As I'm neck-deep in thesis revisions, my mind refuses to let go of any writing topic but the thesis. Lucky you, that means you get to hear my lightbulb moment this week, and it's about point of view.
I don't know about the rest of the writing world, but POV has always been my least favorite topic. I caught onto the idea of POV very easily as a newbie romance writer, and I fell in line with the single-POV group without any arm wrestling involved. I never head-hopped, and my POV slips were minimal and minor. So leave it to me to get cocky about it.
My thesis is urban fantasy, opening up my choice on POV. Romance, with its once iron-clad third person POV rule, had never given me that opportunity. The Urban fantasy genre is full of first person POV with just a smattering of third person. Since the topic of my thesis revolves around what goes on inside the main character's noggin, I thought first person would be just peachy. I considered it a bonus that I could step outside of third person for the first time in a novel.
I started writing in first person and didn't look back. Until this week.
After receiving feedback from my mentor that my voice and the character's voice created an inconsistency, I considered switching to third person. I looked through the manuscript, a huge, intimidating pile of white paper on my desk, and pondered how changing the POV would change the story. I didn't like the shift, so I tossed third person as a choice and went back to considering my options.
Then my mentor wrote once more and offered a nugget that flipped that lightswitch in my brain.
My mighty mentor brought up an element of POV I never hear my fellow romance authors consider and had only unconsciously acknowledged to myself. POV isn't just about who's talking. It's about perspective. And by perspective, I don't just mean that the POV character can't possibly see the serial killer sneaking up behind her.
My mentor pointed out a perspective of time. When is the POV character telling this story? Is it tells-as-she-goes? Is she telling the story right after the events have occurred? Or is she an old woman reminiscing on those events, with all of the insight generated after years of mellowing memories? That time perspective has a very subtle impact on the narrative, verb tense, and word choice. For example:
1. I hear a twig snap, and my skin goes cold as I realize he's right behind me.
2. I heard a twig snap, and a wave of cold fear washed over me. He was right behind me. I knew it.
3. I never considered my mortality until I heard a twig snap behind me. Instead of running or screaming, I froze like a fool. For a long, arctic moment, I let fear win. I would live to regret it.
Same moment in time, same character, same point of view, yes? Not quite. That internal perspective changes the point of view. The time it's taken for that character to consider the events changes the perspective and the way the story is told. Is any one of these perspectives more effective than another? It depends on your goal as the storyteller. How do you want to convey the story? Which option frames the story in the most effective manner?
Maybe this is obvious stuff for most, but I've never stopped to consider that impact before. The lightbulb moment has been so intense for me, it's actually singing my hair.
Point of view is often nothing more than a check box on a critique partner's list of slip-ups to look for. But more goes into point of view than just what the character can see or know. Many decisions you make about how you write the story will nuance the point of view. Besides verb tense, time perspective, and storyteller point of view, what do you think plays a role in the greater point of view of a story?
And...since I have a feeling nobody's really paying attention, here's a contest for those of you who have read this far and are brave enough to play along. The one who makes me squee or laugh the loudest will receive a $10 gift card to your online bookstore of choice (B&N, Amazon, etc.). If there's a tie, I'll toss a random number generator at the responses and pick a winner that way. So here's how you enter: answer my question from the previous paragraph and/or post a few of your own examples (horrible, awful, terrible, no good, very bad obviously works...after all, I posted mine for your consumption) of variances in POV. Ready, steady, go!