Who’s on First: Point of View – originally posted August 17, 2012

 

It’s always a weighty and relevant choice when an author chooses which point of view to use for his writing. Traditionally I’ve leaned heavy on third person limited. In A Ghost of a Chance, I was able to use it to inject the book with plenty of Jack Brennan’s sarcasm without sacrificing the ability to give a coherent view of what was unfolding in the novel. It also seemed easier to use that POV in shifting between his viewpoint and Hallie Barkley’s, the quirky heroine. In Sanctuary of Echoes, third person was also extremely useful in that the POV was not only shifting between multiple characters but also multiple time frames.

My first real dalliance with first person came with the novella Ghost Soldier. Ghost College, the first book in the series, was written entirely in first person POV through the eyes of Monty Drew. This presented me with a bit of a dilemma as some of the action in my book, Ghost Soldier, would involve Ellen Drew, Monty’s psychic wife with him absent. It was an interesting choice I made in shifting from Monty’s first person POV at times to Ellen’s third person limited POV. I suppose I broke some rule in some far distant realm, but it actually suited the story. Monty had such a strong, pragmatic, sarcastic personality where most of the humor was generated from, and in contrast Ellen was more sensitive and cognizant of everything around her. Using the different POVs actually helped to illuminate their personalities as well as further the action of the piece.

Following in that vein I decided to incorporate two different POVs in my latest novel The Witches’ Own for slightly different reasons. If you remember Henry James’ famous novella The Turn of the screw his lead narrator was a governess written in first person. In that book, as was his intent, the fallibility of the narrator came into question. Was she really seeing ghosts and did she act justly? Or the more disturbing choice was she herself crazy and the whole thing in her mind? The lead character in The Witches’ Own is a writer of horror stories who has relocated to a remote coastal town of Virginia for several months. Doing research for a book he discovers the history of a young woman who was hanged for witchcraft in the 1600s. And then he begins to see her. The question that’s always out there because of the first person POV is whether this is indeed in his mind as he himself wonders or if not. . . Within the book when I am writing about other characters I use the third person limited POV to give a more stable narration.

It’s always an interesting and significant choice for a writer, which POV to choose and how it will ultimately impact the project.

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