Monday, August 20, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#211) -- Person to Person

Is it harder to write a novel in 1st person as your narrator must now see all the action?
I ask because I recently read where the writer'cheated' by randomly switching to a 3rd person POV.
(Thanks to Drew Harris for today's question)

I wouldn't necessarily call that cheating, because I've seen it done effectively before, but that's always in the eye of the beholder.

But to address the question in particular, that is the drawback to writing in the first person. I work with  publishers actually who request (insist) that their writers only write in third person because when you begin in the first person, you've already destroyed the suspense of whether or not the key character will survive.

I don't necessarily agree with that -- The Lovely Bones being one wonderful example. But I will abide by the publisher's preference (as any working freelance should).

That said, I've written stories that include both first person and third person accounts that switch back and forth. Check out my story "Death With a Glint of Bronze" in Dreams of Steam II from Kerlak Publishing for one such example. The trick/art/skill/name your poison is to understand why you're doing it.

If you're only doing it to get yourself out of a corner you didn't plan for, then you deserve a smack on the hand with a ruler from your third-grade spelling teacher. If you're doing it as part of a conscience choice for the reader's benefit and to enhance the telling of the story, then go for it.

A caveat though... This kind of POV jumping doesn't always sit well with readers (can come off a little to avant garde) or publishers, so be sure what you're doing works out with your publisher's goals. If you don't have a publisher already lined up, then go for it and knock it out of the park. A well told tale that breaks the "rules" will still beat out a poorly told tale that follows them.