the other books in the series have also become clearer to me (I think I am channeling the lovely Genene), and I envision a point where I really want to use Third Person in my series. Maybe. And thus I dicker, and I will subject you to my dickering because if I can't use my POV yet, I can at least dicker with it.
First Person POV:
- PRO: This is the current gold standard in YA. I personally miss the days when there were more third-person books on shelves, but absent flying fairies and space ships, the contemporary YA subgenre truly is all about ME. And I. And ME some more. And god forbid we see YOU, but we might squeeze HER in somewhere over there. In a dusty corner.
- CON: Is it possible that something so fresh can go stale?
- CON: It often feels like there needs to be a reason for the narrator to share his or her story, and lord save us from a heroine with a diary. Absent the diary though, and the device sometimes feels a bit artificial.
- PRO: The reader gets an immediate connection with the hero(ine) and gets to see their inner workings and insecurities in minute detail.
- CON: The reader only gets that connection with one character. The audience is left in the dark about other characters' inner lives.
- CON: Any sub-plots need to happen "on-camera" for the first person narrator to be able to share them. This limits the ability to advance character arcs for secondary characters.
- PRO: The readers get to feel smart when they realize things before the hero(ine) does.
- CON: The readers are left in the dark a lot of times all the way up until the end of the book when the big reveal happens.
- CON: The plot limitations of this device can often result in the hero(ine) looking clueless and less than sympathetic.
- PRO: Your reader gets to live in the heads of multiple characters.
- CON: They lack the commentary and intense connection of first person POV.
- PRO: Multiple story arcs can be advanced.
- CON: If you have a story that's big on character and light on plot, third person can make it feel smaller and fluffier.
- CON: If most of your story happens from one POV anyway, the other character's "head time" can seem forced.
- PRO: You can reveal motivations and causes for actions before the hero(ine) becomes aware of them.
- CON: You miss out on the big reveal of first person stories.
- CON: There's an emotional distance between the reader and the story. This is a huge factor in YA, less so in other genres, but still a key consideration.