Monday, February 20, 2012

A Special Monday Edition of Tip Tuesday with Krissi Dallas


Okay, yes, I know it is Monday, not Tuesday. But I have a special post all set for tomorrow so I thought I'd doing Tip Tuesday on Monday. LOL! 

Today I am joined by talented author and teacher, Krissi Dallas. She is the author of WINDCHASER and WINDFALL - the first two books in the young adult fantasy Phantom Island series that just released nationally in December. The third installment, WATERCROSSING, will be released in the Spring. Like her fictional heroine, Krissi is also a gray-eyed Aerodorian from Texas with a ridiculous fish phobia. (Not sure what a Aerodorian is? Read her books to find out!) Krissi teaches junior high Advanced English and Language Arts and enjoys hanging out with her husband, Sam, the teens at Fusion Student Ministries, and her two wicked Yorkies. Her life is currently overrun with teenagers and she likes it that way. For more info, check out her website at www.KrissiDallas.com In the meantime, check out her fabulous post and POV and writing. Take it away Krissi: 

Stick to the Point (of View, that is)

If you were a middle school student sitting in my class discussing literary terms, I would start off with a question like: “What is ‘point of view’ in a story?” You would probably then say something like, “how the story is told” or “who tells the story.” And you wouldn’t be quite right, but you’d be better than the kid who, when asked what a ‘protagonist’ was, said, “Ooh, ooh! I know! That’s the character who waits until the last minute to do everything!” (No, sweetie, that’s a procrastinator. But good try.) We would then seek to better define the concept together in our notes and I’d go with this one...

Point of View – the perspective from which a story is told

I’m assuming that those of you reading this already know the different points of view a story can be told in; however, please humor me as the teacher in me needs to make sure I’m clear. Though there are many subcategories of POV, I’ll stick with our major ones being 1st person (participant point of view, using first person pronouns—I, me, my, etc.), 3rd person limited (non-participant point of view, using third person pronouns—he, she, they, etc.—limiting the inner thoughts and experiences to one or a few main characters), and 3rd person omniscient (entering the minds and experiences of all characters). I never formally teach 2nd person POV in class, but am rethinking that now that I recently met Charles Benoit, author of You, a YA novel told completely and uniquely in 2nd person…all because his wife dared him to do it (Check it out! He’s fabulous.)

But, really…choosing the right point of view for the novel you’re writing is an important first step. I’ve noticed that writers (myself included) tend to classify themselves into one category of POV writing. I think of myself as a 1st person POV writer—and my Phantom Island series is told in 1st person through Whitnee’s eyes. To be honest, I found that writing Whitnee was almost like writing myself. So 1st person in her voice (which is often like MY voice) came very easily. I never imagined I’d want to write in any other point of view…until I got the Shiny New Novel Idea. And as I considered the dynamics of writing the Shiny New Novel, I knew I wanted some secrets revealed to my readers before one of my main characters knew about them. I wanted to cast light and shadows in the plot in such a way that I would have to be free to leave characters at specific times. Not only that, but in Shiny New Novel, my characters have less of ME in them. Maybe that accounted for this need to tell the story from an outside narration. Whatever the case, if I stayed in 1st person POV, I’d be confined to one character’s experiences and perceptions OR have to try switching 1st person POV constantly among characters. Nope. The Shiny New Novel Idea is so enticing to me that I have now forsaken my comfort zone and am attempting a novel in 3rd person. EEK.

I’ve heard nightmare stories of writers who went back and rewrote an ENTIRE NOVEL in a new point of view, because they realized what they started with didn’t work for the story they wanted to tell. So how can we avoid that? My advanced students and I threw around some thoughts in our class discussion that you might consider (especially if you write YA)…

1st Person POV
Positives:
--The art of writing suspense is really easy with 1st POV, because the character is limited to what they can know or observe. This means Unknown Plot Forces can be brewing and more easily surprise the character, and thus the reader too.
--You can have a LOT of fun with voice in 1st person. Your MC is telling the story, so they get their own unique voice and tone. (Or you can lean at times on your OWN voice, which some of us unknowingly do in our first projects.)
--Your reader gets to really know and understand your MC and we all know that when a reader makes a connection with a character, the story will resonate strongly with them.
Warnings:
--You are limited to only tell what your MC can observe and experience. This makes it super important to write a main character that can carry an entire story. That MC has to be where the action is and the world of the story must usually revolve in some way around them.
--You have to be careful not to have your MC “notice” too many obvious things without connecting the dots with the reader. This is when MCs lose credibility with their readers because the reader saw something in the plot that the MC should have seen too, but didn’t… even though the MC narrated the observations.
--You have to write in a voice that will not “get old” or annoying in the telling. I’ve heard the complaint that 1st person narrators can come across arrogant or self-centered. Well… this is somewhat true...in a way. They are the MC because they ARE in the center of what’s happening. But if they’re not really a self-centered person, be careful how you write their voice.

What My Students Say- “I like 1st person POV books because…
“…it gives me a point of reference for what’s happening. I don’t have to get confused by character names or who’s talking in the scene.”

“…it lets me see other characters through a real person’s eyes-the same way I might see them in my own mind. It makes the minor characters seem more real. Not the way an objective narrator wants me to see them.”

“…I always feel closer to the main character when they tell me their story. It’s like making a friend and hearing about their life.”

3rd Person POV
Positives:
--You definitely have more freedom to explore other places, people, and circumstances that your MC does not get to see.
--You can have multiple MCs that open up new perspectives throughout the plot.
--It’s a lot easier to jump through, in, and around time as you please. The sequence of events can be told in any order you think will benefit the storytelling.
Warnings:
--Sometimes you sacrifice suspense in order to tell a bigger story – this is usually seen more in 3rd person omniscient POVs.
--The story can feel more about the plot than the characters, sacrificing someone’s ability to get truly close to one or two characters.
--If not written carefully, sometimes readers can feel as disconnected from the story as the fly on the wall who is narrating it.

What My Students Say- “I like 3rd person POV books because…”
“…I like getting points of view from different characters and seeing the conflicts from all angles.”

“…I like experiencing what’s happening through the person it’s happening to, not through a main character who is trying to describe to me what other characters are going through.”

Overall, in YA fiction, my students are openly more drawn to 1st person POV right now. That being said, I say choose the POV that will make for the best storytelling. You know your story, you know your characters, and hopefully you know at least a general structure of the plot outline you’re following. Use those details, along with a self-assessment of your writing strengths, and then go with the POV that you think will work best. However, don’t be afraid to branch out and try a new POV style than just what you’ve “always” done. I’m finding it strangely freeing to try 3rd person POV in the Shiny New Novel Idea… Maybe one day I’ll even venture out into different tenses…Ha. One step at a time, Dallas.

Now it’s your turn. If you’re a reader or a writer, what point of view do you prefer and why? What positives or warnings would you add to these lists? 

15 comments:

  1. Thank you Christine for this post!
    Krissi you have simplified the differences in writing POV for YA for me thank you:)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I love when my students give me their insights about what they enjoy most in the books they love - they are my target YA audiene, after all. Thanks for the comment. :)

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  2. Lovely post--so much great info!

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  3. What a fantastic guest post! Point of view is so important, it's great to see someone giving it it's due. And yay for Krissi stopping by!

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    1. Thanks, Heather! POV is a topic I've been thinking a lot about. I've definitely been observing my friends who write 3rd POV (like you!)... I don't want to box myself in and not try something new. But it's a challenge! Ha. :)

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  4. 1st person is really popular in YA right now, so it's really refreshing to find a good story written in 3rd. I reccently read Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and it was fantastic. Although it was written in 3rd person, I didn't feel seperated from the MC, and there were times when the narration changed from Cinder to someone else, and that really enhanced the story. Whatever POV is used it's just important the writing itself is good. :] Thanks for the post!

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    1. I just bought Cinder! Can't wait to read it one of these days because I keep hearing good things! Glad to know it's in 3rd - that'll make for some fun research for me. :) Thanks for the comment, Gabi!

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  5. What a great breakdown! I've tried to write in third, but I stink at it and more than once I've had to go back and rewrite the POV. Turns out my stories are first person, in pretty much any genre I write. It's just how the stories come out for me.

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    1. I know what you mean! I'm much more comfortable in 1st! But it is kind of fun to try something new - more freedom, but more challenge. :) Thanks for the comment, Ali!

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  6. Krissi, I really appreciate your break down of the POVs.

    The YA novel I'm writing now is in 1st person POV but I have a few other novels that I'm working on. Both have 3rd person POV.

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    1. Good luck with that! I think it's fun to switch it up a little bit. Although, I find myself having a hard time remembering to switch when I go back and forth between my two manuscripts in different POVs. I'll catch myself at first reverting to the one I was just working on. Ha. :) Thanks for commenting, Angela!

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  7. Thank you again, Christine, for allowing me to guest post! You yourself probably have a lot to say about the challenges of POV - especially since I just finished Dies Irae and seeing how it switches back and forth between two characters. Well done! :)

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    1. Thanks Krissi! And yes, I love experimenting with POV. One of my favorite projects - one I will have more information on soon - is actually dual POV 1st and 3rd. Very complex to write! But what a blast.

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Thanks for your input!