Friday, July 13, 2012

A Certain Point Of View

From Marvel Premiere #19. Art this page
supposedly by Neal Adams but credited
to Larry Hama. Written by Doug Moench.
No, this isn't about politics. I'm saving that for later when you all are REALLY tired of the election cycle.

Today's post is about how I write, and how much I want you to be in my main character's head. This is about the point of view of a story. The narrative point of view, okay?

We can talk about First Person, Third Person, and Alternating points of view all day. Those are the easy ones. Second Person (where the narrator involves the reader in the story by referring to 'you') is the most challenging and the least used, because it's the most challenging. However, it can be an enormously satisfying device in certain situations.

The first time I encountered Second Person POV is in - of course - a comic book. Iron Fist's run in Marvel Premiere in the 1970s was sort of uneven and a response to the kung fu fad on TV. I mean the actual TV show Kung Fu. Marvel had a bunch of heroes who were martial artists like Shang-Chi (originally the son of Fu Manchu but not any more since the rights are somewhere else), The White Tiger, The Daughters of the Dragon, and more. Iron Fist was the superhero who had the most angst of just about any of them at the time, except for maybe Peter (Spider-Man) Parker. The narrator speaking in the second person and referring to Danny Rand K'ai/Iron Fist as 'you' constantly stood out in the crowd, too.

I thought there was a lot of power in being able to read the story through Danny's eyes. I relished this as a kid, actually. I still have the very beat-up, coverless copy of that issue, which isn't the one that's here. I would come back to it periodically just to appreciate the words and art as they really seemed to come together in that story. Every time I'd go through my comics and I'd come across it, I'd have to read the entire issue. It was just mandatory.

But I can't write that. Maybe it's that I don't have the skill (probably) to pull it off though I do try it from time to time. I'm still not good at it. I'll get there, though.

Instead I prefer to use Third Person narrators more often than not. Not because of any one thing, but because it's natural and I can be in the head of a character without too much effort or thinking. I can be a little more omniscient here when I need to be. If I'm using First Person narrative mode, I have to limit the reader to what the character sees. That's a helpful device if ever there was one, but I find it limiting.

No, the stories I tend to write best right now are better off in Third Person. I know that about what I write enough to know that I should challenge myself every once in a while to step out of that mode and try something different. I favor past tense over present tense a lot, too, because it's easier. Present tense requires me to really pay attention to what's going on and not slip up  by having someone say something she shouldn't.

So as a writer, I like to play at being godlike with my characters. Third Person Omniscient is what I think I write in. Or what I prefer to write in most times.

Let me know what you like to read in the comments. First, Third or Second Person? Why? Give me examples of what good narration is to you, too. Teach me something, folks!