Point of View

This month I’ve been drafting chapters with points of view (POV) that alternate between characters. This is a challenge to write. And a joy! And a frustration. Each day when I sit to work on a scene, I re-read my notes on that day’s POV character’s musings and backstory to get inside his head. Not only his head, but into his body. I get up and pace and try to imagine that I am he.

2 boysYes, he. I’m writing boy characters. One of these days I’ll force myself to wrestle with the reasons I find it so difficult to write girl characters. I probably need psychoanalysis to get at the root of it, and I’m not sure I’m up for that! In the meantime…

This alternating POV-business has great potential. It forces me to reveal only those things that the POV character knows. Not revealing other tidbits creates a sense of mystery. Switching points of view introduces dramatic irony; the reader learns facts from one character that another character doesn’t know.

I like this. And while I’m trying to remain patient, accepting that the rewriting will take a while, I admit that right now, the revisions feel endless! My tenses (present and past) are all over the pace, and I’ve shifted from first person to third and back again. It is one crazy process, lemme say. I’m not sure which points of view will survive the final edits, but for now I’m trying not to think about the later stages. Even though I’ve completed a first draft of the entire novel, this manuscript is still in an early stage.

If I hadn’t gone and gotten an MFA in writing a few years ago, at this point I might be tempted to shelve this draft and start something else. But one thing that the MFA taught me was that there are no shortcuts. At least, when it comes to my process, there aren’t any. Voice and POV can make or break a novel. Here’s hoping my revisions will make this one work.

4 thoughts on “Point of View”

  1. OMG, YES! I just re-read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe yesterday, and again found myself vaguely uncomfortable that this book resonates so deeply with me. I am NOT a gay teen mexican boy. I’m just not. And yet.

    Interesting about POV, too. I started re-writing half of my current WIP from a radically different POV a few months ago and it’s a very interesting process. My new POV character just does not care about the same things that the MC does. At all.

  2. And yet… we resonate with the honesty, don’t we? The characters, the dialogue, the emotional integrity… Saenz just nails them. I don’t care that the characters are guys and I’m not. I’m with them.

    Now, talk about a POV switcheroo? Oh, yeah! It completely changes a story. I remember Patricia Cornwell saying that early-on, before her writing career took off, an editor rejected a manuscript of hers, saying that her protagonist wasn’t compelling, but that there was this secondary character — Kay Scarpetta — who might hold a reader’s interest… Hmmm. Nice advice, huh? Someday I hope to be able to tell my agent, “Nice advice. Thank you.”

  3. Love this post, Anne! When an earlier version of GRINGOLANDIA lost a contract with a major publisher, forcing me to trunk the work, I rewrote large parts of it from different characters’ points of view. One of those other characters ended up sharing the point of view with my protagonist, and it created dramatic irony because she did something quite sneaky that my protagonist only found out about one month and five chapters later.

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