Tuesday, May 29, 2018

POV Thoughts - RM Greenaway

What's the hardest aspect of POV you deal with in your storytelling with one or more POV?
One aspect is how many is too many? This year I got the substantive edits back on my fourth novel, and the note said, "Not a lot of quibbles, but too many POVs." What?? I rebelled. I had written them in thinking some new viewpoints would make the story more interesting, and writing them out again would be a lot of work. So I sulked, and compromised, cutting out only two. But as my revision deadline loomed, in a moment of epiphany I realized my editor was right about cutting the biggest, most wonderful but as it turned out unnecessary POV. (He felt it slowed down the action). I went ahead and eliminated Craig's POV, and it was a very big deal, and required a lot of rewriting - but in the end the story ran so much better.

I'm grateful that I have an editor who sees stuff I don't, and cares. I have learned not to call him rude names, at least to his face, until I've mulled the advice over for a few days.

Another POV issue is voice, and Susan's post yesterday about close and distant third person has clarified this for me. I once received a suggestion regarding the word "rucked," a word I happen to like. It came up not in dialogue but in describing the setting, when a tarp was, well, rucking in the wind. The critiquer felt it wasn't the language of the 29-year-old male whose POV I was in. I now realize that although it was proper third person, it was distant third. To get closer, even when not speaking directly from his mouth, the tarp shouldn't ruck, but flap noisily. Would he call the sky above him cerulean? No. This particular 29-year-old male would call it blue. So much for poetry.

A third POV issue is how much you're obliged to give away. Since you're in a character's head, looking out, it's not fair to keep secrets from the reader. So if that character has committed a crime or discovers a piece of evidence, it must be disclosed (unless it's the unreliable narrator device). That can be a logistical problem, since keeping the truth from the reader till the time is right is the point of a mystery. So it's got to be worked around in a clever way. But that just adds challenge, and we crime writers love challenge.

I've heard that writing a character study in first person, then rewriting in third, can be a good exercise. I don't do it with my novels -- too much work, and we crime writers don't like work -- but by chance I did it with a recent short story. After it was done I decided I preferred third, so went back and rewrote. It was an interesting process, and I think I got closer to Heather in doing so, which made for a better story in the end (to be published in an upcoming anthology "The Dame Was Trouble"). So that's something to try out if you have oodles of time, which I don't.

I do like bopping between POV, and for that reason I will stick with third person. And now that I know it exists, I'll make better use of close and distant third, and maybe some shades in between.

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