Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by glorybee » Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:03 pm

DustBSH wrote:I don't usually write in the first person. Come to think of it, I never really do. It seems most of my stories have a good amount of dialogue, but are always narrated. I love to just write and let the story come to life while the characters and me are on a journey together. Writing in the first person doesn't seem to come very natural. However I can see how it can open new doors.
So, that's an interesting challenge to start writing some stories in the first person.
I do have occasional problems with my POV, and I need to carefully check my story in the end. It often happens while writing, I suddenly think of a golden thought for the person that is not the POV, and it just makes the story looks so cool...(I thought) Writing in the first person may help with that too.
Your lessons are much appreciated :thumbs
If you try one, let us know back on this thread (once the judging is done for that week, of course). I hope you do!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by CatLin » Mon Feb 09, 2015 8:01 pm

I write in first person POV a lot. I should do a count of my fiction stories and see what the percentage is. I've also written first drafts in first person, then edited to make it 3rd person. I find it's easier to "show" the MC's character by living as him or her as I write.

Reading? Either one. But I think I become more personally involved with a character written in first person. Many novels I've read alternate POVS between chapters, so we can live in the MC's head, and then see in third person what the other characters are up to. I like that approach, too.

You said that first person doesn't work with a child as the MC. I (I forgot to "quote" you, so this is the gist of what I remember you saying. :) ) However, you left an awesome comment on this entry, and I'm wondering if I misunderstood that part of the lesson. Or if you are spot-on, and that's why it place 39th in the challenge. :D

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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by glorybee » Mon Feb 09, 2015 8:07 pm

Cat, I think the first person works well there because it's spot on without being overly precious. You didn't misunderstand the lesson--too many people try 1st person in a child's voice and they either make the child too cutesy and childish, or wise beyond their years, and they don't know how to write in a child's voice, but to appeal to adult readers. You avoided those pitfalls in your excellent piece.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by GeraldShuler » Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:10 pm

Jan, I didn't realize it before, but, I have written far more first person stories than I thought.
I picked three that shows some of the reasons I love first person POV.

The first one was written in response to a lesson you did on POV back in 2009. I just wanted to see if I could pack some emotion into just being lonely. The MC is the only one who speaks until the end. I was trying to convey the overpowering loneliness of the MC. This POV worked very well in showing the results of loneliness in how the MC views almost everything. It is called
Lonely.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=28822

On this second one I wanted to try to get into the thinking of an unchurched, worldly MC. I learned that you can really get the reader to understand your MC's view of life much better with first person POV... even when that view differs greatly from your own. It's called
Robin Hood Sins.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=29398

I really had fun breaking every rule in the Rules of Good Writing handbook with this last one. With first person POV a writer can get away with ALMOST anything... almost.
The Problem With Englishmen.
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=27512

The only problem I have with first person POV is that no matter how much the reader raves about how they love the entries, my first person stories never place very well in the challenge. Is this POV typically received poorly in competitions? Or do I just need to lick my wounds and try again?

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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by zacdfox » Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:22 am

Jan,

Here's a excerpt from a larger project I'm working on, written in first person.

***
From the den, I watched David sitting at the end of his bed, still wearing his suit from the funeral. I closed the shoe box of pictures and letters, and walked to his room. Tears ran swiftly down his face, but there was no gasp and no heave in his cry. For a while we just sat there, not touching, not talking, just sitting in the flaming twilight with faces long as our shadows.
We alone shared this pain. And sitting then, I felt we were suspended over time, like some old painting, a masterpiece of misery that no other soul might touch.
Breathing deep, the letter in my shirt pocket barely crinkled. 'Take care of David' were her final words to me. I put my arm around his shoulders and asked, "Are you okay?"
His unstaggered breaths pulled tears to my eyes. I blinked them clean to find David staring at me, eyes bankrupt of innocence. "You killed her with all your lies," he said, voice steady and strong. “I’ll never be like you.”
I was a pauper living in a palace, for all who were once my crown had left me, for another place or another path.
***

Let me know what think.

thanks Jan. loving the lessons.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by glorybee » Tue Feb 10, 2015 8:52 am

JayDavidKing wrote:
The only problem I have with first person POV is that no matter how much the reader raves about how they love the entries, my first person stories never place very well in the challenge. Is this POV typically received poorly in competitions? Or do I just need to lick my wounds and try again?
This is a very interesting observation! If I had a lot of time, I think it would be fascinating to compile some statistics of winning entries and look at things like genre, POV, gender of the writer...well, there are lots of things we could look at.

I remember "The Trouble With Englishmen" well--what a delight!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by glorybee » Tue Feb 10, 2015 8:55 am

Zac, your snippet is intriguing. It's hard to tell from so few words what the genre is or exactly what's happening, but as I read it, I tried "translating" it to third person, and it wasn't nearly as effective. You've chosen wisely, I think!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by Sibermom65 » Tue Feb 10, 2015 4:35 pm

I was reading my photography newsletter this morning (another field of interest) and they gave the following pointer: if you want an immediate connection to a person, have them look directly into the camera. If the story or action is what you want to emphasis, don't have them looking at the camera. If I change this to POV and writing - I can use 1st person if I want the immediate connection to the MC. If I want the action or narrative to be what carries the reader, I should use 3rd person. Does this make sense to you? Would it be just a general rule of thumb or a stronger guideline?

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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by glorybee » Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:50 pm

Sibermom65 wrote:I was reading my photography newsletter this morning (another field of interest) and they gave the following pointer: if you want an immediate connection to a person, have them look directly into the camera. If the story or action is what you want to emphasis, don't have them looking at the camera. If I change this to POV and writing - I can use 1st person if I want the immediate connection to the MC. If I want the action or narrative to be what carries the reader, I should use 3rd person. Does this make sense to you? Would it be just a general rule of thumb or a stronger guideline?
I love this!

I'd hesitate to make it a rule, since picking a POV is a much art as science, but it would certainly be something to consider when making the POV decision.

Thanks!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by KatKane » Wed Feb 11, 2015 10:06 am

I tend to write in first person quite often. I've done pieces in past tense, like this one: http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49937, and this one is present tense:http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49714. I found present tense much harder to write in, but with Playing The Field being a suspense story, it worked really well.

First person also lends itself to a variety of types of writing, diaries for instance: http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49118, and its sequel, http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=50094.

In the case of the diaries, first person past tense enabled me to create a character that I could develop and bring back. The stories stand alone; you can always add more. I wanted to bring Jed Hammond, the MC in Playing The Field, back a few weeks ago. IN the end, I didn't because I found it really hard to do. It seemed as though the present tense gave the end of the story finality, even though I left it on a cliff hanger. If I did write another story, it would have to be set in the future and would be difficult to connect this with the original.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by glorybee » Wed Feb 11, 2015 10:53 am

Thanks, Kat! Especially for mentioning the diary format, which completely slipped my mind.

First person present tense is one of my very favorite ways to write, and I'm seeing it a lot in contemporary literary fiction. It took me a while to get used to both writing it and reading it, but now it's practically my default setting.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by rcthebanditqueen » Thu Feb 12, 2015 2:23 pm

Whew...busy week! At last I get to come play in the writing lessons!

I'm going to be the odd one out and say overall I prefer to read in third person. For some reason, reading in first person doesn't pull me into the story quite as much. I'm not sure why.

I don't trust myself as much when writing in first person, either. A few years ago I wrote a short story (3500 words maybe), in first person, with a child as the narrator, which I thought turned out okay, but I wasn't sure of myself. It was an exercise based on something I read where somebody said to tell a story pretending it's a letter to someone you know, to achieve first person. So I did.

I'm more comfortable writing third person, although that may be a practice thing. But that is where the Challenge has helped me.

Broken Vessels (http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49007) was the one that really surprised me. It just sort of spilled out onto the page. The odd part is I don't care for first person all that much, and I REALLY do not care for reading or writing in present tense. Yet this just sort of...happened. In hindsight, I had some filtering in that piece, but it turned out much less clunky than I feared.

Check Line (http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=49897) was the second one that came out in first person present tense. And I really stretched my comfort zone by having two MC's, both in first person, switching back and forth. My Challenge buddies said it took them a minute to figure out the switching, but I wanted to keep it because it didn't work any other way. Plus it was good to get out of the box.

Fun lesson. Lots of good points to ponder.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by glorybee » Thu Feb 12, 2015 3:53 pm

Rachel, those are both very good stories, and I think the first person, present tense works beautifully.

In the second one, it may have helped your reader to alternate fonts--maybe making one character's voice in italics. Still, it was pretty obvious after the second entry that you were alternating characters, and it was really well done.

Maybe you should experiment with 1st person more often!

I'll look forward to your contributions in a few weeks, when we do 3rd person, too.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by Allison » Fri Feb 13, 2015 12:17 am

I write in 1st person a lot. I know I've said other places (probably multiple times) that for me when I'm writing, it's almost like a movie, but mostly with dialog and action. The details, like the characters' appearance and the setting are quite vague. Sometimes I am that character, and so I'll use first person. But I think most of my first person entries may be more like monologues, where they are conveying some point to someone.

I'll try to find a 1st person piece of mine that did well. I'm pretty sure there's one or two.

Here's one where I used a "fractured fairy tale" as the basis for the entry. This one placed second.

Conspiracy Theory

I also use humor frequently, and though I don't know that I've ever consciously thought about this, I wonder if I use first person for humor so it comes across at the MCs laughing at themselves, and not making fun of someone?

Here's a first person entry I did with a serious tone. I wrote from the POV of someone with autism who is non-verbal (or at least mostly non-verbal). I wrote it based on what I've learned about autism in my education classes, reading about it on my own, and from my limited work with people with autism in various settings. I wish this had done better in the challenge, so it would have a wider audience.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--A TOUCH OF POV

Post by glorybee » Fri Feb 13, 2015 1:05 am

Allison, thanks for the link to the autism story. It shows how you can do 1st person even in the voice of someone who doesn't have a voice of their own. Well done!
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