To POV or not to POV

Dragon Susan Sarah here!

I want to return to a topic that’s come up before on Word Wenches (but there’s always more to be said on anything and everything) — I’ve been planning my next couple of books, and got to thinking about Point Of View again–-that dear dragon in the structure of any story, the chosen perspective of characters and story.

In my historical romances, generally I keep two points of view, the hero’s, and the heroine’s, and I vary them scene to scene–not within the same scene. Some may add a third point of view, that of a villain, but so far I haven’t tried this variation myself. Keeping to two POVs in a book is third person limited, and for me it serves the purpose, as an aid in developing character and especially the love story, and as a way to keep the story uncluttered, so that the romance and the emotional story are the true heart of the book.

Rembrandteyes  In general for romance I avoid omniscient third person — that all-seeing-eye, which can too often become the eye of the author. When reading books I’m sometimes aware of the author’s presence–and to me, the author needs to stay distant, stay behind the scrim or behind the black curtain and work those puppets without Punch_and_judy the audience ever catching a glimpse of the creator. For my own books, I avoid mixing POV in the same scene–head hopping–because *I* am the one who will get confused, haha. In my early books I tried this and it never saw the light of day for me, because I realized that I could quickly lose control of the scene that way, and blur the action, the reason, and the emotional prize for that scene, that chapter, that whole book.

I like to keep the POV simple: His ‘n Hers POVs, one per scene, sometimes a whole chapter. It helps focus the story, and I find it also helps to intensify character and give more immediacy to action and emotion, and thus plot and character development, within the story. It’s limited, yes, but it’s handy. When the POV is in the heroine’s head, for example, we know intimately what she’s thinking and feeling. As for the hero in that scene, it’s sometimes very useful to not be in that character’s head–we are the observer then, along with the heroine. His actions, words, and reactions indicate what he’s thinking, feeling, planning to do–all described through gesture, , expression, words, indicated tone, context, and so on. This can be done very subtly, or overtly, depending on what scene, character, and story require just then.

Duncan Sometimes if I’m having problems with a scene, it’s not working, it’s not moving ahead, it may be that I’m using the wrong POV. When I rewrite it from the other viewpoint, suddenly it flows again. The main POV should be awarded to the person most affected–either emotionally or in terms of some plot development–by the action in that scene. One psychology technique asks, “Who owns the problem?" –and this is a good question for the author to ask at the start of a new scene, especially where limited his ‘n hers POVs are used.

I’ve also written a book entirely in first person–-that novel will be out next year, and more about that later-–and it was an interesting experience for me as a writer. I have always enjoyed reading first person narratives, and I loved writing it, loved being that close in a character’s head. This is where the author can really get into the character, put on their clothes and be the actor, as long, again, as the author can personally keep out of the story and avoid subjective commentary that does not serve story or characters. I discovered some inherent pitfalls when writing exclusive first person — one is the Dicksee incessant “I, I, I, I” that comes up with every sentence. To avoid starting every sentence with “I” or peppering every paragraph with that droning me, me, me, me (and that drove me crazy sometimes) — I had to be careful to vary sentence structure, trying to avoid starting too many sentences in a paragraph with “I” for example. With first person, it’s necessary to expand the point of view by expanding the character’s thoughts beyond herself. She had to become a consistent and generous observer for the reader, or the danger was a self-absorbed character, which for my particular book was not the way to go. That can work for character and story, but often not.

Sometimes a book will be written from multiple points of view in first person, and in others stories first and third person will be varied within a story. These are all ways of expanding that first person point of view.

What do you all, as readers, think of His ‘n Hers POV, omniscient POV, bouncing and head-hopping within a scene (does it bother you, or does it enhance the story for you)?  And what do you think of first person? Does it drive you mad or does it help make a story come alive?

Do you think first person could work in romance? I’ve always wondered about this, and wonder why we aren’t trying this more often as an interesting variation.

~Susan Sarah

52 thoughts on “To POV or not to POV”

  1. I like third person limited best. It just seems to work, esp. if the writer has a talent for deep POV. I don’t mind head-hopping, though. Heyer did it beautifully. Nora does it beautifully, and so does Rita Mae Brown (she even bounces into the heads of the pets and wild animals!). I’m more of a natural head-hopper, and I’m sure I shift POV too frequently for some purists (can’t wait for those emails, ugh).
    What I don’t care for is first person. I don’t know why. I’ve never liked it, regardless of genre (though sometimes it really works, as in DUCHESS!).

    Reply
  2. I like third person limited best. It just seems to work, esp. if the writer has a talent for deep POV. I don’t mind head-hopping, though. Heyer did it beautifully. Nora does it beautifully, and so does Rita Mae Brown (she even bounces into the heads of the pets and wild animals!). I’m more of a natural head-hopper, and I’m sure I shift POV too frequently for some purists (can’t wait for those emails, ugh).
    What I don’t care for is first person. I don’t know why. I’ve never liked it, regardless of genre (though sometimes it really works, as in DUCHESS!).

    Reply
  3. I like third person limited best. It just seems to work, esp. if the writer has a talent for deep POV. I don’t mind head-hopping, though. Heyer did it beautifully. Nora does it beautifully, and so does Rita Mae Brown (she even bounces into the heads of the pets and wild animals!). I’m more of a natural head-hopper, and I’m sure I shift POV too frequently for some purists (can’t wait for those emails, ugh).
    What I don’t care for is first person. I don’t know why. I’ve never liked it, regardless of genre (though sometimes it really works, as in DUCHESS!).

    Reply
  4. I like third person limited best. It just seems to work, esp. if the writer has a talent for deep POV. I don’t mind head-hopping, though. Heyer did it beautifully. Nora does it beautifully, and so does Rita Mae Brown (she even bounces into the heads of the pets and wild animals!). I’m more of a natural head-hopper, and I’m sure I shift POV too frequently for some purists (can’t wait for those emails, ugh).
    What I don’t care for is first person. I don’t know why. I’ve never liked it, regardless of genre (though sometimes it really works, as in DUCHESS!).

    Reply
  5. I’m not the POV police – if it makes sense, I go for it.
    First person in romance rarely works for me. Joan Wolf uses it more than most, so it’s not author based. I think the problem is that the frequent use of I requires more identification from me. While I get that it’s like reading a diary or what have you (and frankly it works better for me in that form than in full narrative) I have a tendancy to judge the character more harshly.
    “Nancy hopped in the car and sped toward danger” makes me say Nancy, you’re such a twit, I hope George and Bess read you your beads. “I hopped in the car and sped toward danger” makes me say OMFG you idiot! What did you do that for? I can’t stand you! ARRRGH!
    If that makes any sense. I’m on advil and sudafed, bear with me.

    Reply
  6. I’m not the POV police – if it makes sense, I go for it.
    First person in romance rarely works for me. Joan Wolf uses it more than most, so it’s not author based. I think the problem is that the frequent use of I requires more identification from me. While I get that it’s like reading a diary or what have you (and frankly it works better for me in that form than in full narrative) I have a tendancy to judge the character more harshly.
    “Nancy hopped in the car and sped toward danger” makes me say Nancy, you’re such a twit, I hope George and Bess read you your beads. “I hopped in the car and sped toward danger” makes me say OMFG you idiot! What did you do that for? I can’t stand you! ARRRGH!
    If that makes any sense. I’m on advil and sudafed, bear with me.

    Reply
  7. I’m not the POV police – if it makes sense, I go for it.
    First person in romance rarely works for me. Joan Wolf uses it more than most, so it’s not author based. I think the problem is that the frequent use of I requires more identification from me. While I get that it’s like reading a diary or what have you (and frankly it works better for me in that form than in full narrative) I have a tendancy to judge the character more harshly.
    “Nancy hopped in the car and sped toward danger” makes me say Nancy, you’re such a twit, I hope George and Bess read you your beads. “I hopped in the car and sped toward danger” makes me say OMFG you idiot! What did you do that for? I can’t stand you! ARRRGH!
    If that makes any sense. I’m on advil and sudafed, bear with me.

    Reply
  8. I’m not the POV police – if it makes sense, I go for it.
    First person in romance rarely works for me. Joan Wolf uses it more than most, so it’s not author based. I think the problem is that the frequent use of I requires more identification from me. While I get that it’s like reading a diary or what have you (and frankly it works better for me in that form than in full narrative) I have a tendancy to judge the character more harshly.
    “Nancy hopped in the car and sped toward danger” makes me say Nancy, you’re such a twit, I hope George and Bess read you your beads. “I hopped in the car and sped toward danger” makes me say OMFG you idiot! What did you do that for? I can’t stand you! ARRRGH!
    If that makes any sense. I’m on advil and sudafed, bear with me.

    Reply
  9. This is a fascinating topic, however often it is raised. Different genres, and different individual stories, may well work best with different PoV structures, and I have always been a bit puzzled by the many readers who claim a blanket, *invariable* dislike of the first-person point of view. It all depends – on the story, the author, and the reader. Mary Stewart’s classic romantic-suspense books still work brilliantly as first-person narratives, and one could not imagine them otherwise. I prescribe ‘This Rough Magic’ and ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’ as therapy for the anti-first-person faction!
    Third-limited is now so ubiquitous that it begins to look more like an unbreakable rule than a free choice, and notwithstanding its popularity and its appropriateness for many romances and historical romances, I should like to put in a word, or several, for the now sadly unfashionable omniscient third-person approach. Yes, it may lead to the reader’s being aware of the author (indeed, in the traditional 19th-century mode, the writer often apostrophised the reader direct), but this is exactly what *some* readers LIKE about it! I know the author is there; why should she try to efface herself totally? The characters are imaginary, but the author and the reader are both real. The mental contact is actually between the real people (even if the author is long dead) in this equation, not between the reader and an imaginary world.
    When reading fiction, I do not identify with the heroine, nor with any of the characters: my identification is always with the unseen author, and it is perhaps the almost inevitable coalescing of author and narrator that appeals to me about some first-person books. But I like to be privy to more ‘offstage’ information than is possible in a first-person tale. I am never ‘inside’ the events of the story, but rather, I am seeing them take place before me, like a stage performance. While this reception of fiction may not be average, or even ‘normal’, it is hardly likely to be unique. I love it when an author drops a hint for the reader’s eyes alone – tipping her the wink about something that is as yet unknown to the characters: ‘little did she know that she was about to meet her fate…’. This puts the reader into a privileged position, on the author’s side of the creative process, a rare privilege.
    🙂

    Reply
  10. This is a fascinating topic, however often it is raised. Different genres, and different individual stories, may well work best with different PoV structures, and I have always been a bit puzzled by the many readers who claim a blanket, *invariable* dislike of the first-person point of view. It all depends – on the story, the author, and the reader. Mary Stewart’s classic romantic-suspense books still work brilliantly as first-person narratives, and one could not imagine them otherwise. I prescribe ‘This Rough Magic’ and ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’ as therapy for the anti-first-person faction!
    Third-limited is now so ubiquitous that it begins to look more like an unbreakable rule than a free choice, and notwithstanding its popularity and its appropriateness for many romances and historical romances, I should like to put in a word, or several, for the now sadly unfashionable omniscient third-person approach. Yes, it may lead to the reader’s being aware of the author (indeed, in the traditional 19th-century mode, the writer often apostrophised the reader direct), but this is exactly what *some* readers LIKE about it! I know the author is there; why should she try to efface herself totally? The characters are imaginary, but the author and the reader are both real. The mental contact is actually between the real people (even if the author is long dead) in this equation, not between the reader and an imaginary world.
    When reading fiction, I do not identify with the heroine, nor with any of the characters: my identification is always with the unseen author, and it is perhaps the almost inevitable coalescing of author and narrator that appeals to me about some first-person books. But I like to be privy to more ‘offstage’ information than is possible in a first-person tale. I am never ‘inside’ the events of the story, but rather, I am seeing them take place before me, like a stage performance. While this reception of fiction may not be average, or even ‘normal’, it is hardly likely to be unique. I love it when an author drops a hint for the reader’s eyes alone – tipping her the wink about something that is as yet unknown to the characters: ‘little did she know that she was about to meet her fate…’. This puts the reader into a privileged position, on the author’s side of the creative process, a rare privilege.
    🙂

    Reply
  11. This is a fascinating topic, however often it is raised. Different genres, and different individual stories, may well work best with different PoV structures, and I have always been a bit puzzled by the many readers who claim a blanket, *invariable* dislike of the first-person point of view. It all depends – on the story, the author, and the reader. Mary Stewart’s classic romantic-suspense books still work brilliantly as first-person narratives, and one could not imagine them otherwise. I prescribe ‘This Rough Magic’ and ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’ as therapy for the anti-first-person faction!
    Third-limited is now so ubiquitous that it begins to look more like an unbreakable rule than a free choice, and notwithstanding its popularity and its appropriateness for many romances and historical romances, I should like to put in a word, or several, for the now sadly unfashionable omniscient third-person approach. Yes, it may lead to the reader’s being aware of the author (indeed, in the traditional 19th-century mode, the writer often apostrophised the reader direct), but this is exactly what *some* readers LIKE about it! I know the author is there; why should she try to efface herself totally? The characters are imaginary, but the author and the reader are both real. The mental contact is actually between the real people (even if the author is long dead) in this equation, not between the reader and an imaginary world.
    When reading fiction, I do not identify with the heroine, nor with any of the characters: my identification is always with the unseen author, and it is perhaps the almost inevitable coalescing of author and narrator that appeals to me about some first-person books. But I like to be privy to more ‘offstage’ information than is possible in a first-person tale. I am never ‘inside’ the events of the story, but rather, I am seeing them take place before me, like a stage performance. While this reception of fiction may not be average, or even ‘normal’, it is hardly likely to be unique. I love it when an author drops a hint for the reader’s eyes alone – tipping her the wink about something that is as yet unknown to the characters: ‘little did she know that she was about to meet her fate…’. This puts the reader into a privileged position, on the author’s side of the creative process, a rare privilege.
    🙂

    Reply
  12. This is a fascinating topic, however often it is raised. Different genres, and different individual stories, may well work best with different PoV structures, and I have always been a bit puzzled by the many readers who claim a blanket, *invariable* dislike of the first-person point of view. It all depends – on the story, the author, and the reader. Mary Stewart’s classic romantic-suspense books still work brilliantly as first-person narratives, and one could not imagine them otherwise. I prescribe ‘This Rough Magic’ and ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’ as therapy for the anti-first-person faction!
    Third-limited is now so ubiquitous that it begins to look more like an unbreakable rule than a free choice, and notwithstanding its popularity and its appropriateness for many romances and historical romances, I should like to put in a word, or several, for the now sadly unfashionable omniscient third-person approach. Yes, it may lead to the reader’s being aware of the author (indeed, in the traditional 19th-century mode, the writer often apostrophised the reader direct), but this is exactly what *some* readers LIKE about it! I know the author is there; why should she try to efface herself totally? The characters are imaginary, but the author and the reader are both real. The mental contact is actually between the real people (even if the author is long dead) in this equation, not between the reader and an imaginary world.
    When reading fiction, I do not identify with the heroine, nor with any of the characters: my identification is always with the unseen author, and it is perhaps the almost inevitable coalescing of author and narrator that appeals to me about some first-person books. But I like to be privy to more ‘offstage’ information than is possible in a first-person tale. I am never ‘inside’ the events of the story, but rather, I am seeing them take place before me, like a stage performance. While this reception of fiction may not be average, or even ‘normal’, it is hardly likely to be unique. I love it when an author drops a hint for the reader’s eyes alone – tipping her the wink about something that is as yet unknown to the characters: ‘little did she know that she was about to meet her fate…’. This puts the reader into a privileged position, on the author’s side of the creative process, a rare privilege.
    🙂

    Reply
  13. I don’t have a POV preference (unless hating second person counts). I’ve read and loved books all across the spectrum from 1st person to 3rd omniscient, and think all can work well in a romance.
    What I do care about is something I call intimacy vs. distance. Unlike AgTigress, I *do* identify with the characters, at least to the degree that I want to feel like I’m experiencing the story rather than observing it. It’s not like I’m imagining myself the hero or heroine, more that I’m an invisible but involved presence at their side rather than just watching the story unfold, if that makes any sense. Nine times out of ten, if I don’t like a book that a friend who knows my tastes and interests recommends, it’s because I find it too distancing.
    The only thing is, I don’t know how to quantify intimacy vs. distance. You’d think 1st person would be intimate and omniscient distancing, but that’s not it. The Chronicles of Narnia are in omniscient, complete with author asides to the reader, and I find them wonderfully intimate and engrossing. I’m pretty sure Patrick O’Brian and Bernard Cornwell both write omniscient (I’m not always clear on how to draw the line between omniscient and 3rd limited that isn’t “deep POV”), and I never have any trouble feeling like I’m “in” their books. And it’s not about how much emotion is on the page–I tend to prefer emotions implied through dialogue and action rather than described in tedious detail, in any case. But I feel like there must be SOME quality of the writing that makes me feel like a participant in some cases and an observer in others, and I wish I could pin it down.

    Reply
  14. I don’t have a POV preference (unless hating second person counts). I’ve read and loved books all across the spectrum from 1st person to 3rd omniscient, and think all can work well in a romance.
    What I do care about is something I call intimacy vs. distance. Unlike AgTigress, I *do* identify with the characters, at least to the degree that I want to feel like I’m experiencing the story rather than observing it. It’s not like I’m imagining myself the hero or heroine, more that I’m an invisible but involved presence at their side rather than just watching the story unfold, if that makes any sense. Nine times out of ten, if I don’t like a book that a friend who knows my tastes and interests recommends, it’s because I find it too distancing.
    The only thing is, I don’t know how to quantify intimacy vs. distance. You’d think 1st person would be intimate and omniscient distancing, but that’s not it. The Chronicles of Narnia are in omniscient, complete with author asides to the reader, and I find them wonderfully intimate and engrossing. I’m pretty sure Patrick O’Brian and Bernard Cornwell both write omniscient (I’m not always clear on how to draw the line between omniscient and 3rd limited that isn’t “deep POV”), and I never have any trouble feeling like I’m “in” their books. And it’s not about how much emotion is on the page–I tend to prefer emotions implied through dialogue and action rather than described in tedious detail, in any case. But I feel like there must be SOME quality of the writing that makes me feel like a participant in some cases and an observer in others, and I wish I could pin it down.

    Reply
  15. I don’t have a POV preference (unless hating second person counts). I’ve read and loved books all across the spectrum from 1st person to 3rd omniscient, and think all can work well in a romance.
    What I do care about is something I call intimacy vs. distance. Unlike AgTigress, I *do* identify with the characters, at least to the degree that I want to feel like I’m experiencing the story rather than observing it. It’s not like I’m imagining myself the hero or heroine, more that I’m an invisible but involved presence at their side rather than just watching the story unfold, if that makes any sense. Nine times out of ten, if I don’t like a book that a friend who knows my tastes and interests recommends, it’s because I find it too distancing.
    The only thing is, I don’t know how to quantify intimacy vs. distance. You’d think 1st person would be intimate and omniscient distancing, but that’s not it. The Chronicles of Narnia are in omniscient, complete with author asides to the reader, and I find them wonderfully intimate and engrossing. I’m pretty sure Patrick O’Brian and Bernard Cornwell both write omniscient (I’m not always clear on how to draw the line between omniscient and 3rd limited that isn’t “deep POV”), and I never have any trouble feeling like I’m “in” their books. And it’s not about how much emotion is on the page–I tend to prefer emotions implied through dialogue and action rather than described in tedious detail, in any case. But I feel like there must be SOME quality of the writing that makes me feel like a participant in some cases and an observer in others, and I wish I could pin it down.

    Reply
  16. I don’t have a POV preference (unless hating second person counts). I’ve read and loved books all across the spectrum from 1st person to 3rd omniscient, and think all can work well in a romance.
    What I do care about is something I call intimacy vs. distance. Unlike AgTigress, I *do* identify with the characters, at least to the degree that I want to feel like I’m experiencing the story rather than observing it. It’s not like I’m imagining myself the hero or heroine, more that I’m an invisible but involved presence at their side rather than just watching the story unfold, if that makes any sense. Nine times out of ten, if I don’t like a book that a friend who knows my tastes and interests recommends, it’s because I find it too distancing.
    The only thing is, I don’t know how to quantify intimacy vs. distance. You’d think 1st person would be intimate and omniscient distancing, but that’s not it. The Chronicles of Narnia are in omniscient, complete with author asides to the reader, and I find them wonderfully intimate and engrossing. I’m pretty sure Patrick O’Brian and Bernard Cornwell both write omniscient (I’m not always clear on how to draw the line between omniscient and 3rd limited that isn’t “deep POV”), and I never have any trouble feeling like I’m “in” their books. And it’s not about how much emotion is on the page–I tend to prefer emotions implied through dialogue and action rather than described in tedious detail, in any case. But I feel like there must be SOME quality of the writing that makes me feel like a participant in some cases and an observer in others, and I wish I could pin it down.

    Reply
  17. You really can’t discuss PoV in a vacuum; it all depends on what serves the story. I say if you can pull off the trick of hopping from the hero’s head into that of the central rose in the heroine’s bridal bouquet, more power to you. But if the switch makes a reader feel like she’s been smacked in the face with a flounder, then maybe you’ve gone too far. The best PoV is the one nobody notices.

    Reply
  18. You really can’t discuss PoV in a vacuum; it all depends on what serves the story. I say if you can pull off the trick of hopping from the hero’s head into that of the central rose in the heroine’s bridal bouquet, more power to you. But if the switch makes a reader feel like she’s been smacked in the face with a flounder, then maybe you’ve gone too far. The best PoV is the one nobody notices.

    Reply
  19. You really can’t discuss PoV in a vacuum; it all depends on what serves the story. I say if you can pull off the trick of hopping from the hero’s head into that of the central rose in the heroine’s bridal bouquet, more power to you. But if the switch makes a reader feel like she’s been smacked in the face with a flounder, then maybe you’ve gone too far. The best PoV is the one nobody notices.

    Reply
  20. You really can’t discuss PoV in a vacuum; it all depends on what serves the story. I say if you can pull off the trick of hopping from the hero’s head into that of the central rose in the heroine’s bridal bouquet, more power to you. But if the switch makes a reader feel like she’s been smacked in the face with a flounder, then maybe you’ve gone too far. The best PoV is the one nobody notices.

    Reply
  21. The one time I tried a first-person romance (the aforementioned Joan Wolf) and got to a sex scene, I knew it was over. Probably some writer can make it work, but for me, once burned, twice shy.

    Reply
  22. The one time I tried a first-person romance (the aforementioned Joan Wolf) and got to a sex scene, I knew it was over. Probably some writer can make it work, but for me, once burned, twice shy.

    Reply
  23. The one time I tried a first-person romance (the aforementioned Joan Wolf) and got to a sex scene, I knew it was over. Probably some writer can make it work, but for me, once burned, twice shy.

    Reply
  24. The one time I tried a first-person romance (the aforementioned Joan Wolf) and got to a sex scene, I knew it was over. Probably some writer can make it work, but for me, once burned, twice shy.

    Reply
  25. “Mary Stewart’s classic romantic-suspense books still work brilliantly as first-person narratives, and one could not imagine them otherwise. I prescribe ‘This Rough Magic’ and ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’ as therapy for the anti-first-person faction!”
    First person POV does seem to be generally disliked by readers, but I’ve never minded it. But then I adore Mary Stewart’s books and read them in middle school, so she probably trained me through early exposure. The problem I sometimes have with 1st POV in romance is the inscrutable hero. For the HEA to be convincing, I have to believe in the hero’s feelings which can be difficult in 1st POV.
    The great thing about MS’s writing is how multi-layered it is. After reading the book once, you can usually skim back through and tell just what the hero’s thinking in each scene. [Though I admit to wanting more “romance” in some of the books. ;-)] So to really “get” the richness of the book, you have to be willing to invest some time. Which, come to think of it, could be a reason for the unpopularity of 1st POV. Personally, I have less time for reading these days so a book has to be really good for me to give it that kind of investment. I’ve spent quite a few dollars on tracking down audio versions of the MS books. 🙂
    “The best PoV is the one nobody notices.”
    I definitely agree, and I think MS wrote the most unobtrusive 1st POV I’ve come across.
    As for His ‘n Hers POV, I was really happy when it came into fashion. Early books with only the Hers POV frustrated me for the same reason as 1st POV – “What is he thinking??”

    Reply
  26. “Mary Stewart’s classic romantic-suspense books still work brilliantly as first-person narratives, and one could not imagine them otherwise. I prescribe ‘This Rough Magic’ and ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’ as therapy for the anti-first-person faction!”
    First person POV does seem to be generally disliked by readers, but I’ve never minded it. But then I adore Mary Stewart’s books and read them in middle school, so she probably trained me through early exposure. The problem I sometimes have with 1st POV in romance is the inscrutable hero. For the HEA to be convincing, I have to believe in the hero’s feelings which can be difficult in 1st POV.
    The great thing about MS’s writing is how multi-layered it is. After reading the book once, you can usually skim back through and tell just what the hero’s thinking in each scene. [Though I admit to wanting more “romance” in some of the books. ;-)] So to really “get” the richness of the book, you have to be willing to invest some time. Which, come to think of it, could be a reason for the unpopularity of 1st POV. Personally, I have less time for reading these days so a book has to be really good for me to give it that kind of investment. I’ve spent quite a few dollars on tracking down audio versions of the MS books. 🙂
    “The best PoV is the one nobody notices.”
    I definitely agree, and I think MS wrote the most unobtrusive 1st POV I’ve come across.
    As for His ‘n Hers POV, I was really happy when it came into fashion. Early books with only the Hers POV frustrated me for the same reason as 1st POV – “What is he thinking??”

    Reply
  27. “Mary Stewart’s classic romantic-suspense books still work brilliantly as first-person narratives, and one could not imagine them otherwise. I prescribe ‘This Rough Magic’ and ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’ as therapy for the anti-first-person faction!”
    First person POV does seem to be generally disliked by readers, but I’ve never minded it. But then I adore Mary Stewart’s books and read them in middle school, so she probably trained me through early exposure. The problem I sometimes have with 1st POV in romance is the inscrutable hero. For the HEA to be convincing, I have to believe in the hero’s feelings which can be difficult in 1st POV.
    The great thing about MS’s writing is how multi-layered it is. After reading the book once, you can usually skim back through and tell just what the hero’s thinking in each scene. [Though I admit to wanting more “romance” in some of the books. ;-)] So to really “get” the richness of the book, you have to be willing to invest some time. Which, come to think of it, could be a reason for the unpopularity of 1st POV. Personally, I have less time for reading these days so a book has to be really good for me to give it that kind of investment. I’ve spent quite a few dollars on tracking down audio versions of the MS books. 🙂
    “The best PoV is the one nobody notices.”
    I definitely agree, and I think MS wrote the most unobtrusive 1st POV I’ve come across.
    As for His ‘n Hers POV, I was really happy when it came into fashion. Early books with only the Hers POV frustrated me for the same reason as 1st POV – “What is he thinking??”

    Reply
  28. “Mary Stewart’s classic romantic-suspense books still work brilliantly as first-person narratives, and one could not imagine them otherwise. I prescribe ‘This Rough Magic’ and ‘Nine Coaches Waiting’ as therapy for the anti-first-person faction!”
    First person POV does seem to be generally disliked by readers, but I’ve never minded it. But then I adore Mary Stewart’s books and read them in middle school, so she probably trained me through early exposure. The problem I sometimes have with 1st POV in romance is the inscrutable hero. For the HEA to be convincing, I have to believe in the hero’s feelings which can be difficult in 1st POV.
    The great thing about MS’s writing is how multi-layered it is. After reading the book once, you can usually skim back through and tell just what the hero’s thinking in each scene. [Though I admit to wanting more “romance” in some of the books. ;-)] So to really “get” the richness of the book, you have to be willing to invest some time. Which, come to think of it, could be a reason for the unpopularity of 1st POV. Personally, I have less time for reading these days so a book has to be really good for me to give it that kind of investment. I’ve spent quite a few dollars on tracking down audio versions of the MS books. 🙂
    “The best PoV is the one nobody notices.”
    I definitely agree, and I think MS wrote the most unobtrusive 1st POV I’ve come across.
    As for His ‘n Hers POV, I was really happy when it came into fashion. Early books with only the Hers POV frustrated me for the same reason as 1st POV – “What is he thinking??”

    Reply
  29. Susan/Sara asked…. “And what do you think of first person?” IMHO, first person POV can be a dangerous gamble. If I don’t relate well to the person who plans to spend 400 pages “thinking” at me, I won’t finish the book or buy the next one. But, when there is more than one POV (as in his and hers), the author has a better chance of hooking me. I’ve actually read books where I loved “his” POV and couldn’t stand “hers.” So I skipped “hers” and read “his.”
    “Do you think first person could work in romance?”
    I think it can. HAWKSONG (though not exactly a romance) is a good, simple example. The heroine was a very observant character who knew much about her hero and her hero always said what he meant and meant what he said. And when he didn’t (as in putting on a particular front before his people) she knew it and why.
    “The best PoV is the one nobody notices.” Spot on Elaine!
    Nina, who loves the technique “Who owns the problem?”

    Reply
  30. Susan/Sara asked…. “And what do you think of first person?” IMHO, first person POV can be a dangerous gamble. If I don’t relate well to the person who plans to spend 400 pages “thinking” at me, I won’t finish the book or buy the next one. But, when there is more than one POV (as in his and hers), the author has a better chance of hooking me. I’ve actually read books where I loved “his” POV and couldn’t stand “hers.” So I skipped “hers” and read “his.”
    “Do you think first person could work in romance?”
    I think it can. HAWKSONG (though not exactly a romance) is a good, simple example. The heroine was a very observant character who knew much about her hero and her hero always said what he meant and meant what he said. And when he didn’t (as in putting on a particular front before his people) she knew it and why.
    “The best PoV is the one nobody notices.” Spot on Elaine!
    Nina, who loves the technique “Who owns the problem?”

    Reply
  31. Susan/Sara asked…. “And what do you think of first person?” IMHO, first person POV can be a dangerous gamble. If I don’t relate well to the person who plans to spend 400 pages “thinking” at me, I won’t finish the book or buy the next one. But, when there is more than one POV (as in his and hers), the author has a better chance of hooking me. I’ve actually read books where I loved “his” POV and couldn’t stand “hers.” So I skipped “hers” and read “his.”
    “Do you think first person could work in romance?”
    I think it can. HAWKSONG (though not exactly a romance) is a good, simple example. The heroine was a very observant character who knew much about her hero and her hero always said what he meant and meant what he said. And when he didn’t (as in putting on a particular front before his people) she knew it and why.
    “The best PoV is the one nobody notices.” Spot on Elaine!
    Nina, who loves the technique “Who owns the problem?”

    Reply
  32. Susan/Sara asked…. “And what do you think of first person?” IMHO, first person POV can be a dangerous gamble. If I don’t relate well to the person who plans to spend 400 pages “thinking” at me, I won’t finish the book or buy the next one. But, when there is more than one POV (as in his and hers), the author has a better chance of hooking me. I’ve actually read books where I loved “his” POV and couldn’t stand “hers.” So I skipped “hers” and read “his.”
    “Do you think first person could work in romance?”
    I think it can. HAWKSONG (though not exactly a romance) is a good, simple example. The heroine was a very observant character who knew much about her hero and her hero always said what he meant and meant what he said. And when he didn’t (as in putting on a particular front before his people) she knew it and why.
    “The best PoV is the one nobody notices.” Spot on Elaine!
    Nina, who loves the technique “Who owns the problem?”

    Reply
  33. Like most other writing mechanics, if it’s handled well I’ll buy anything.
    The only time I can remember POV truly pissing me off was in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, a most over-rated bit of authorial show-offy awfulness.
    Gee, I guess I’m still not over it. 🙂
    With one of my current mainstream MIP’s I had to try something different. It’s a m-m-f “who’s-the-hero-who’s-the-villain?” love triangle. But my heroine is the one who starts off unlikable. In order to get the reader to understand and sympathize with her, I had to make her parts first person and the two male parts third person.
    It works as long as I pay attention!

    Reply
  34. Like most other writing mechanics, if it’s handled well I’ll buy anything.
    The only time I can remember POV truly pissing me off was in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, a most over-rated bit of authorial show-offy awfulness.
    Gee, I guess I’m still not over it. 🙂
    With one of my current mainstream MIP’s I had to try something different. It’s a m-m-f “who’s-the-hero-who’s-the-villain?” love triangle. But my heroine is the one who starts off unlikable. In order to get the reader to understand and sympathize with her, I had to make her parts first person and the two male parts third person.
    It works as long as I pay attention!

    Reply
  35. Like most other writing mechanics, if it’s handled well I’ll buy anything.
    The only time I can remember POV truly pissing me off was in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, a most over-rated bit of authorial show-offy awfulness.
    Gee, I guess I’m still not over it. 🙂
    With one of my current mainstream MIP’s I had to try something different. It’s a m-m-f “who’s-the-hero-who’s-the-villain?” love triangle. But my heroine is the one who starts off unlikable. In order to get the reader to understand and sympathize with her, I had to make her parts first person and the two male parts third person.
    It works as long as I pay attention!

    Reply
  36. Like most other writing mechanics, if it’s handled well I’ll buy anything.
    The only time I can remember POV truly pissing me off was in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, a most over-rated bit of authorial show-offy awfulness.
    Gee, I guess I’m still not over it. 🙂
    With one of my current mainstream MIP’s I had to try something different. It’s a m-m-f “who’s-the-hero-who’s-the-villain?” love triangle. But my heroine is the one who starts off unlikable. In order to get the reader to understand and sympathize with her, I had to make her parts first person and the two male parts third person.
    It works as long as I pay attention!

    Reply
  37. Ah, Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic! I love that book. I read it so often that the exchange between Lucy and Sir Julian Gale is etched in my memory.
    I too have loved books written in nearly every POV. The only thing that bothers me is the head hopping writer who fails to make clear whose head she has hopped to. That’s my definition of a wallbanger–well, one defintion.

    Reply
  38. Ah, Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic! I love that book. I read it so often that the exchange between Lucy and Sir Julian Gale is etched in my memory.
    I too have loved books written in nearly every POV. The only thing that bothers me is the head hopping writer who fails to make clear whose head she has hopped to. That’s my definition of a wallbanger–well, one defintion.

    Reply
  39. Ah, Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic! I love that book. I read it so often that the exchange between Lucy and Sir Julian Gale is etched in my memory.
    I too have loved books written in nearly every POV. The only thing that bothers me is the head hopping writer who fails to make clear whose head she has hopped to. That’s my definition of a wallbanger–well, one defintion.

    Reply
  40. Ah, Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic! I love that book. I read it so often that the exchange between Lucy and Sir Julian Gale is etched in my memory.
    I too have loved books written in nearly every POV. The only thing that bothers me is the head hopping writer who fails to make clear whose head she has hopped to. That’s my definition of a wallbanger–well, one defintion.

    Reply
  41. Being a fan of 19th C novels, I love omniscient narrators & omnis myself from time to time. But any POV is fine with me, if the author handles it well. Head-hopping tends to annoy me a great deal more nowadays than it used to, but some writers write so well that I’ll bear it for the sake of all that good stuff. Doesn’t it always come down to the writing?

    Reply
  42. Being a fan of 19th C novels, I love omniscient narrators & omnis myself from time to time. But any POV is fine with me, if the author handles it well. Head-hopping tends to annoy me a great deal more nowadays than it used to, but some writers write so well that I’ll bear it for the sake of all that good stuff. Doesn’t it always come down to the writing?

    Reply
  43. Being a fan of 19th C novels, I love omniscient narrators & omnis myself from time to time. But any POV is fine with me, if the author handles it well. Head-hopping tends to annoy me a great deal more nowadays than it used to, but some writers write so well that I’ll bear it for the sake of all that good stuff. Doesn’t it always come down to the writing?

    Reply
  44. Being a fan of 19th C novels, I love omniscient narrators & omnis myself from time to time. But any POV is fine with me, if the author handles it well. Head-hopping tends to annoy me a great deal more nowadays than it used to, but some writers write so well that I’ll bear it for the sake of all that good stuff. Doesn’t it always come down to the writing?

    Reply
  45. I suspect many readers don’t care for first person POV because it is so tricky. If the writing is at all clumsy the heroine can come off as narcissistic or self-pitying. First person POV also limits the sort of story one can tell.
    But in some cases it’s the right choice, such as when the heroine is in some way alone and vulnerable and grappling with a mystery. JANE EYRE, anyone?

    Reply
  46. I suspect many readers don’t care for first person POV because it is so tricky. If the writing is at all clumsy the heroine can come off as narcissistic or self-pitying. First person POV also limits the sort of story one can tell.
    But in some cases it’s the right choice, such as when the heroine is in some way alone and vulnerable and grappling with a mystery. JANE EYRE, anyone?

    Reply
  47. I suspect many readers don’t care for first person POV because it is so tricky. If the writing is at all clumsy the heroine can come off as narcissistic or self-pitying. First person POV also limits the sort of story one can tell.
    But in some cases it’s the right choice, such as when the heroine is in some way alone and vulnerable and grappling with a mystery. JANE EYRE, anyone?

    Reply
  48. I suspect many readers don’t care for first person POV because it is so tricky. If the writing is at all clumsy the heroine can come off as narcissistic or self-pitying. First person POV also limits the sort of story one can tell.
    But in some cases it’s the right choice, such as when the heroine is in some way alone and vulnerable and grappling with a mystery. JANE EYRE, anyone?

    Reply
  49. Very timely! I’m re-reading This Rough Magic right now and was trying to work out why it felt different to the usual.
    First person works well here, but I agree it makes it hard to understand the hero or work out what they see in each other (besides an irresistable attraction, natch). That’s probably more due to the style of writing of the time. I feel they’re more thrillers than romances.

    Reply
  50. Very timely! I’m re-reading This Rough Magic right now and was trying to work out why it felt different to the usual.
    First person works well here, but I agree it makes it hard to understand the hero or work out what they see in each other (besides an irresistable attraction, natch). That’s probably more due to the style of writing of the time. I feel they’re more thrillers than romances.

    Reply
  51. Very timely! I’m re-reading This Rough Magic right now and was trying to work out why it felt different to the usual.
    First person works well here, but I agree it makes it hard to understand the hero or work out what they see in each other (besides an irresistable attraction, natch). That’s probably more due to the style of writing of the time. I feel they’re more thrillers than romances.

    Reply
  52. Very timely! I’m re-reading This Rough Magic right now and was trying to work out why it felt different to the usual.
    First person works well here, but I agree it makes it hard to understand the hero or work out what they see in each other (besides an irresistable attraction, natch). That’s probably more due to the style of writing of the time. I feel they’re more thrillers than romances.

    Reply

Leave a Comment