Monday, September 1, 2014

First Person vs. Third Person (Part 2)

Last week I covered the differences between writing in the first person point-of-view and third person point-of-view. Let me state that my preference is for third person limited and I have discovered that, for me, it is an ideal point-of-view, especially when writing mystery novels.

My Black Horse Campground series is written in the third person limited point-of-view, two of them, actually: Corrie's and J.D.'s (and before anyone asks, I've tried to write from Rick's point-of-view, but--as you've probably noticed--he likes to keep things to himself!) When writing a mystery, I've found that having two points-of-view gives me the opportunity employ suspense, which I've found to be an important element in writing a mystery.

The difficulty I've found in using first person when trying to build suspense is that suspense is vastly different from surprise. In first person, if someone is going to jump out from behind a parked car and grab me, I won't know about it till it happens. Then, depending on whether I get conked on the head, threatened at gunpoint, or just confronted verbally, I react to whatever comes along and the reader has to go with it.

In third person, if someone is going to jump out from behind a parked car and grab Corrie, or J.D., or any other character in my story, I (the author) can let you know that... but leave my character completely unaware that they are in danger. Alfred Hitchcock was the master of suspense. Letting the audience know that there is something going on that the protagonist doesn't not only ratchets up the suspense, it keeps the reader engaged (always a good thing!) The reader wants to warn the protagonist: "Don't go there! You're in danger!" Oh, wait! Her cell phone rang and she stops walking. Will she stop long enough for someone else to arrive on the scene? Will she turn around and go back? Will she keep walking and the person on the other end hear something?

I create suspense by giving information, not withholding it. With two POV characters, a writer gets to exploit this a little more. Corrie knows something that J.D. doesn't know... a crucial bit of information, like his life is in danger. But she can't get to him. Why? Take your choice: her cell phone is dead, his cell phone is dead, she's locked in a closet with no cell phone, they've had an argument and he's not taking her calls, the list goes on. Now the reader is engaged, wondering if Corrie will be able to warn J.D. in time and, if not, what will happen?

It might be possible to pull this off in the first person with two POV characters, but the writer has to be careful not to confuse the reader with two "I"s that sound alike. Each character must have his or her own voice... and stick to it. And it's not an easy task (those of us who grew up reading Paul Zindel's "The Pigman" might think it is... but he was a Pulitzer-prize winner!)

In any event, the benefit of having two first person POVs rather than just one is similar to writing in third person limited: you can let the reader in on information that your main (or one of your main) character is not privy to and build suspense.


During September, I'll be hosting members of Catholic Writers Guild (of which I am a member) to tell us about themselves and their books! Our first author will be presented on Friday, September 5. You can find out more on my facebook page!  Hope you'll join us on The Back Deck and get to know some more of my writing colleagues!

No comments:

Post a Comment