Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wait. Who am I now?

My dear author(esse)s, you, particularly, are most likely doing something that you need to stop right now. You are engaging in a habit that is much worse than smoking or (depending on your views, more than social) drinking.

You are writing chapters from multiple first person perspectives ("Multiple POVs").

Why is multiple first person perspectives worse than smoking or drinking? Smoking rots your lungs; drinking rots your gut ... multiple POV story-writing rots your brain cells, and (perhaps worse) rots your readers' brains.

You have to stop doing this, and you must stop doing this right now.

My story RLT is told exclusively from Rosalie's point of view ("POV"). My story MSR is told exclusively from our girl's POV. It has since chapter 1, and it will until its conclusion. I do not ever switch POVs inside a story. To do so is deus ex machina, and it would take an author(ess) with much more skill than what I have to be able to pull it off.

Most stories on FFN and Twilighted have POV switching all over the place. Within chapters, between chapters ... everywhere. Ever notice anything about those stories? I'm not going to pull any punches here, ladies and (at least one) gentlemen (and do I ever?). They are, to the very last one, utter crap.

I will not ever do that to you in MSR. I did not do that in RLT. I will never do that. Ever

If you are reading MSR, then you are reading from the girl's POV. That is the one sure thing you can take away from my story. And, as you can see, the reader does need that anchor, because MSR is a confusing, messy ride for our protagonist. To switch POVs? What's the point?

There is no point, there never is any point to switching POVs other than the author(ess)'s complete lack of skill or laziness or both.

If you are switching POVs inside a chapter of your stories, I have one thing I beg of you: DON'T! You will instantly become a much better writer simply by eliminating that prop that so many amateurs lean on.

"But, geophf, I need to get into the heads of more than just the main character in my story and there's no getting around it," you cry. "How can I do that without Multiple POVs?"

Let me tell you about a particularly interesting device: it's called the third person perspective. It allows you, the author(ess), to do that, insofar as you don't use it to dip into the first person trope, skipping along from character to character. It's only been around for as long as the first novel has ever been published, centuries ago. You may wish to give that a try.

Think about it.

And that's the thing, isn't it? Most stories are not well-thought out. Most stories have no plan, other than the 'plan' of the author(ess) saying excitedly to h(er/im)self: "Ooh! I wonder what happens next?"

Yes, yes, I know: you are writing for the love of it. Yes, you are writing for fun. "Get a life, geophf! It's just fan-fiction."

So, if you are doing those things, then write something that people love, and write something that people "have fun" reading ("have fun" meaning "enjoy" ... meaning laugh or cry or learn or whatever).

"Oh," you rebut, "I can write from multiple POVs because Steph wrote from multiple POVs in BD!"

No, she didn't. BD is three books: the first book is from human Bella's POV, the second book is from Jacob's POV, and the third book is from vamp Bella's POV. Sorry, even Steph obeys this rule.

"Oh," you try again, "your own story 13ways is told from multiple POVs! Hypocrite!"

No. 13ways is a collection of character studies. Each chapter is its own story; each chapter is told exclusively from one and only one character's perspective. Yes, taken together, they weave a story of the Denali coven, but each story has its own, oftentimes conflicting, perspective of what's going on in that family and why. This is intentional and spelled out in its apologia. This "multiply POVs" story, as you call it, uses this prop intentionally to make you think, to make you walk away from the story and say "Aha! That's why Irina is like that in BD!" Other stories that use multiple POVs? Read them (or save yourself the rotting braincells, and don't read them), what have you learned when you walk away from them?

You walk away from them wondering: "Ooh! I wonder if Edward and Bella will 'kiss'?" [or whoever and whoever]

And given this is Twilight fan-fiction, is there any wonderment at all in your wondering?

Yes, it's fun to wonder 'what happens next?' But Twilight, itself, goes deeper than just that or only that. Twilight builds a universe of believable, credible, deeply-researched characters in a realistic setting, and that edifice is entirely constructed, in the first four books, through the simple, sweet, insightful eyes of a seventeen year old plain old ordinary brown-brown girl.

Remember the wonder you experience as you read those books?

You can create that sense of wonder in the readers of your own stories.

So do that.


Master of the Boot said...

You're no fun, geophf.

Some of the best stories I've ever read have had a different character pov per chapter. One of the best stories I've read has had mutliple POVs in a single chapter. It's called Cold War, by Gleena.

The thing is geophf, sometimes it's more fun to switch characters just to see how differently they percieve something. It's that difference in perception which makes it so much fun.

And you did write your Blackbird story in multiple POVs. You're just covering your tracks by saying that it's multiple stories. Semantics, just semantics.

Not everything has to be structured like one of your stories. That would be truly boring.

geophf said...

Ah, my dear Master!

"Semantics, just semantics."

Yes, it's just "semantics" ... right?

What does "semantics" mean? "Semantics" means "meaning." So, yes, I am arguing the meaning of things. And, as Wittgenstein argues in his Tractatus meaning is now the mode the discourse.

You may not understand this now, but when somebody pulls the "that's semantics" specious argument on you, you will understand, and perhaps you'll correct them, and perhaps you won't use that argument again.

Or perhaps not.

What I am not saying, at all, is that stories have to be written like my stories, for there are many, many excellent ones that are not written like mine at all. Consider the whole corpus of printed works ... how many of them are like my stories? Not many. Now, how many are told from multiple POVs?

None, that I can think of, or, more correctly, none that are good.

As for me covering my tracks in 13ways ... um, please reread the apologia. Is this "a story" or is it a "set of Chautauqua"? Was 13ways and its apologia written after this diatribe ... or before.

Or am I just arguing semantics again?

Yes, I am. As always, because a meaningless existence ...?

It may be fun to switch character POVs, because it is. But the good author(ess) does that switching in her mind and then coalesces that into a distillation that is something that is Literature ... usually in the third person perspective, or, if it's in the first person perspective it's in one first person perspective.

Yes, I'm no fun, and that's not cool. I know cool is the rule.

But sometimes, bad is bad.

Kristalina said...

I loved this for varying reasons. Oh, give me one moment . . . .

Hi Geophf, I've only recently been thrown into this fandom world and am enjoying it greatly. For many reasons. The first being the ability to write incognito and to "hone" the "skill."

I found your blog by a delicate maze that started with a review you left for a one-shot. And I'm really enjoying the blog so far; I left a note on reviewing yesterday. So I wanted to thank you for the entertainment and interesting perspective.

Now POV's . . . I agree . . . to an extent. Before fanfiction I had honestly never read a story that had multiple first person point of view’s (FPOV). And, as you stated, it’s about as common as nose picking from a three year-old in the fanfic world. I hated it immediately. Just awful.

But I decided to see if I could find published stories with multiple FPOV. And I did. The only one that really sticks out in my mind currently would be a little ditty like *My Kister's Seeper* (I don't know if I'm allowed to say the real deal).

And again I was left with a sort of disappoint at the whole concept. Then it became like a sort of obsession of mine: the need to find it done right.

Needless to say I've decided to take a stab at this multiple FPOV train wreck because it seemed like the ultimate challenge for me.

I'm a believer of that old school yard bullying—“if you're going to complain why don't you try! Bet you can’t do it better.”

That’s where I find myself now, trying to do it better. So far it has been anything but easy. However, I've learned a lot about writing, my style, voices, and characterization in general just from the challenge alone.

And, since this is getting longer than I expected, my opinion on multiple FPOV's has changed, but only if it’s done well. But that's the trickiest part: doing it well. I’ve come up with a sort of “regla” to the application of multiple FPOV’s. The do’s and don’ts if you will. I thought I’d share it.

1. Don’t change multiple FPOV’s during one chapter. You said this best and I agree completely.
2. Don’t repeat scenes from a different FPOV if there is nothing new to add, it just becomes redundant, doesn’t change anything just because its in a different “voice.”
3. Don’t use your voice for each FPOV and call it a “different” one.
4. Do KNOW your character, idioms or similes they would or wouldn’t use, their voice, their specific style.
5. Do, in association with 3, have specific “things” that apply to only that person and use them—and only them for that FPOV. Such as Bella wouldn’t use a shoe comparison to explain something. So if Alice is your FPOV a simile about life being just as hard as finding a pair of Manolos in size six, red, and under four hundred dollars would be more credible than life being just as hard as reading One Hundred Years of Solitude in a day. Another “thing” would be the way the writing appears, in a sense of creating voice. Such as reading Edward’s FPOV would be loaded with complex sentences, emotionally links thoughts and use words like absurd and chagrin like salt of popcorn. But Jacob’s FPOV would have shorter, faster paced sentences, with common slang.
6. Do have a reason why that FPOV is important, along with the regular essentials like plot and outlines.

I’m still working on it, but so far this credo has worked for me. And I’m enjoying learning how to write better from the multiple FPOV. So, if done right or for the right reasons, I’m all for it.