People talk about Point of View on a regular basis. One of the things folks suggest is that beginning writers have a tendency to use first person, because it’s a voice that a beginner will find easiest to deal with (and there may be a tendency for beginners to write more personal stories, which might naturally come out in first person). But, they say, first person is hard to do well.
I’m not sure I’d say it’s hard to do well; the trick is to remember that your character, your narrator, can’t know it all. She doesn’t know what’s going on in the heads of others: she doesn’t know the man she’s going to meet is packing a gun and intends to kill her, she doesn’t know what’s in the letter that just made her best friend fall to the floor in a dead swoon. She doesn’t know, she can’t know, and the author, who should know (though perhaps you don’t know when you write that scene), can’t tell, at least not right away.
I don’t find first person especially hard; what I find hardest is omniscient. It’s funny, in some ways omni should be the easiest. You’re the all-knowing, all-seeing viewer, a ghost hovering over the proceedings, the camera crew on the deck of the Time Bandit
. You see all, know all, can report all. You can even inject your own commentary into the proceedings (see, Snickety, Lemony). It seems easy, right?
Yesterday I wrote a little flash piece in my writer’s group, and it’s one of those pieces that’s really on my mind. I like it. I think with a bit of cleanup, it can find a home somewhere, if I choose to go through the submission process, which is every bit as arduous as searching for an agent, with far less potential payout (or so it seems to me). It won’t leave me alone, and I actually shared it with my wife, who dubbed it both amusing and creepy. But I have a problem with Point of View. It’s aimed at being omni, yet it feels like head-hopping. No one in my writer’s group said, “Hey, you’re head-hopping here.” Neither did my wife, but it feels a little off nonetheless.
‘They’ also say the best way to learn about writing is to read more, and keep writing. I guess I need to find myself a good book written in omniscient and do some careful reading.
Do you have a point of view you prefer, or one that gives you particular trouble?