Monday, April 15, 2013

LTUE Notes: First person POV (Continued)

Good morning, good morning, good morning!

Good thing I brought in all my seedlings last night, because I'm looking out at an inch of snow on the ground. So should the seedlings be the MC in this scenario, or would that be me?

More on first person POV from my LTUE notes.

Your MC should be the person who has the most to lose. Having a secondary character be the narrator works, if that person is in on all the major scenes and has a real stake in the action.

There are ways to introduce your character within the framework of 1st person. One of these ways is having multiple first person MC's, which is seldom done successfully. The reader's brain gets used to "I" being a particular person and has a difficult time switching to another "I." On top of that, you need to make sure that every 1st person character is distinct, and the author's brain tends to think that "I" should all be the same. So it becomes more difficult to work with. Switching from first to third for the various MC's can be done, but again it's difficult, mainly because of the way the human brain works.

If you choose to use more than one 1st person narrator, you run the risk of your readers liking one character over another, avidly reading the sections for "their" character and skipping the rest. So all first person narrators have to be equally well done and equally compelling. Since you can't control what your readers will perceive, this can be difficult.

One example of this that I read recently was Mind Games by Kiersten White. She has two first person POV characters, Fia and her sister Anna. They both have very distinct voices (and I think that having Anna be blind was a stroke of genius in that sense) but simply because the characters are so distinct people are liable to choose one or the other. They are both equally well developed, but at least toward the beginning of the book Anna is happy in her situation and relatively passive. I didn't like her POV scenes and on later read-throughs (I read it five times in a row) I started skipping past her POV to read about Fia.

Although both sisters technically have the same risks, Fia is the one who is aware of the risks and trying to fix the problem--trying to save her sister. Anna is a catalyst, an unreliable narrator and a perfect foil for Fia. Fia is the MC because she takes the risks rather than sitting back and passively waiting for someone else to fix the problems.

In this sense, having two first person narrators worked well, but the transition from one first person narrator to another has to be distinct and nearly visible. If you even once fail at this transition, some of your readers are going to put the book down and not come back.

One thing I like doing is shifting between first and third, and although the panel did say that this transition is difficult none of them said why.

Any of you have experience with this? Any pointers?


  1. Thanks for sharing your notes, Lauren! I found this way fun.

    Totally agree with multiple 1st person POV. I find it irritating and most often the voices aren't different enough. Diana Gabaldon does a FABULOUS job with switching from 1st to third--I know her first book is all in 1st, but her subsequent ones switch beautifully.

    1. Thanks Morgan. I love these conferences. More notes on their way!