Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Working Out POV

I’ve been having trouble nailing down the POV (Point of View) for my novel. There are three important characters in the novel and to define one voice for the whole thing has caused me a whole lot of distress. In the last go round I thought I had settled on separating the book into sections dedicated to each character but as I work on it more I am not totally satisfied.

Then the question arises of do I write it in first person, or third person? One of my characters seems to want me to write her story in first person, but the others seem quite happy to settle with third. I’ve also been toying with the idea of an omniscient narrator who tells the story in third person but I fear that will lose some of the effect.

In all the confusion I was pointed to an interesting novel. Middlesex by Pulitzer Prize winner, Jeffrey Eugenides. The whole story is told in first person POV by the main character of the novel Callie, who is later called Cal for reasons that may be evident just by the title. What strikes me about this is that for the better part of the first half of the novel the history of Callie’s (Cal’s) family is told through her eyes going back to well before she would have even been a glimmer in her parents eyes. Information that she would totally not have been privy to, but somehow it works. So this first person narrator becomes an omniscient narrator and the author works this into the story in a way that would be seen as more ethereal but nevertheless works. Is this what is referred to as a “reliable narrator” just by the mere fact that we believe it and just go along with it?

This technique goes against everything I have ever learned about POV. If you’re going to tell a story in first person you’re limited to those elements and scenes of the story that the narrator actually witnessed. But apparently there are ways to overstep those boundaries.

So back to my own novel. The character that I first believed was the main character became boring. Fell flat on her ass while trying to tell a story that she didn’t have all the answers about. And then there was a PI who was just creepy but fun to write in his POV but I became bogged down in staying in that POV. He was draining, like that houseguest that overstays their welcome. And then the other character, well, her story is far more interesting but I still am not married to the idea that it is her story. So do I choose a completely unexpected character to be the narrator. One that’s in the story but has a much smaller part and make that person an omniscient narrator? Or, or, or…there are so many different ways I can go and I can’t figure out the right one in this case.

Needless to say, I have to keep writing and hopefully it will work itself out in the end.

How do you determine whose story it is?

1 comment:

  1. I am so impressed you are writing a novel. I think if ever I wrote a book, it would be of short random stories. I can't keep my ADD in check long enough ;-)


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