Playing with Point of View

In my novel class, we are discussing point of view. I haven’t done my homework.

I have applied the lesson to my novel instead.

I wrote my first draft in a distant, limited third person, and I have wanted to narrow the emotional distance between the reader and the protagonist. Several months ago, I thought I should try writing some of the scenes in the first person to see if I could bridge that gap.

But, I let my fears stop me, my fear that I would succeed and it would be agonizing to write and my fear that I would fail.

So, like all good actors, and most good writers of fiction, I started asking myself about motivation. What is the narrator’s motivation to tell this story? Why does it matter? Why should I care?

And in the shower, about two weeks ago, an idea came to me, a reason for a woman to write this story, to teach her daughter a lesson and share information she had no other means to convey.

The idea sat with me, taunting me, calling me to write it.

And I was afraid. And I sat with it. Not writing.

And then, last week happened, and all the insights I had about my own reasons to write and my own strength and courage came to the surface, and yesterday morning I started to write, in the first person. And it came alive.

Oh, it is rough around the edges, and I have much more work to do.

But, it lives.

In first person.

Not only does writing in the first person bring me closer to the words, forbidding me from erecting walls of objectivity between myself and the paper, but it taps into all of my theatrical training. Writing from the first person lets me take the character development work that I do instinctively when I rehearse a play and channel it into my writing instead.

And my writing lives.

I had heard stories of authors discovering that their story worked only after rewriting the entire thing from a different point of view, but I never really believed them. Now, I think I may end up telling such stories myself. And I am stunned. Just stunned.

Who knew?

(I think I should probably do my homework now, what do you think?)

7 thoughts on “Playing with Point of View

  1. Congratulations on finding a point of view that fits so well! This sounds like a powerful exercise.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts says:

      Thanks. It certainly worked for me this time.

      If I have learned one thing about creativity over the years, it is that no one technique works all the time for anyone.

  2. Patrick Ross says:

    Glad to hear the change is working for you. Margaret Atwood in her AWP keynote said that, for her, POV is one of the two things that usually causes road block. A change in POV can open up the flow for her.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts says:

      I’m never sure whether I am reassured or terrified when such a skilled writer talks about still having challenges in areas that I struggle with.

      My first reaction is usually more of the reassured variety – and then my conscious crtic pipes up with “Who are you to think you can fix this if Margaret Atwood still deals with this issue?” I’m telling the critic to “shut up.”

  3. I love writing stories in first person and I love reading fiction written in first person. I’m thrilled to hear that using it really brought the writing of this special thing to life for you, in just the right way. And trusting your creative instinct was part of the life-giving process.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts says:

      I generally prefer reading fiction written in the third person, so it feels strange making this in the first person – but it feels right now that I am doing it.


  4. […] really good questions. The one I liked best had to do with the narrator. The latest draft is in first person and there is no reason within the first three pages for anyone to address the protagoist by name. […]

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