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In a pickle over POV.......................

edited December 2005 in - Writing Problems


  • Hi
    I'd love some advice on a problem I'm having with POV. The protagonist of the novel is a 16 yr old girl and it feels right to tell the story from her point of view, mainly because she is the central character. However, I'm having great difficulty in making the other characters 'talk', because the story is so personal to her. As a result, I have ended up with thousands of words in her voice, and very little from anyone else. The trouble with this is that everything is 'reported' through her. I'm in a terrible pickle over this, but feel that it would be a shame to abandon the project. Has anyone experienced anything like this? I have tried writing in the third person and it always seems so wrong (for me).
    I would really appreciate any advice on this.
  • What do you mean you can't make other characters 'talk'? Do you mean not enough dialogue? Or you mean you struggle to describe them as characters?? Various solutions here. Try to describe the interactions of your main character with the rest of the cast and all of them will get fleshed out nicely :) Your character must be meeting people, have some impressions about people, you know. That's how the other characters get a proper description, even if you are using First Person. I think First Person is easier to write because you can help the narrative by adding a personal attitude to the descriptions - you can say whether your MC likes or dislikes somebody straightaway. You write exactly what your character sees/feels/thinks. Just imagine yourself there and put down what you see :)
  • Hi Lizzie,
    I have written a novel from the viewpoint of one of the main characters using first person.  The second character is done in the third person.  Each one has their own chapter.  Perhaps you could do something similar using a chapter for your main character using her words and then the viewpoint of your other characters but in the third person.  Hope this makes sense.  Love your jokes keep em coming. Postmaster
  • When you say many words in 'her' voice, do you mean inside her head words or spoken dialogue?  It won't do to have spoken dialogue from only one character.  Have a rest from it and read for a while from a first person novel and see how the author dealt with dialogue.  The experts tell us that multiple viewpoints should be avoided until one is a really well-practised writer.  Unless handled expertly multiple viewpoints can be very confusing for the reader.
  • Didn't Stephen King switch from first person narrative to third person when his character (in the book "Christine")had an incident. So, while the character was in a hospital and could not be witness to important events, the narration was switched to Third Person. I haven't read any other switches of that sort elsewhere.
  • Yes but he's an accomplished writer.  David Lodge does it too with each chapter from a different viewpoint.  I'm just going by what the experts tell us in the 'how to' articles and books.
  • Wow, Dorothy. That short description of Warwick Castle was great. I was there in 2003 and reading that bought it all back to me.
  • Hi and thanks so much for all your advice, I feel that I have some real options with this piece of work now.....
    To Dorothyd
    I have learnt so much from your wonderful posts after only a week as a talkback member! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience so generously.
  • Hi Lizzie.
    Try to get a copy of Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Picador. ISBN 0330485385)This is written in the first person, from a teenager who was murdered and is speaking from heaven.
  • You say that you're not comfortable with the third person, Lizzie, so your problem seems to be how to get what you want from the first person. As Debs is suggesting, perhaps reading quality first person narratives might help.
  • Hi and thanks again for your advice. Today, I raided my bookshelf and selected some great books written in first person - I feel a bit stupid now, should have thought of that before! I love my books so much that I don't see them as tools as well as things to escape into!
    To Debs: I also found The Lovely Bones there and am re-reading it, thanks for that very useful advice!
    To Dorothyd: I love that you spoke about listening to your characters, perhaps they have more to teach us than we know.......
    thanks again,
  • Hi Dorothy
    Wow! I'm almost speechless after reading your post..... What a wonderful gift you have - the duke sounds very special, I imagine that life would never be dull with he and your other companions to keep you company.Do you learn from them? Are you able to switch their voices off? Sorry to bombard you with questions, I'm just so curious!
    best wishes
  • Sounds fascinating.
    Just a note about "crushed rushes".  Mostly they were dry, and didn't smell of anything much.  If they were very fresh, they might smell a bit "green", somewhere between cut grass and hay.
    I'm a re-enactor - I'm in a position to find out these things.  I've even made medieval undies (or braies) and I can safely say it takes a lot longer to go to the loo when dressed as a medieval man than it does as a medieval woman!
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