Writing in a Different POV Than Your Own
When we write novels, we tend to write from at least one character’s point of view. There does exist the omniscient POV which is the godly narrator voice that knows all, but it’s not a POV that is commonly used in our time. Literary novels used this POV. Pick up Charles Dickens and you will most likely find yourself reading a omniscient POV.
Modern novels, however, are typically written in first person or third person.
First person POV
First person is the “I” POV. The main character is narrating the story. I enjoy writing and reading this POV, and used it in my novel, Becoming Latina in 10 Easy Steps.
The police arrived then. Most of L.A.P.D., I think. Spike hid his gun, and the young girl started running.
“Get her,” I shouted.
She was easily apprehended. Spike was on the floor with officers holding him down and cuffing him. And me? For the first time in my life, I was shoved up against a black and white and rudely forced to wear the coldest, ugliest bracelets of my life. “But I made the call,” I protested. No one listened.
It’s a lot of fun to write because as a writer, you get to be in the protagonist’s head the entire time. What she knows is the only thing the reader can know. The reader discovers and experiences the story as the character does.
Third person POV
Third person is the he or she POV and the narrator is the one telling the story, but the narrator is not a character. However, in the third person limited (unlike the omniscient) the narrator is also in the protagonist’s head. It almost feels like first person.
I’ll use an example from a Dean Koontz novel, Lightening this time.
Her heart was racing, and a flood of adrenaline had made her senses almost painfully sharp. She wanted to run for the jeep in the garage and try to get out before they realized he was in the process of leaving, but a primal warrior instinct told her to stay put. She pressed flat against the side of the refrigerator, and out of the direct line of fire, hoping that she would not be hit by a ricochet.
You can see that though we are in third person, we as the reader are close to the character. We are experiencing the story, the fear in this case, with her. In fact, if we changed “her” to “my” it would be first person — my heart was racing, and a flood of adrenaline had made my senses almost painfully sharp. This is how close third person limited is to first person.
Writing POV From Different Perspectives
What some writers struggle with is writing these POVs from a perspective that is different than their own. Writing a child’s POV or a male if the writer is female and vice versa.
I remember being at a workshop once and the speaker stated that a big problem for women romance writers is that they write unrealistic men. Men do not speak in long sentences. They don’t spend a lot of time evaluating their feelings. They don’t know specific colors, it’s either red or blue or green, it’s not fuchsia. They wear pants, not dark blue, creased jeans. A man would never think that way, we were told. This was an eye-opening workshop for me because I understood that I needed to really get into the head of the person I was writing. I couldn’t write men as if they were women. I had to watch them and understand how they communicated. I needed to take into consideration my character’s age, gender, ethnicity, etc. always.
There is no easy trick to writing from a perspective different than yours. The trick is to do some research and observation. As a woman, ask a man if he would think a certain thing or say something the way you wrote it. Pay attention to the feedback you get and edit your work if you need to.
The funniest thing my husband ever said to me was when he read one of my sex scenes and right after having sex, the male character initiated a second round. My husband looked at me and said, “you know this is impossible, right? A guy just can’t do this.”
It made me laugh, and I told him that romances were kind of female fantasy and these guys could do it. But writers do have to be aware of genre conventions and what is accepted by readers and what will sound silly.
If you need to write from a child or a teenager’s POV, it’s a good idea to spend some time watching and listening to how they speak and behave. Do they speak in complete sentences? What interests them? The more we notice and are able to transfer to our writing, the more realistic that character will sound and behave.
POV can be hard to write, but it’s also fun to “be” someone else for a while. It can teach us as writers about human behavior and make us more empathetic. The more we write POV, the better writer we become because we are paying attention to the unique qualities of human beings. The better we understand people, the better we will write people, and the more we will attract readers.
Have a story to tell? Want to learn how to record personal experiences before they’re lost? Sign up for Julia Amante’s beginning writing course.