I’ve been taking tax classes for volunteers these past few weeks and not getting much writing done and no research at all. So unless our readers really wish to hear about the latest IRS inanities, I’ll reach into the question bin to pull out two reader questions. The winners—Mary Falls and Kay Spears—are entitled to a Patricia Rice book of their choice—if I can find their choice. One never knows what lurks in the depths of my basement.
Mary Falls asks “what facts affect an author choosing a point of view? Is first person writing considered more effective than the others? Or simply a more intimate (or personal) approach? And last, are there any statistics available on which POV is most often used?”
I doubt if anyone has tried to tally statistics on fictional POVs, but I can tell you from years of reading
experience that third person prevails, hands down, in the romance genre. I suspect first person may prevail by a slim margin in mysteries. And chances are good, if anyone is writing in second person, it would be some person experimenting with science fiction/fantasy or literary pretensions, although there are exceptions to every rule.
Third person probably prevails in romance because we tend to concentrate on the relationship between the hero and heroine, and we want to pull out their innards and examine them to see how they work from the inside out. That’s far easier done through the minds and eyes of both characters. There are several forms of third person, but I really don’t want to go into literature lecture mode, so check out Writesville if you want more about omniscient, objective, etc POV.
Chicklit favors first person because that genre is more interested in the heroine’s journey than in the hero’s, which is why many of them end without a true romantic relationship, just the possibility of one.
First person is intimate and immediate, but the reader can only see the world through the protagonist’s POV. The old gothics were part mystery, part romance, and favored first person to intensify the suspense, a tactic mysteries still use. If you want the reader to see through just one set of eyes, first person is the way to go, but the experience is limiting. We really don’t know how others see the protagonist, just how she views herself, so she’d better be a broad-minded heroine, or there’s a good chance the book will end up against a wall. That’s one of the many reasons romance editors prefer third person.
Second person is pretty impossible for most fiction. "You knew the ax would fall" just doesn’t work quite as well as "I knew the ax would fall." As pointed out earlier, “I” is immediate, putting the reader in the place of the protagonist. “You” distances the reader from the character and the narrator, and that
distance prevents the reader from being sucked into the story, even if the narrator is referring to his audience. It may be a fun place to play, but readers aren’t accustomed to it. Just as many readers reject first person because it’s strange to their reading tastes, they’ll reject second person as far too bizarre and uncomfortable for most genres. Try the excerpt from BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY by Jay Mcinerey.
And my question, Mary, is why do you ask? I always like to hear the story behind the story!
Kay Spears writes “I’ve been trying to write for years…it’s a cathartic exercise. Anyway, when I first started writing I would put on music, but find that eventually the music was distracting me and I’d end up dancing around the room instead of writing. Do the Wenches use music or do they find it distracting? And have they removed "games" from the computers?”
Isn’t writing a wonderful way of pouring out all the emotion and thoughts we experience but aren’t allowed to express in everyday communication? I think most writers write for mental and emotional therapy as well for the sheer creative joy of it. Once we turn our writing into a business, however, the experience changes, which is a whole ‘nuther topic.
Music, too, is a creative expression. I can’t speak for all the wenches, but I can only write to background music. Words would interfere with my writing. If you’ve been around the wenches awhile, you’ve read some of my posts about music ( EARWORMS is one example). Catchy tunes and simple lyrics will end up in my book via my ears and fingers, bypassing my brain. So I can play Tchaikovsky when I’m writing drama or some haunting Celtic aria while writing a tearful scene, but I’m definitely not playing anything I can dance or sing to! I’ve also learned the benefits of streaming radio–Wench Sherrie shared with us a great site for classical music at Live 365. Try it.
As for games—you’ll note the reference to ADD distraction in the referenced post. I really really REALLY don’t need any more distraction than my mind provides. Far better that I get distracted by a text on
Aztec mysteries than sucked into a mindless game that can only frustrate me. If I’m going to waste time, it might as well be creatively. Probably an eldest child, over-achiever syndrome. Or maybe I rather write about situations that I know I’ll win. Writers do have a tendency toward Master of Our World complexes.
How about our readers–do you prefer a particular POV in general or per genre? Do you have games on
your computer? And when was the last time you got up and danced at your desk?
And if you have a question you’d like to see the Wenches expound upon, drop a note to our Wench mistress Sherrie. You’ll see her head at the bottom on the left. Give her a click!