If your story isn’t taking off, maybe you’re telling it from the wrong perspective. The wrong point of view.
I’ve been known to go on about this.
But it’s important. I’ve grappled with it so often it’s become a fallback for when things are going badly.
If my story is dragging its feet, I reassess. I think, okay, can this be told from a different point of view? Will a different POV liven things up?
Let’s quickly look at the options. In their most simple form.
First person POV
I will play around. I will experiment. I feel nervous about changing POV.
It is the use of the ‘I’ that makes all the difference.
In first person POV, one character tells the story from their personal perspective. Good fun. Provides immediacy. BUT it’s limiting. Everything, all the action, all the emotion, is filtered through the ‘I’ who is telling the story.
Second person POV
You will play around. You will experiment. You will get in a muddle.
This perspective spells hard work in fiction. Reserve it for ‘choose your own adventure’ types stories. And nonfiction—self help books in particular.
Third person POV
She played around. He played around. He, she, they, looked up in fright.
Otherwise known as omniscient narrator. You know, narrator is god, knows everything, can get inside everyone’s head.
The temptation is to get inside too many heads.
If you’re writing for kids, watch out for this.
Don’t jump from Billy’s noggin, to Mrs McFlooty’s, to Henry’s, to Mabel’s, to Fluffy’s.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have lots of characters. It just means we don’t want to know what they all think.
Keep it tight. Keep it limited. Don’t flick between too many heads. Young readers will lose track. And toss your book.
In picture books, first person POV used to be a no-no.
The idea was that little ones couldn’t cope with first person. The gatekeepers insisted that PBs be told in the traditional, once upon a time, third person POV.
Not any more.
That rule has gone out of the window.
Look what Lauren Child gets up to with Clarice Bean: That’s Me.
I could not have written Clarrie’s Pig Day Out from any other perspective. It had to be first person POV or there would have been no story. The entire thing hangs on the fact that Clarrie gets his worms mixed up. Sorry. His words, mixed up.
Danny Best would grind to a halt if I tried to write it in the third person. For immediacy and humour and all sorts of lovely ironies, it has to be first person.
Truly Tan began as third person. But it was sluggish. I changed to first person, to Tan’s POV, and the story took off.
On the flip side, I tried to write The Fourteenth Summer of Angus Jack in first person—from the POV of Angus. It was a disaster. It was too limited. The story couldn’t breathe. I eventually moved to third person, and away we went.
If you’re struggling and your story seems a bit lacklustre, grab the first page and rewrite it from a different POV. Just as an experiment. See what happens.
You might be suprised.
Either way, you’ll learn more about your characters and the world you’re creating.
Changing POV, just for a while, can give you unexpected insights.
‘And it all helps,’ she said.
Part Two: Tomorrow, we’ll look at tense. It’s hard to separate tense from POV. You’ll see why, tomorrow.
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