Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Writing in 1st Person POV

At my day job, point of view (pov) is the hardest thing for my authors to grasp. Many of them believe that "head-hopping" (going from one pov to another pov) is acceptable. I admit that there are a multitude of published books that do just this. Pick up any Nora Roberts book and you will see this in action for yourself. Her chapters will start out with, for example, the female character's pov, but a few paragraphs later, the male's pov takes over. She may even shift several more times within the same scene or chapter.

I believe that established writers can get away with this, but that new writers can not.

If you're just starting out, a refresher (or even a first time lesson) about point of view is a good thing to help with your craft.

There are several forms of point of view, but today I'll be concentrating on first person.

I love to write in first person point of view. I really feel like I get into my character's head and become them as the story enfolds. But, interestingly enough, writing experts say that newbie writers should not use first person point of view. It is too confusing, and writers are setting themselves up for failure due to the amount of mistakes that they make.

I say, write what you want - both content and point of view. BUT...make sure you understand pov before embarking on your writing journey. Pov slips happen, and a newbie writer can't allow too many slips, or the reader will know you're a newbie.

A Quick Refresher on First Person Point of View

First person point of view is written from the scene character's (usually the main character) point of view. Everything that is written is what the character sees, hears, says, and thinks. "I" is used primarily.


"Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Mom!" I yelled. "Mom! Come here, quick!"
The sky turned almost black, and the clouds swirled like a storm was about to explode. A brisk breeze whipped around, causing my math homework sheet to take off like a bird. I wanted to sit up and catch it, but I was too afraid to move.
"What the heck is happening?" I whispered aloud. "This isn't right."

Okay, so with the above example (the first part of my story, Saving Redwind) you can see that the character's point of view is used. "I" and "my math homework" show that the writer is using first person point of view.

Here's the deal with first person pov that you MUST remember: the author can only write what the scene character sees, hears, says, or thinks. Unless the scene character is in the room with Uncle Willard, the scene character will not see or hear Uncle Willard scratch his head or burp. It just doesn't work. Also, unless the scene character sees themselves in some sort of reflection, truly the character is not going to realize they are smiling. Check yourself throughout the day; do you realize really when you are smiling? Most of the time you don't. Your character isn't going to notice that either unless they are leering at someone.

What about blushing? In first person, many writers describe the feeling of blushing to get around this, because once again, do we see ourselves blushing? No. We feel it, and that's what a writer needs to describe when having their first person pov character blush.

Like I said, I love writing in first person pov. But my first manuscript that I wrote was written in third person, not first person. We'll discuss third person next time I do writing basics.

What about you? Which pov do you write in? Which pov did you like to read?