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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Point of View Can Be Tricky

Got through a tricky passage in "Mongan Manor" where Stefanie gets some good information from a member of the family, putting a different spin on the treasure. Her conversation went through a few fits and starts as I worked out how much to reveal and how many red herrings to toss out.

Arline Chase, my publisher, always has excellent information on her blog for Write Words. Her post yesterday was about author intrusion, something I try to stay on the lookout for. In a nutshell, it has to do with not including information unavailable to the point of view character. Since I do a lot of my work in first person POV, I really have to watch out for this. My character cannot narrate that My cheeks turned red unless she's looking at herself in a mirror at the moment. Instead, her narrative might say, My cheeks burned with embarrassment. It's a bit trickier when writing in third person, harder to catch. I think the key is that the point of character feels things about him/herself and observes things about other characters to draw assumptions and conclusions. As someone who read Arline's post remarked, big-name authors fall into the trap frequently, and maybe the average reader doesn't notice, but critics and editors sure do.

Both POVs have their benefits and limitations, and the choice of which to use is largely a matter of style and preference. I use third person for the Jack Watson series as a device for giving the character information my main protagonists don't have and to take the reader where the action is. If not for this ability, stuff would happen off stage and Jack would be ferreting it out later. I think letting the reader witness important events "first hand" adds to the tension. For my other series, the plot unfolds through the eyes of one character who must unravel what is happening and how to protect herself. First person sort of locks me into a female protagonist because I'm not sure I would know how to write a first person male character for a novel. I did try it once in a short story, but those are usually so bare-bones in character development, it did not matter. Maybe I'll try it in a novel someday.

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