What Is in a Pronoun?

Why do people automatically think that 1st POV delves deeper into a character than 3rd?

I’m sure many of you wonder what I mean. Well, I’ve been scouting the big wide web for opinions on POVs. 1st or 3rd? Past or present… etc. But one thing I found in comparing 1st and 3rd is that so many people say 1st is closer. In what sense though? Closer for the reader or closer for the character?

Many are referring to the character in that if you write in 1st POV then you instantly have access to what a character is thinking and feeling. True. But the same can be said for a close 3rd POV. 

I’ve written in both and pulled off some good connecting moments because I delved deep into the mind and senses of my characters. So apart from pronouns, all the descriptions are just as meaningful and deep into my POVs.

So is it the name that’s causing the issue and the lack of “I” pronouns that make a character feel more expressive to the reader? 

Let’s take a look shall we? 

Leather met my fingers—solid leather. I fumbled, the hard spines of books meeting my palms, and bit down my sob of relief. A lifeline in a violent sea; I felt my way down the stack, running now. It ended too soon. I took another blind step forward, touched my way around a corner of another stack.

From Sarah J. Maas. A Court of Wings and Fury.

Compared to the sunlit hallway, the interior that stretched beyond them seemed formidably dark, but as she stepped inside, candelabras came into view, along with black-and-white marble floors, large mahogany tables with red velvet chairs, a slumbering fire, mezzanines, bridges, ladders, railings, and then books—books and books and books. She’d entered a city made entirely of leather and paper. Celaena put a hand against her heart. Escape routes be damned. 

Sarah J. Maas. Throne of Glass: 1 (p. 56). Bloomsbury Publishing. Edición de Kindle. 

I purposely chose the same author, a favourite of mine, because Sarah makes my point quite nicely since her Throne of Glass series is in 3rd POV while her Court of Thorns and Roses is in 1st POV. But looking at the above snippets, which feels closer? 

Again, I purposely chose these snippets because they are describing very similar surroundings. They’re simple descriptions, nothing overly emotional yet both express some emotion. “Bit down my sob of relief” and “Celaena put a hand against her heart” both hint at the same level of emotion over something as simple as books. 

I could go on, but I think you get the point. There is no “1st POV is deeper than 3rd”. Only the reader can ultimately decide that based on the named character or the “I” pronoun. We, as writers, can swap these at any time and the emotions expressed would not change, only the reader’s level of connection to said emotions.

I can honestly say that I rarely notice a difference. Sure, we instantly get a name with 3rd POV, or at least we should. But with 1st? As I asked in Hi. My Name Is…, how often do we think of our own names to make the MC’s name that important in 1st POV?

So ask yourself, what’s in a pronoun that 1st POV is deeper than 3rd?

Whose Secret Is It Anyway?

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In real life, people only know what they see or experience or what someone tells them. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about 1st POV or 3rd POV since 1st can have multiple POVs with chapters for different characters. And I’ll rant on that another time. So let’s not get confused. 

Here, I’m going to be ranting about the pros and cons of having only a single POV throughout the entire book compared to multiple POVs.

My current WIP is a single POV but has a one-off prologue in another character’s POV. But my other novels have between two and five. 

So why do some writers choose single POV or multiple POVS in a book? 

Well…

We have only one perspective in real life, our own. But reading isn’t real life. In fact, its very purpose is to take us into someone else’s life. Whether one or ten, we’re in someone else’s mind, maybe even another world, past, foreign, or fantasy, and we want to experience the full richness of that world.

I decided to go with single POV for Out of Ashes because it felt natural for me as a writer since the story has some personal parallels. My other WIPs do too, but they developed that way during the writing process rather than being planned. 

Also, I felt like there were things that needed to be kept secret, so to give certain characters POVs would spoil those secrets. I know there are ways of sparing the reader until they need to know, and I’ve read stories where POV characters have hidden things, but it feels like cheating the reader. So this time, I went with single POV for personal and secret-keeping reasons. 

My friend’s chapter in Out of Ashes is for another character. As a prologue, it sets up the magic for that character and also what my MC is capable of but it isn’t a secret. This character also sets up some of the world how she experiences it. Again, not secrets from the MC or reader. So to have this one-off POV worked in that sense.

However, it was meant to be chapter three, and has a third main character that hasn’t been properly introduced by the MC yet. This causes a problem in that there is something about the interaction that the MC doesn’t know, and that the reader won’t fully understand yet. While it works perfectly as chapter three, it’s questionable as a prologue

That one interaction between these two non-protag characters won’t mean the same before we’ve seen protag’s take on one of the characters. So… I have to make it work, and after some pondering, I know how. So this avoids spoiling anything.

Now, why do multiple POVs work in my other WIPs? 

I planned it that way so the characters have secrets from each other, but not the reader. I wanted the reader to have the full picture and get tense over the pending revelations they expect to happen. Some of my critters and betas found it quite fun waiting for the characters to spill their secrets to one another. 

So the main reason, in my experience, for having a single or multiple POV is will some spoil the surprise or build more tension leading up to the reveal? 

Only you and your critters can answer that. Maybe let one or two critters know the outline so they can help you prepare for the reveals better. But let others be surprised and see how they react. Or let the characters spill the beans themselves so readers are on the edge of their seats every time the character thinks about telling someone. 

Simply put…

Whose secrets do you want your readers to know?

Image result for books art

Hi. My Name Is…

The Unsplash Book
Photo by Scott Webb at Unsplash

I’m currently writing in 1st POV which is new for me. My Starlighters and Elemental Storm is 3rd POV, so dropping the name in sentence one should be pretty easy to do or at the very least the first paragraph. It’s vital. I’ll talk more on my reasons for changing to 1st POV another time. But they are both close POVs, so the only thing I’m changing is the pronoun. 

But when should you first drop the MC’s name in 1st POV without it feeling forced? 

In all honesty, I think I did it in a pretty good and natural way. Just that someone commented on it, and it got me thinking if there was a better way to go about it. I drop it just over 200 words in, 4 paragraphs. It’s the first natural place I could do it, and it’s another character who says the MC’s name. 

I wanted to set the scene a little and drop something personal about the MC before she starts to do anything that the reader needs to follow. And I got a lot of positive comments about those early paragraphs. I’m not a fan of instant action. And by instant, I mean in the first half a page or so. Let me get some sense on the MC before you go all badass or start throwing info and more characters at me.

But back to name-dropping…

There’s the “Hi, my name is…” Ugh, really? Not a fan, like at all. You wanna do it, go ahead. I’ve read plenty of successful books with something like that or “people call me…” But again, not my style unless I wanna be Slim Shady. 

Most readers read the book blurb or synopsis so would already know the MC’s name. But writers can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on this. You never know if your readers will expect multiple POVs even in 1st.

There’s naming your chapters with the MC’s name if you have multiple POVs. But I like more creative chapter names, so this wouldn’t work for me either.

Is there a better way than how I did it? Does it matter if I mention the name within those first few paragraphs? How long should you leave it before mentioning the MC’s name when you’re in 1st POV?

Take “The Poison Diaries” by Maryrose Wood. It’s very similar to my style and tone and setting, so I skimmed through the first pages. Five pages in. And I didn’t think anything of it. Robin Hobb’s “Assassin’s Apprentice” again, several pages in.  Sarah J. Maas’ “A Court of Thorns and Roses” doesn’t mention the MC’s name until chapter 2. So is 200 words in too late? Me thinks not. 

None of these bothered me as I was reading them. In fact, I was so engrossed in the story and how well they were in the MC’s head that I didn’t even think of the name. How often do you think of your own name? Unless you’re Iron Man?