Wednesday, November 14, 2012

First Person POV

I used to hate first person novels. If I opened a book and saw that damning "I" in there, it went right back on the shelf. Perhaps it was too intimate. Or maybe it narrowed the world too much. From the other side, I can't say what my prejudice was based on, because now I am a convert. As long as it is well written, POV doesn't matter.

I think Robin Hobb's Farseer Series may have been the turning point. I love the character narrating the story. Each chapter begins with a page from a diary written by a person who seems to be at the end of his life. Over the course of the novel it becomes evident that it is the diary of the young protagonist. He is trying to write a history of the events that are unfolding in the story. His look backward colors the naivete and impetuousness of his actions. It also adds information that he might not be privy to at the time. That is a nice mechanism to get information to the reader without info-dumping.

And if I think back, Zelazny's Amber series is first person. That was a series I burned through. There was a break several books in, when the narrator changed and I was horribly disappointed. I wanted to stay with the original person. I think I lost interest when I lost him. I was too caught up in his personal wants and needs to move on to someone new.

The character narrating has to engage the reader. He/she must be so interesting that we want to stay and listen to his/her story. The good ones that I can think of all have secrets that are slowly discovered. There are complications and conflicts. They must strive to achieve some worthy goal all the time struggling with their own inadequacy. The external world and the internal conflict must be interesting enough to keep the reader caring.

Although a lot of new writers tend to use first person, I think it is harder to pull off.

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