12 thoughts on “HWSWA Point of View

  1. I don’t know how you do it, but the snippets of writing you provide to illustrate your points, and I have read many of them, all have more life in them and more compressed narrative than half the books I read. They provide me with a great deal of pleasure and I thank you.

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    1. They’re so fun. And short. Jane and Richard will always be my favorite, though. He should never have touched her Barbies.

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  2. I cannot and will not read second person, and I don’t care how good the story is or how clever the device is. I just keep thinking, “You can’t tell me what to do! You don’t know what I’m thinking!”

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  3. One problem that comes up sometimes in romance is that the first-person narrator is unreliable in that he or she has a blind spot about the love interest’s feelings and intentions. Often the reader starts to see the love interest’s true feelings while the narrator remains clueless, which results in a seemingly stupid narrator and annoyingly transparent “big misunderstanding.” When it works though, it makes for great rereading, looking back at the clues that can be interpreted differently.

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    1. I thought it was handled really well in The Year We Fell Down. She thought he was gorgeous and funny right from the start, and he was still all caught up in his girlfriend and just thought she was a great friend. So her PoV was making sure she didn’t make a fool of herself, and his PoV was making sure she was okay and hanging out with her, and that made the story about them falling for each other while being careful.

      But I’m with you on the Big Misunderstanding. I hate it.

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      1. Agree about The Year We Fell Down.

        When it’s done right the first person can be really compelling and avoid “the big misunderstanding”. Bowen uses it a lot and well. For example In Bountiful it’s about two people slowly coming together two years after a fling in which they made a baby (she couldn’t find guy to tell him until he turns up by accident) .
        She has one about two gay guys one who can’t bring himself to come out for most of the book.
        They are about emotional growth not miscommunication.
        She’s a hit or mis author for me—I’m not a big fan of some of her co written stuff—but when she is really ok she’s compelling. And a lot of it is in first person.

        There are also some old Joan Wolf Regencies in the first person that I reread. I can’t really explain why I find them so compelling but they definitely avoid the blind spot problem.

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      2. Yes, I agree; it works, but partly because we have both first-person POVs. We know what he’s thinking directly from him, not just from what she sees. So his actions in her POV can be more ambiguous, so it makes sense that she’s not sure. When there’s only the heroine’s POV (for example), sometimes the author wants the reader to read between the lines of the other characters’ actions to see their true feelings, but the heroine still doesn’t get it. So it’s obvious to us that the co-worker has a crush on her, the roommate is actually a back-stabbing bitch, and the cute cop is falling for her. But she misinterprets everything (that we can see clearly), which makes her unsympathetically clueless.

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  4. Born, raised, and live in Boise. Fairly Reliable Bob’s is an institution around here. Thanks for the shoutout.

    Jenny, I remember when you and Chrissy spoke at our chapter in Boise. Yes, I am dating myself!

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  5. Ha ha ha I just read the part about omniscient translucent…never heard the term, not sure I like it (it’s a very opaque term!), but I did read a writing book that talks about POV as a spectrum. It also gave examples of moving back and forth (even within a scene) between third person that’s close to the character and third that’s farther from the character, which was a new idea to me. I thiiiiink the book was Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

    As described, I can see the possibility of a difference between omniscient translucent and third limited. Omniscient translucent is describing things from the POV of a narrator who is not the character while also including character thoughts, etc. from exactly one character. Meanwhile, limited is strictly from the character’s POV.

    So if a character is standing next to a cat and there needs to be some description, the question is does the writer picture the cat and describe what the writer thinks is important (to the story, to the writer, even, or to the writer’s narrator persona) or does the writer try to get inside the character’s head and describe what the character sees?

    Could be very subtle.

    Could also be confusing, but also gives some opportunities that limited third doesn’t, because you can move a slight distance away from the character.

    I.e. It was an adorable cat with floofy fur, but Susan was in no mood to even recognize adorable. She scrunched her nose and stared at the cat balefully. Damn cat.

    So it’s (hopefully!) pretty clear that “an adorable cat with floofy fur” doesn’t come from Susan, much less “in no mood to even recognize adorable” (she’s being described, not actually thinking about adorable at all in that moment in time), but “Damn cat” does. And if you never get the inside of any character but Susan…

    vs. It was an ugly, overly hairy cat. Susan scrunched her nose and stared at the cat balefully. Damn cat.

    We see only what Susan sees, exactly as Susan sees it, including attitude and blind spots.

    At least, that’s my theory!

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