Let Your Characters Choose Your Point of View

Share on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

So, you’ve got this idea for the next best-seller in children’s books. You take the time to plot out the story line, develop your characters, and do some background research for your setting. Then you sit down and write, but what appears on the page is not what you expect.

This happened to me when writing my most recent novel. I love telling stories from my characters’ point of views, so I had always written in first person. I also enjoy the immediacy of present tense. So all my books up to this point had the main character as the narrator, giving the reader a play-by-play of what was happening.

But there was only one problem with my new novel—my audience would be preteen Americans and my main character is a European boy who struggles with English. See my dilemma? How could I make my intelligent European character appear smart if he had a limited vocabulary? He also has a thick accent, so it would be a challenge to constantly write his mispronunciations.

I could’ve changed him into a slick, foreigner with a sharp tongue, but he would no longer be the same character and I didn’t want to lose him. So I flipped into third person past tense for the first time. It was hard at first and my writing was a little clunky, but now the reader can understand why my main character is the way he is.

Then I faced another surprise—another character demanded more attention. I would’ve been very limited using first person, but now with third, this secondary character gets chapters all to herself and her perspective is the perfect contrast to my main character.

So don’t limit yourself to one point of view until you know your characters. Try writing one chapter multiple times each in a different point of view. I’ve not delved into second person, but there are a number of authors, especially for middle grade, that do this now. Explore your novel through the eyes of your characters and let them have the voice that is perfect for your story. (And when in doubt, let your excellent critique group give you their opinions!)

Share on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.