Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Back to First Person POV

A quick response to Becky’s comment from yesterday. She said “bouncing” scenes in books makes her head hurt—too many quick-change POVs are confusing. I need to clear up my meaning. When I used the term “bounce,” I meant that scenes had to keep moving, not drag down with too much description or unnecessary words. This can be true for two-page scenes as well as 10-page scenes. Scenes that are moving so fast that you readers can’t keep up just plain need fixing. Ah, Becky, hang in there. I’ll get you to read one of my suspense novels yet.

Okay, back to how I handled first person POV for my Hidden Faces series. I’ll need to tell you the story of how Web of Lies, book #4, was developed. Last summer I’d written three Hidden Faces books in first person POV, using the techniques I discussed last week. Next up—final book. I needed to come up with this thing that every book needs—called a plot. How to get my protagonist in trouble again? She’s mighty smart and cautious by this point in her life, thanks to all that’s happened to her.

Meanwhile, I had another hanging issue. I’d written two books in a former suspense series featuring Chelsea Adams, a woman who has visions. Ever since then readers have bugged me for a third in the series. So I got this brilliant idea. How about bringing Chelsea Adams into the Hidden Faces series? Have her and Annie team up? I could end two series at once (at least for now), and a second main character meant Annie wouldn’t have to take all the heat alone. I asked my editor and marketing guru at Zondervan what they thought. They said go for it.

So I ended up with two protagonists—but wait a minute. This series is written in first person, which meant Chelsea wouldn’t have a POV. How to fully characterize a protagonist without a POV? Of course, all other supporting characters had been characterized through Annie’s eyes, so this concept wasn’t new to me, but a protagonist was something else. No, Annie would have to stay main protagonist, with Chelsea as a very strong supporting character—a chum by her side.

When the heat started building in Web of Lies, I actually ended up with more of an ensemble cast. Yes, I remained in Annie’s head, but with lots of characters around, and her perceptions of those characters, it gave the story more of a multi-main character feel. A few times I did wish for multiple POV for all these characters, but I just couldn’t do that. So I had to make first person POV work as it’s never worked before for me—showing all the thoughts of these others characters through Annie’s eyes.

So there you have it—the POV story of Hidden Faces. Bottom line, after much slogging around, I found ways to use the strength of first person POV while alleviating its weaknesses.

There is one more thing I’d like to discuss before moving to a new topic. Some days ago I mentioned the three kinds of first person POV, having to do with perspective. Many authors get this “huh?” look on their faces when I mention these subcategories. I think I’ll go into that in a little more detail tomorrow, and give some examples of each.

Read Part 7


Becky said...

Heh heh--to be honest I did read Dread Champion. (Wasn't sure yesterday that was classified as suspense). It was Brink of Death, I think, that you said not to read if you didn't like being scared. I still may take the plunge. I think I'd like the first person POV. Even in fast action stories, I still want to know the character. And the things that you're mentioning in this blog make it clear that Annie, is it?--that Annie changes and develops.

BTW, I've had occasion to recommend your suspense books to others--even strangers. (Heh heh--I'm not shy!) Whenever I get feedback, it's always enthusiastic.

OK, I'm already looking forward to what you're planning for tomorrow.

Jeffrey said...

I wrote 400,000 words in the ancient omniscient style, only to find it all really stank to the lowest depths of my favorite landfill. Then I happened across a website that promised to tell me my "real pirate name." I answered its questions and my "true pirate name" was revealed to be Black Jack Vane. So, naturally, inspired in the Greek sense, I sat right down and wrote 114,000 words by JACK, first person, who turned out to be a private eye actually, and found it maybe, oh, say, a thousand or so times easier than omniscient. The MS is being copy-edited at this point.

The point being that, as you said, a few "AM"s back, the story will decide the POV.

Here's my problem. JACK is part of a quadtych, and I had recently planned to go back and re-write the other three books in first person POV, but I now see that just won't work. My quadtych seems to be telling me the POV it wants. I think I need a Combination of limited omniscient And first person POV: two POVs. I need the limited omniscient to present scenes taking place away outside the Protag's presence, but I need scenes where the Protag does the talking, the internals, and drives the action. I can't find a name for this format to buttonhole it for examples to look at, so I guess I'll just dive in and Do it. How hard could it be, right? I don't see any problem. You?

How hard could it be to just make it up, right? :)

Just Go For It, what could happen bad, right? (Hahahaha :)

Any Wisdoms on this?

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Plenty of novels today mix third-person and first person, so I don't see the problem there. However you've used the term "limited omniscient." Are you misusing the "omniscient" term? Most books these days are written in close third person. Omniscient is a voice all its own--it's a removed, narrative, "telling" voice.

Jeffrey said...

I don't think I'm misusing it because I've seen it defined as "limited omniscient," which is part of my confusion here. Your definitions are very scholarly, and I take them seriously. However, I don't have any real training in this area, other than a BA in the Liberal Arts for English, being somewhat late to the show, which is why I am trying to learn more now. I was thinking of using a character/voice---not a Story Teller---to fill in the unseen scenes that set up my Hero's Conflicts and Choices, etc., but I don't want the Voice to Tell All, only to report certain things. I also want to be first person, "be" the Hero, be in his head. I begin with a Prologue, then I come to the Hero's childhood and work quickly through that, and at some point I want him to take over the narration of his own progress, but I still need the other Voice to show/tell what he can't see. I employ a tripartite goddess as a character, so I was thinking of using her, and identifying her comments as coming from "We," while when the Hero ruminates, he says "I." This is not presented very clearly to you here, by me, and I apologize. Yet, further, in my idea, not even the goddess would Know All, because she is only a particle of the Prime Mover, Which resides in Eternity. Therefore, I thought she could be Limited Omniscient, just another Player, as were the Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses, just anthropomorphous characters. Brandilyn, I am basically saying that I will just have to jump in and Go For It, not having any examples handy of how it's done. I can "do" Chandler, Leonard, Spillane, and Total Omniscience, but I just have no clear idea how to blend 3rd and 1st persons. I guess I made that clear, huh? :)

Oh, well.



~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Jeffrey, you might check out today's post for Feb. 10, '09. It's on this topic. I will follow up with another post on it for Wed. the 11th.