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.
Interesting, I’ll have to look into that podcast.
Thanks for stopping by! I just discovered it this week, and there are about 25 episodes. Lots of good stuff for storytellers.
An interesting post, Katherine. Having written forever, I find that person and tense manifest themselves automatically. I have a mix of them in my current WIP, none of which was conscious but all of which feel right.
I agree, Paul. I found, however, that with this particular part of my WIP, 3rd worked better, even though it wasn’t as “natural” to me for this character. I may end up changing it back to first, but in the meantime, I’m discovering many ways to improve the story while rewriting it this way. Thanks for your comment and for stopping by.