Musings on the Art of Writing

As a child, I discovered fantastic worlds created in books. When I began writing about the worlds of my own imagination, I realized how hard authors work to set their characters free to live for our enjoyment. This blog will explore that weird and wonderful process.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Point of view

Okay, I know that last post had nothing to do with writing but I did write it.  I did edit it.  And I tried to put forth an idea so I think it should qualify as an entry in this blog.  I'm letting this forum evolve and seeing where I end up.  The last post was my point of view on a vexing problem.  Today, I discuss point of view as a writing tool.

The reason for this is because I've begun reading the book Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  The movie, released last week, intrigued me as it was based on a young adult novel so I decided to discover its literary roots.  Also, this is the genre in which I am most comfortable writing.  Besides, I had just finished Empire of Silver by Conn Iggulden, a historical novel based on Ogedei Khan, son of Genghis so I needed something light.

A good friend had read Hunger Games and said she hated the voice of first person (I said this, I did that) which Ms. Collins uses, preferring third person point of view (she said this, she did that) in her readings.  I've written first person before and it is a classic way to write a book for young people as there is an instant relationship made with the character.  What is unusual about Hunger Games is that it's also written in the present tense (I say this, I do that).  This can be jolting as rarely is this tense used when writing fiction.  It took me an entire chapter to wrap my mind around this style and only then did I finally immerse myself in the characters and story line.  Perhaps that is why it might be a tale better told as a movie.

I've never been happy writing fiction in the present tense because I am telling a story that has already happened, hence is in the past.  With Hunger Games set on a future earth, it seems a rather odd choice of tense but Collins may have wanted us to believe this could happen now.

But, back to point of view.  First person works well if you know your reader is the same sex as your character.  A boy rarely reads a book where the I is a girl.  With girl readers, it doesn't seem to matter.  They relate to the personality of the character not whether it's a he or a she.  I've written several young adult novels and of my latest, half have a girl protagonist, the other half, a boy.  My hope is if my male readers like my prose, they will accept my female characters.  But none of these novels is written in the first person.

Writing in first person does focus your writing on what is happening to the main character but it doesn't allow you to explore another character's view of a given situation nor can you give the villain's point of view.  So, it's good to explore a story through different points of view then decide how to write it that allows the characters to tell the tale.

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