Monday, January 06, 2014

POV: Educate me, please!

"The dragon snarled. Jenny was terrified but Tommy felt unusually brave and protective."

What is the point of view of the above quote?  I have been led to believe it is third person omniscient. It seems to me the point of view is that of the person observing the scene.  It tells about three different characters, even what they are thinking.  I could go on and add conversation (dialogue) between Jenny and Tommy.  I could put Tommy said, Jenny said, but in many cases that is unnecessary.  

"The dragon snarled at us.  Jenny was terrified but I felt unusually brave and protective."  First person POV, right?  We are hearing the story from Tommy's view point.  I am very uncomfortable with this.  I know it is appropriate for many stories and that it is the dominant POV in YA.    I can read it, but if I stop to analyze, how does Tommy know Jenny is terrified?  Maybe she is thrilled out of her mind because she is crazy about dragons and wants to befriend this one.  Or maybe the dragon is snarling only at Tommy because he is already great pals with Jenny. 

I do not have an enormous supply of reviews to draw from, but in general this is the only criticism I get consistently about my writing -- that I change POV, sometimes within the same sentence.

Is this an age issue?  I grew up with The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland.  They are stories that are "told".  It just wouldn't affect me the same way if I read, "Suddenly I found myself falling down a hole under the tree.  I guess it was made by that rabbit I just saw."  But this is the way most YA stories are written, so maybe that is what this generation is used to. And, in the case of Jenny, Tommy and the dragon, there are infinite possibilities to add more words to your story while you explore Jenny explaining to Tommy that no, she isn't terrified.  Take my word for it.  She is terrified because I wrote her as terrified.

One person actually said, in a review, that she couldn't finish my book (although she felt it started out with possibilities, she did admit) because sometimes it seemed as though the narrator was telling the story.  And, as you know I have said many times, telling the story as opposed to what?  Waiting in the car? Did she never read Johnny Gruelle or L. Frank Baum? I like to tell stories.  I write revisionist history basically, with lots of fictitious elaboration.  It comes so easy to me.  I better not give YA a whirl.  And here I thought all along that the genre was so named because of the ages of the characters in the story or the age of the target audience. Yeah. . . Some day I will have to tell the story of the sixth grader who asked the librarian where the DuMaurier's were stacked. 

Am I losing readership because of my POV?  If I am, then I guess I will just bring the curtain down. I like the god-like position of telling the story.  Actually, I even had God weigh in on one of them, and I was able to put words into his mouth.  What power!!

Well, whatever floats your boat, eh?  Or whatever turns you on, or rings your bell.  My work has rung a few bells, but maybe that came from old fogies like me that could pretend they were listening to a story as they read. And, when Kevin Spacey turns to the audience and weighs in with his first person remarks, a lot of people find that artificial and are uncomfortable with it. That appears to be sort of a dichotomy.  First person on paper, third person on screen?  I think he carries it off very well, but I am a huge fan of artifice.

Could you let me know what you think of POV?  Not just by definition, but why you prefer to read or write a specific perspective.  Or, perhaps elaborate by showing me (rather than "telling', but don't get me started with that one) where a certain POV is more appropriate than another.  When I write non-fiction, does POV even apply?  God. I am panicking here.  I used footnotes once.  I'm gonna end up in court.  See how confused I am?

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