Another book done…

I recently finished reading Elements of Fiction Writing – Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card.  There was a lot of good character information in it that gave me good insight on characterization.  I was less happy with his viewpoint section though.  He didn’t manage to hide his disdain for anything that wasn’t close third person.  He did cover other POV styles, such as first person and even second person.  But it was apparent reading between the lines what he preferred.

 

One point he brought up that I am curious about is when  he discussed first person(FP) POV.  He considered it mandatory that the character describing the events in FP had to be telling the story as a recollection of events.  It HAS to be something like a journal entry story, or retelling events to friends, or some other method that inserts a time gap between the events occurring and the events being told.  Is this true?  My story is being put into FP, but it isn’t within those parameters.  I am starting to wonder if I’m still writing close third, and just using FP pronouns instead.  That is, rather than saying she or he, I am saying I or me, but not changing enough of the voice.

 

I know most (not all) of my crit partners are writing their story in FP as well, and I don’t see it as following Card’s definition.  Is he just plain old wrong on this one?

 

Share your thoughts!  I do still recommend the book based on the characterization info.  If I can figure out the loan-a-book thing, I might even be able to let someone borrow it.

 

–j–

3 thoughts on “Another book done…”

  1. Wow, I never have patience to read books on writing. Don’t know why. Probably because everyone (like Card) is subjective in this matter.

    I don’t personally write FP POV (I’m the close third type), but I don’t agree with him. FP should never be an excuse for telling. As a reader, I want to experience the action with the character, live the story with him, not be told about it later (and I’m not an advocate for present tense here – I hate present tense). So I’d say I don’t agree with him either.

    The man’s a good writer, but he’s a writer nonetheless, so of course he’d advise everyone to write the way he does. I’d probably do that, too 😉

  2. “It HAS to be something like a journal entry story, or retelling events to friends, or some other method that inserts a time gap between the events occurring and the events being told.”

    I agree with Card on this, and I’ve heard/read this advice from a number of writers. I’ve been told that the FP past tense narration should be like writing an email to a buddy about an event that happened in the past. I mentioned this in a recent crit about using the term “yesterday”. If you’re narrating a story today about events that happened in the past, referring to the prior day of the event as “yesterday” doesn’t work. Addtionally, voice, action and showing are MUST HAVEs regardless of POV. Here’s an example:

    3rd person past tense:”Pam walked out of the Incubus concert, arms swaying, feet still tapping. Damn, it was a helluva show. And sold out. Totally scored with that one. She won the tickets on the radio the prior day.”

    FP past tense: “I walked out of the Incubus concert, arms swaying, feet still tapping. Damn, it was a helluva show. And sold out. Totally scored with that one. I won the tickets on the radio the prior day.”

    Same voice in both examples. All I did was change the pronouns/POV. I wrote it today about an event that happened last summer – note how “yesterday” wouldn’t have worked in the last sentence. I think this is what Card is getting at.

    In regards to Card’s POV preference, when I attended Thrillerfest, I found that all of the speakers and accomplished writers preferred deep third person over any other POV (using no more than two or three viewpoints in the same novel). Their reason for preferring deep third was consistent and had nothing to do with the mechanics of writing or voice. The reason they all gave was “First person is the hardest to write in.” Why? Because you are limited to ONE person’s mind/viewpoint. That one person’s mind better be intriguing enough to entertain a reader through an entire story. And how complex is the story? Can that one person be everywhere the events unravel? JK Rowling used omniscient. Could she have effectively weaved her plots using FP? Just using Harry’s limited POV? I’m having trouble imagining it.

    Joe, you’re getting around the FP limitation by using two FPs. For my story, I choose FP because I wanted the reader to see an apocalypse through the single viewpoint of a sequestered, depressed character who doesn’t initially care what’s going on outside her immediate surroundings. I didn’t want the viewpoints of other characters to widen the reader’s lens. I wanted the reader to be just a blindsided as the FP narrator when the events unraveled.

    Whew. I rambled here. In summary, don’t choose POV based on writing mechanics. Choose it based on how many viewpoints you want your story told from.

    P

  3. Yep, I agree with Card in that a first person story is a recollection of events, unless the story is written in present tense. I see these stories as happening right now.

    As far as preferences go, I used to write in third person. But I felt detached from my characters, so I switched to first. It works better for me. I also prefer to read books written in first person, but some like third person best.

    My advice – write what feels right to you. You won’t be able to please everybody, and that’s okay. 🙂

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