Playing with POV

A few weeks ago, I posted some thoughts about point of view, where I talked about how many first-person narratives were finding their way into my in-box. The interesting thing is that while I see many projects where the POV isn’t working for me–where the voice does not sound distinctive or the choice of POV in general rings false–I see very little in the way of experiments with POV. Most genre novels stick to fairly traditional points of view, depending on what is most typical for similar books. Romance novels tend to alternate between the hero and the heroine, much of the young adult work out there is still in first person, and so on. The experiments come from more literary writing, where playing with different aspects of the writing process seems to be more welcome.

That does not mean you can’t learn a great deal by playing around with point of view for your own project. Even if you will ultimately produce a story that adheres to the traditions of your genre, switching things up can be a great exercise, especially early on in the process. It helps you to find your characters’ voices or determine how deeply you want to delve into a given area of the narrative. Sometimes you’ll discover entirely different avenues you wish to explore, broadening your book and adding layers of interest. Also, certain narrative voices lend themselves to specific books by echoing genres or styles that may no longer be popular but still help set the mood for your reader. Think of the sounds of a fairy tale, of a noir detective story, of a spooky gothic tale–and the voice of the person telling those stories. Playing with point of view, even temporarily, may give you a narrator that conveys the perfect atmosphere.

In an interview over at Writer Unboxed, Erin Morgenstern discusses the POV shifts in her debut novel, THE NIGHT CIRCUS, showing that it’s possible to do something different with a first book if you think it through and it works for your story.