First, I’m listening to The Narrative Breakdown podcast these days, and I love it! So much useful information on writing, craft, and storytelling.
I am again revising my novel, concentrating on the 150 pages or so written in my female protagonist’s POV. I wrote it in first-person; years ago, I wrote an entire novel focusing on this character’s experiences in Spain, and used first-person to tell her story. This second novel (and the one I revised and rewrote for my thesis) also has her narrating her parts of the story in first-person. I felt, however, that this voice contributed to an overall chick-lit-ish tone to the novel that I didn’t like or want. Nothing against the genre–it simply didn’t serve the story. I decided to try rewriting these parts in third-person, thinking it would lend a more serious tone to the story.
Wow, it has done more than that. Changing the novel’s POV from first- to third-person has revealed all sorts of flaws and weakness that I never noticed, even after a scrupulous review before submitting the thesis. So many odd tics. For example, her cheeks are constantly warming: “My cheeks warmed. My cheeks burned.” WTH?? Why didn’t I write “blushed”? Or, better yet, why did I choose such a cliche? How else can I show she’s flustered or embarrassed, excited or attracted to someone? There are other examples like this in these pages, and I feel silly that I overlooked them. About a year ago, I attempted to read one of the 50 Shades books, and I couldn’t get past all the lip biting. It drove me crazy. And here I am, guilty of writing the same repetitive action/condition.
Beyond discovering these flaws, I am appreciating how much better third-person POV serves the story. I like the distance that it puts between me, the author, and me taking on the voice of the character. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t notice these mistakes when writing in first-person: I was too close to my character. So that’s my writing tip for the day: if you’re stuck in a section–if something feels off–try rewriting it using a different POV. You may be surprised at what you discover.