What’s Your POV on POV?

Do you prefer reading novels written in first person as opposed to third person or vice versa? Do you prefer one point of view over the other when writing?

(I won’t be talking about second person in this post simply because it’s so rarely used).

I personally have no preference when it comes to reading books. As long as the story is well written, I’m fine with first person or third person. What I do have an issue with, however, is inconsistency or lack of a definite voice. For example, I’ve come across a few third person pov books which seem to be in third person limited, with the narrator’s knowlege limited to the thoughts, observations, etc of one character. However, well into the story we suddenly get thoughts from another character or two thrown in. Then the story goes back to focusing on the protagonist’s pov. When that happens, I get jolted out of the story and feel disconnected from it. I also tend to feel all “Grrr.”

I’ve also been known to get frustrated with books written in first person but featuring different characters’ povs in different chapters. Don’t get me wrong, this can be done extremely well and I’ve read great books written in this way. However, without a distinctive voice for each character, the story can get confusing. I can think of one book in particular, written by a famous author (who shall remain nameless), that confused me in this way. The character featured in a certain chapter was listed as the chapter heading and I often found myself having to flip back to figure out which character was currently telling the story. I don’t think I should have needed to do that. I would have preferred it to be obvious, because of the distinctive voices, which character’s story I was reading at any particular time.

However, those are more quality/editing issues. When everything is executed well, I don’t care whether a story is told from in first person or the third person.

As for writing…

Up until recently I had written all of my novels in third person. For some reason third person pov just felt comfortable for me. But when I started writing my most recent novel, a cozy mystery, I felt like it should be written in first person. When I started out, it felt really uncomfortable and by the end of the first chapter I was ready to start all over again, changing the story to third person. But then my main character said, “Don’t you dare! This is my story and I want it told from my pov!!!”

I figured that arguing with her would be a bad idea. Plus, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt me to try something new. I decided to give first person more of a chance and now I’m glad I did. I’m halfway through the first draft now and feeling far more comfortable with writing in first person. It’s possible that I’ll always write more in third person but I like the idea of being comfortable with writing from either point of view.

What’s your POV on POV?

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#WriteClub and #TraumaFiction

The Twitter writing community is full of awesomeness. There are oodles of talented, supportive writers on Twitter and lots of great writing-related chats going on at various times on different hashtags. Two of my favourite writing-related Twitter hashtags are #WriteClub and #TraumaFiction. For those who aren’t familiar with these hashtags, here is some basic information:

#WriteClub

Write Club was created by @MeganWhitmer for those of us writers who tend to stay home and write on Friday nights rather than going out to a party or the movies or wherever. Basically, it involves 30 minute writing sprints with 10-15 minute breaks between sprints. At the end of each sprint, participants share their word count. It’s a great way to cheer each other on and keep each other motivated. Write Club runs on Friday evenings/nights in both the UK and North America. Come join in the fun if you haven’t already! (Follow @FriNightWrites and check out the #writeclub hashtag).

#TraumaFiction

Trauma Fiction was started by @EAOtto and is a great resource for medical information. If you want to know how to kill, harm, or treat your characters in a realistic way, this is something you should definitely check out. You can ask @EAOtto specific questions, suggest topics or simply follow along on the hashtag for great information. #TraumaFiction usually takes place on Tuesdays at 10 am CST but check out the hashtag each week to confirm the day/time if you want to follow along in real-time.

I hope these two hashtags will be as helpful to you as they have been to me!

Creating Atmosphere in Stories

Recently I’ve been thinking a fair bit about atmosphere and the strategies writers can use to create atmosphere in their stories. Of course plot, character, and voice are vital to a good story, but atmosphere also helps to draw readers in. When an author does a particularly good job of creating atmosphere, I find that’s something that will really stick with me well after I’ve finished reading the story. I love reading a book that is wonderfully dark and creepy or one which makes me feel like I’m in the midst of a lazy summer day even if it’s not summer when I’m reading the story. I believe that atmosphere helps the reader truly feel like they are experiencing what the characters are experiencing.

There are several elements that writers can use to create atmosphere in their stories. These are some of the ones I’ve been thinking about lately with some examples:

  • Setting (a creepy, abandoned house or a windswept heath)
  • Senses (a boom of thunder, the spray of salty ocean water against skin, the smell of acrid smoke)
  • Weather (driving rain, a dry, hot wind or fingers of mist)
  • Imagery (shifting shadows, dappled shade)
  • Word choice
  • Character emotions

Creating atmosphere is something I want to work on with my own stories. Lately I’ve been trying to incorporate more senses, using all five rather than relying simply on sight. (Thanks, Sarah L Blair!) I’m hoping this is something I’ll get better and better at the more I write.

What are your thoughts on creating atmosphere? What other elements do you think are important?