Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Through a glass...darkly by Cathy Ace

QUESTION: Point of view is pesky. What's the hardest aspect of POV you deal with in your storytelling with one or more POV?

RESPONSE: This is a juicy one! For my Cait Morgan Mysteries I used the personal point of view, which felt natural for me. Cait was very much like me, and I enjoyed writing in her/my voice for this series.

However, I knew I’d change it up for my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries, because I had six distinct characters, and I wanted each of them to have their own voice, and viewpoint (this grew to seven in books #3 and #4). And that’s where the challenges began – with a group of Brits, all from different parts of the UK, and different strata of society, I knew it was more than “voice” I had to create…I had to create “voice” whilst using the correct cadence and vocabulary for each character, given their background.

This isn’t something new for any writer – we all have to do this when we write dialogue for any character, but differing POVs mean taking this process to an entirely different level, because the writer wants the reader to experience the world through the lens only THAT character has. I needed to attune myself to not just how a character spoke, but how their world-view worked, which is something I believe is critical for differing POVs to work.

Henry Devereaux Twyst (in his 50s) is the eighteenth Duke of Chellingworth: born and raised in Wales, he attended English Prep and Boarding schools, and – although not academically bright – would have acquired the vocabulary and world-view appropriate for his station, and upbringing.

Carol Hill (in her 30s) was raised speaking only Welsh on a sheep farm in south-west Wales, then learned English and powered her way to a Big Job as a computer systems manager for a massive reinsurance company based in the City of London. She's naturally "mumsy" and quite shy, preferring to work with code than people. 

 Christine Wilson-Smythe (in her 20s) is the daughter of an impoverished Irish viscount, so has a northern Irish brogue, flattened by years in English private schools, and mixes with the aristocracy. She’s intensely bright and well-read, and her love-interest is a man from south London who’s had elocution lessons to get rid of his accent, but lived a dark and desperate youth.

Mavis MacDonald (in her 60s) is from south west Scotland, but has spent years traveling the world as an army nurse, finally taking command as a matron of an old-soldiers' barracks in London. She’s lived a life of service, first to her now-dead medically retired soldier husband, then to her two sons, then as a nurse, where she took no nonsense. 

Annie Parker (in her 50s) was born and raised within the sound of Bow Bells, so is a true London Cockney, but her parents migrated from St. Lucia, so she has access to that accent too. She’s worked her entire life in the City of London, surrounded by “bimbos, misogynists and racists”, and her attitude toward the world has been shaped by this.

Althea Twyst is the octogenarian Dowager Duchess of Chellingworth, Henry’s mother. Born and raised near London, she was a dancer on stage when she met Henry’s widowed father, the seventeenth duke, and has had to learn how one speaks when mixing with aristocracy. She’s also taken the time to learn to speak Welsh, but rarely uses it. She often lapses back to her original world-view and vocabulary, and is comfortable when she’s with any type of person, largely treating them all the same as each other. 

For each character’s POV I had to "think myself into them” before writing a chapter from their POV…I had to get under their skin. This can be extremely useful for a mystery writer, because – often – the same events will be perceived differently by a different character, and the reader can enjoy different levels of insight and understanding all at the same time.

Writing multiple POVs is a real challenge, but it’s one I enjoy enormously. 

 Cathy Ace writes the Cait Morgan Mysteries and the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries. Find out more about Cathy and her work here:


Lisa Ciarfella said...

Hey Cathy,

I'm working on the same issues here....multiple POVs is tricky, but if you pull it off, it can be a great read!
Takes a lot work though, and like you said, us writers don't like to feel like our writing is work! When it does, I always get stuck!
When it's more like play is when it flows!

Gotta have fun with it!

Cathy Ace said...

You're right - having fun is critical, even if that fun comes as the result of a sense of satisfaction after a LOT of hard work :-)