I’ve seen a lot of writers asking the question, “What POV should I write my story in?”
It is a great question to ask yourself before starting a new project, so let’s dive in!
There used to be a time when I didn’t worry about POV. I wrote the story the way I saw it in my mind. Sometimes it was like a movie I was watching (third person) and sometimes it was a story the character was telling me (first person.) All that mattered was getting the story out, I realized a little too late that how you told the story matters just as much as the writing.
I bring this up because there is a lot of pressure on writers who may believe they have to write a story in a certain way. I know, I felt this pressure when I first started writing YA.
It is widely believed that first person is best for POV YA for marketing reasons and for the enjoyment of the reader. And maybe it is, but that doesn’t mean you have to write your story in first person. Writers shouldn’t write the story because it is popular or expected, they should write it based on what method tells the story best.
Look at Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. The first book is a dystopian adventure told in first person, similar to The Hunger Games. But as Roth delved more into world building and complex subplots, she found that one first person POV didn’t work to tell the story. She needed more. So for the second and third books, she added multiple POVs in the first person.
For me, this is where the story fell apart. It was obvious Roth just wasn’t able to follow through with the story with just a single first POV, but she also didn’t know how to tell it using multiple first person POVs. The voices all sounded the same and as a side effect, the story felt jumbled.
Personally, I’m not a fan of first person from multiple characters. I think it is much harder to write then people give it credit for and even harder to pull off. If your story has multiple points of views they need to be distinct, they need to contribute something different to the story and be their own person.
For some stories, it just doesn’t work. This is why I would urge writers to consider third person, if you have multiple characters to follow.
But this is all my own preference, so take it with a grain of salt.
The point is, think about the story you want to tell. Does everything happen to this one character? Is there nuances from first person that wouldn’t be clear in third? Or is there a piece of the story missing because your POV character isn’t there to witness it?
Take all this into consideration when writing, but also- don’t forget to listen to your gut.
I bring all of this up because I am in the middle of a rewrite. I wrote a 100K science fiction YA novel that I thought needed to be in first person because that was how all YA novels were being written. I’ve always enjoyed writing in third-person and my gut wanted to explore the story this way but I didn’t listen. That wasn’t how other YA science fiction novels were written.
The writing was a challenge, but there were some great moments in the first draft because of the first person POV. The problem though was that I was having actions happen to the character in order for her to report them and I was leaving key details out because she wasn’t there to witness them.
In the end, it felt like I was telling half the story. And I knew that if I were to continue it into a series this would hold the story back even more.
I shelved the WIP because this realization came a little too late and I just didn’t have the heart to rewrite the whole thing.
Almost a year later I’ve dusted off the manuscript and am rewriting it in the third person. Will this make it better? I sincerely hope so, I know in my gut there are corners in the story I haven’t explored yet because it was all told through the eyes of one character and I’m excited to show how the other characters feel about their world.
That’s all for this week? What do you think? I’m a person who thrives writing third-person but understands the value of good writing in the first person POV. Is there a POV who just simply can’t read or write? And what are the challenges who think each face?
For everyone else, there likely won’t be a blog post next week as I will be a #wanderingwriter in Japan, being inspired and shopping a LOT!