|Image by Artur Bergman, via Flickr|
I’ve written all my books in third person point of view, but toward the middle of my current work in progress, my critique partner kept telling me that my heroine was standing on the sidelines, without much emotion. A cardboard character. No matter what I did, I got the same response from her with each page swap.
I always have multiple POVs―four in this book―which is the reason first person never worked for me, except for two short stories I wrote for different anthologies. Was writing this one character in first person the solution to my problem? What about the other three POVs?
Before I tested the POV switch, I combined the first three chapters into one. The conversation of my separated but still married heroine, Zoe, with the man she meets on the beach and with whom she begins an affair, always bothered me. Pages and pages of babble, I finally admitted, most of which I could do without. I’ve read many editors say that a novel in progress starts at chapter three. Though I didn’t delete the first two chapters, I incorporated them into the third, giving in to a bit of telling so that the crux of the story starts much faster.
Did we really care if the guy had the sexiest overbite or wore a Saint Christopher medal? Though the reader might think he’s a main character, he’s more of a catalyst in the story. No point is spending three chapters on him. The affair causes repercussions that make Zoe a target of the bad guy and the FBI. Inadvertently, she also involves her estranged husband and his brother, a man who has spent his adult life on the other side of the law. This was a prime case of “killing my darlings.” You know, those clever lines of dialogue you love and can’t bring yourself to cut. But cut I did. The surgical procedure was a success.
Then I switched Zoe, and only Zoe, to first person. I call this arthroscopic surgery, where you go in and tweak. Convincing the reader to understand why Zoe has an affair with a stranger is where first person worked so well. I wanted to explain her need. “I” instead of “She.” “Me” instead of “Her.” The switch allowed me to get not only in her head, but in her heart. Then, of course, you meet her husband, and the reason she strayed becomes clear.
The best part, my critique partner agreed that the change made all the difference in Zoe. If you can’t trust your CP, who can you trust?
Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.