Choosing A Point of View When Writing

Choosing A POV (Writing With Your Heart)

The tense in which a story is told has a great effect on the reader. With most points of view (POVs), the reader feels as if they are being told a story. Only in the present tense of the first person can the reader live the story as if they are the main character.

Love’s Forbidden Flower was written in the first person, present tense narrative. It took three drafts for me to decide on it. Since I needed to create mystery around Donovan and show every one of Lily’s thoughts and emotions, the third person narrative felt contrived and cold. Worse, I felt detached from the events. When the writer feels detached, the story will suffer.

The book was rewritten in the first person, past tense. Things got better, but despite how much was happening to Lily, I was unengaged.

I finally switched the narrative to the first person, present tense. It was then that her plight became real, our hearts became one, and my compassion surfaced, not only for Lily but also for her real life counterparts to the point where my world views forever changed.

When it came time to write Scary Modsters, I wanted to tell the story from three points of view. I tried to do it in the third person, but that boring sense of detachment hit again; however, when I switched to first person the story burst to life. Then came the tricky part. With writing in the first person, the need to properly reflect a character is greater than ever. (In the third person you can use your writer’s voice. In the first person you have to use the voice of the character.) This is where many writers fail and why many readers prefer the third person narrative. Now I had to represent the voices of three people. It was a huge challenge, but one that I feel paid off.

Lastly, I had concerns with the tense used. While previously I had used present tense in my work I wanted Scary Modsters to be more like a fable, thus the past tense made perfect sense. However, another issue arose. Since part of Peter’s story happened almost fifty years ago, when he told his side it became confusing as to if we were hearing Peter now or Peter then. It seemed only logical to make his past feel more distant and bring his current story into the present. Thus, I wrote all of his past in the past tense and the rest of the book in the present tense. I also tied in a scene where Niles asks Peter to tell his story, so the reader can now make the connection that all along Peter has been chatting with Niles. It seemed a nice way to tie it all together.

What it all comes down to is that you should not pick your tense and point of view based on what is popular. Let the characters and story tell you. You may come to find that one particular way often works better for you. There is nothing wrong in that. However, take time to step back and feel the story. Be open to the possibility that you need to let it tell itself from the view it wants to. Only then can you write with your heart.

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