The Wizard of Oz was the defining movie of my childhood; the first one that, in my memory, truly impacted my strange little imaginary life. Every year on New Year’s Day, the network played this movie like it was the most Family Friendly and Charming Children’s Story Ever.
But Oz gave me nightmares. Once, I awoke in our old two-story farmhouse on a crazy-windy night. The moonlight cast shadows on the walls of the bedroom I shared with my older sister, in a wild-thing’s dance of leaves and branches in surreal and creepy grays, white and black. Semi-awake, I sat up in bed and looked down. My feet curled up just like the Wicked Witch of the West’s when Dorothy’s house fell on her, striped stockings and all, and shriveled up under the covers.
To my five year-old mind, it was real. My sister wouldn’t awaken, wise and calm personality that she was (and still is) so I traipsed downstairs to my parent’s room. When scared at night (which happened more than I like to recall) I usually crawled into bed on my dad’s side, since he seemed to be easier to wake up – and more friendly about it – than my mother. A few pats and murmured comforts, and I’d sleep again, spooned against him. (He was like that.)
ANYWAY. Not unlike the All-Powerful Wizard, the POV you choose for a story defines it, colors it. There is no ‘good vs bad’ choice, but whatever fits – and what you can be consistent & skilled with. I’m not going to talk about all types of POV here since there a million resources for all of that—I’m focusing on the diffs between, and my struggles with Third-Person and First-Person, in either Past or Present tense.
Most of us find that one POV feels more “natural” to use than another. Mine is Third-Person Past. When I write, 3PP (as I fondly call it) just flows right outta me: all of the anecdote above is written in it, for example. It’s probably the easiest to write in, in my humble opinion, ie, “She (or character’s proper name) saw the rosy blush of dawn in the east…” “He drew his sword, hearing the sharp zing of metal as it left the sheath…” “The clan gathered like crows around road-carrion…”
It’s the easy vehicle of description, so beware of over-describing, over-telling, and narrating to death using 3PP. Weave in regular dialogue! Weave in character-appropriate internal dialogue (a.k.a. “character thoughts”). Weave it like a Navajo weaver creating a work of art rug.
[And for the love of all that’s holy, please don’t use the phrase “rosy blush of dawn” anywhere in a book.]
Then there is, also in my humble opinion, the hardest POV to write and do it well: First-Person. It is the Almighty “I” of stories, the epitome of narcissism and navel-gazing if you let it be, so don’t. I like reading it, but writing in it? Not my thing, not my style, not the voice that spoke to me…or so I assumed.
So naturally, the main POV characters, both the male and female ones of my Fantasy Bk 1, think they MUST speak in First-Person. And not ‘just’ 1P, but one of them insists that his story is to be in First-Person PRESENT.
Speaking of nightmares! I’ve tried to force him to talk normally, even in 1PPAST, but he won’t. His experience is so immediate and intimate and Life-changing, so he slips back into the glove of 1PPRESENT every time.
I kind of loathe and yet love this character for this. I hope the readers will too and keep them reading in awed fascination as his story unfolds and connects with the others, and in his (their) dilemma of life-and-death. (want to see my Pinterest board for this story? go here)
1PPRESENT is VERY hard for me to write. I slip back into past-tense at times and drive myself #@$!&* nuts when I re-read and want to/must resist the urge to edit this first draft. BUT I’m getting better at 1P, at least, in either tense form, so there is Progress. (Yay, tiny applause)
This pales in comparison to the problems I’m facing with my (very) feisty, self-willed female POV character in the book. She wants 1PPAST. Which is driving me to even more *&^%$! distraction, but I am trying to keep her “happy.” When I get tired of 1PPAST, I slip right into 3PP, the easy thing, just to describe what she just DID and THOUGHT and SAID without her I-I jazz.
Then I read it and…sigh. I’ve got both 1PPRESENT and PAST in her POV sections, with some 3PPAST as well. @#%^^ !!
SHE is a pain. I mean, ahem, she is saying: “I’m not a pain, as you say in your strange tongue, but the Princess of the Tav tribe. A battle-leader, and I do as I please, when I please. Hai?”
Hai, princess, 1PPAST character who makes my writing life a pain…and a learning process.
I’d almost forgotten that it’s still, and always, about the learning. The growing, the flexibility and diversity and adaptiveness and practice, practice, practice to become excellent. It’s all rather exhausting, but everything is of late.