I’ve been working on revisions lately but, since I’m pretty sure talking about my current process would be about as exciting as watching grass grow, I thought I’d talk about something else today instead.
While the (paraphrased) Hippocratic Oath is “first, do no harm”, my writer’s oath in recent weeks has been “first, have some fun.” This week that fun turned out to be playing around with POV.
I read a fair amount of cozy mysteries, which have a tendency to be written from the 1st person point of view. After I finished the last one on Saturday, I decided to take the ongoing detective story that I’ve been writing for our Friday Writing Sprint posts and see how it would work in 1st person. I’m generally not a big fan of the 1st person POV, but sometimes it’s just what the story needs.
While the 3rd person POV has the advantage of being slightly above the story with access to the thoughts and experiences of all the characters rather than just one of them, it generally feels a little distant. One of the things I enjoy about 1st person stories is that intimate feeling that the character is talking directly to me (the reader). There is no break in the story flow caused by POV character changes and I really feel like there is a strong connection with the narrator.
The first question I needed to answer as I made the switch was: who will the 1st person character (narrator) be? That was a no-brainer. I have been writing the story installments from Cassie’s POV consistently, week after week. Although Nicolai appears in the story, he has never had any POV scenes. Making Cassie the narrator was the obvious choice.
1st person POV has its drawbacks. Since the story will be filtered through Cassie, she’ll be telling her story, not the entire story. She will also have to constantly be “on stage” during the story, since if she hasn’t seen something or done something, she won’t be able to tell us about it. I think that will work well for this story and will allow me to really showcase her personality. As I’ve been rewriting from 3rd to 1st person, I’ve seen a lot more of that personality come to the forefront and it has given me a much clearer view of Cassie as a character.
1st person POV can be challenging if the narrator is unlikable or uninteresting, but I don’t think that will be a problem with Cassie. I think she’s pretty entertaining, though I may be biased. One thing I will have to make sure I avoid is spending too much time in her head “thinking” or “feeling” and not enough time “showing” what’s happening in the story. So far, there is a lot of back-and-forth banter, so there is no time to get stuck in anyone’s head.
One other concern I have is how to make sure the other characters in the story don’t fade into the background with Cassie doing all of the narration. That may take a little more thought. I may have to read a few more 1st person stories – for research of course – to see how other authors have solved that problem.
In the meantime, here’s how the story starts:
I dug through the pile of shoes on the floor, searching for the just the right pair for tonight’s undercover assignment as the Dolphin Lady at Barnacle Bob’s Bordello and Steakhouse.
Perfect. I fished a pair of green and blue sequined stilettos out from beneath a flip-flop and my old hiking boots. The shoes were just what I needed to complete my costume. I had fond memories of the last time I wore them, though my informer Snake would probably disagree since, in a pinch, the stilettos were detachable and lethal.
So, do you have a POV preference for the stories you read? Have you experimented with different POVs in your writing?