POV and Voice

Listening to: The Weakerthans, “Plea From a Cat Named Virtute”
Note: This is one of the best songs EVER…written from the point of view of a cat, speaking to his depressed owner. Brilliant. Sample lyrics:

Lie down, lick the sorrow from your skin,
scratch the terror and begin
to believe you’re strong…

Started my short story for the Dead of Winter contest the other night, and confirmed something that I’ve suspected for quite a while:

I write much better in first person than in third.

When I’m writing in first, that mysterious, ephemeral, inexplicable thing called “voice” just comes naturally. I find my characters much more finely drawn–and much more interesting. Little details about the character’s life and personality just come unbidden to my mind, and I just know the character that much better.

In third person, even third person close, I think the necessary distance makes all those discoveries that much harder to uncover. I can’t quite worm my way into the POV character’s brain. I can see things from his or her eyes, and I can pick up an insight here or there into his or her fears and loves and motivations…but the picture is incomplete.

Why is this? I have no idea. And it bugs the hell out of me. I love first person–and I have much more fun writing in it–but there are so many times when it just can’t do a story justice. It’s kind of a specialized perspective. I just want to whine, “But whyyyyy? Why can’t I write better in the POV I need the most? Whyyyyy?” But no answer is forthcoming. Probably because I’m talking to myself.

So what am I going to do about it? Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do about it. I’m going to freaking write in third person every chance I get, until I can squirm right into my characters’ minds through their ear canals or nostrils, no matter how difficult and painful the journey is for all involved. I’m gonna get in there, dammit.

Yes, that was gross. But I’m determined to get this.

In other news:

  • The cat is hanging out behind the couch, mewing in that “come play with me” tone. This is an everyday thing at our house.
  • His Girl Friday on TCM at midnight + red wine = awesome.
  • Last night, I made the White Ziti recipe found at Making Light last week. I’m practically drooling in anticipation of having the leftovers for dinner tonight.
  • Manuscripts and doc files have been/are being distributed to betas and critique partners. I’m nervous/excited/wondering if I should have changed the opening before sending the dang thing out. Second guess myself? Me? Never.
  • My baby brother’s class is doing the Flat Stanley project, and it’s my brother’s turn. He’s sending Stanley to me, and I should be getting him in the mail any day now. We’ll be taking him all over town, and may even do more in a week’s time than we’ve done in the past seven years here.

What’s new with you?

One thought on “POV and Voice

  1. I think you should write the best way that comes naturally to you. You may find it varies by story. For Forging, I never considered anything other than 3rd person close. For Starcaster, I floundered around quite a bit before I hit on the perfect voice . . . in first person. But I could never imagine writing Abriel’s story in first person, mostly because I need to occasionally jump to other POVs.

    Go with what comes naturally!

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