If you’re new to The Writing Process 2015, these posts are a chance to share my journey through my latest novel, starting right at ground zero. Today let’s talk point of view.
What a busy book week. While I have created and considered a number of scenes for When We Were Sisters–the writing of which I’m sharing with you this year–I have yet to put together anything resembling an official outline. I did informally group the opening scenes, and now I’ve written about a hundred pages. I’ll discuss editing at some point, so here I’ll just say that in my humble opinion these are good pages, because while changes will still be made, perhaps even big changes, I’m satisfied enough to move forward.
So far I love writing this novel. A big part of the reason for this love affair? I decided before I typed the opening sentence that I was going to write this novel in first person point of view.
If you are familiar with my series, the Ministry is Murder mysteries starring minister’s wife sleuth Aggie Sloan-Wilcox, then you’ve read my only other work in first person point of view. If you are familiar with all my women’s fiction (and romance) you’re familiar with my third person work. What’s the difference?
Let’s consider two samples, each which describes a character or characters in two novels you’ve yet to see.
The first is from The Color of Light, which comes out this August.
They were finally gone. The woman Ana and the man Ethan. Shiloh hadn’t paid much attention to last names, considering that the best she had hoped for was that these strangers wouldn’t call the police. She hadn’t expected that she would need to remember anything about them.
Ana was pretty, with hair so dark it might even be black, and blue eyes so pale they were kind of startling. The man Ethan was older, but Shiloh wasn’t good at guessing peoples’ ages. His hair was turning gray, and Ana’s wasn’t–at least she wasn’t letting it–but he had a kind face, that was easy to look at. He and Ana weren’t married. Neither wore wedding rings.
The second is from When We Were Sisters, which is slated to be out in June of 2016.
I’m not sure how a genuine nice guy makes it in this business. Donny looks like a high school chemistry teacher, a little too preoccupied to remember to get his hair cut regularly or clean his glasses. He’s nice to look at, brown hair and eyes, even features, but he never makes an effort to be more. He runs and lifts weights, so he’s buff and strong but by no means a body builder. Unless he’s in high level negotiations or in danger of being photographed with me, his uniform is faded concert T-shirts and discount store jeans.
The casual facade fades when he’s concentrating on contract concessions or higher royalties. Still everyone likes Donny. And me? I would trust him with my life, and do.
I know you see the difference. In the first example we aren’t actually in Shiloh’s head. We’re watching her as she thinks about Ana and Ethan, and while we’re privy to some of her thoughts, we still watch her at a distance.
In the second example, we are directly in the thoughts of a character named Cecilia. But we don’t know her name from this snippet, because Cecilia thinks of herself as “I.” Just as I wouldn’t tell my husband: “Emilie is going to the store.” I say instead: “I’m going to the store.” I’m talking about myself. Cecilia is doing the same.
An interesting and completely unrelated fact? People with autism often distance themselves this way–as do young children–and refer to themselves by name or “she” or “he.” The concept of I, me, myself, we, us, isn’t as easy as we might think.
Point of view is simply the way an author chooses to let the narrator tell the tale and the audience experience it. Readers often prefer one particular way and so do novelists. Perhaps it’s the novelty this time, but I love being right in the heads of my three major characters, and loved it just as much in my mysteries.
I think you’ll love it, too.