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Writing in 140: Up Close & Personal with POV

Many of my clients use first-person POV. When asked why they decide to use it, most claim the POV makes them feel closer to the main character, like they are inside of the MC's head. I often counter that a close third-person POV can be just as intimate as first person. The problem that often arises in many of these first-person stories is writers want to write in first person, but they want a story told in third-person omniscient, meaning they still want to tell what all the other characters are thinking and doing when that's pretty hard to do when stuck in one person’s mind—unless MC is clairvoyant. If you're going to use first-person POV, be mindful of the limitations that can arise in writing the story.

What say you?

Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less.

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically, and her debut solo novel, Death at the Double Inkwell is now available for purchase. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, promoting her debut project, writing screenplays, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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  1. Re: "Unless your major character is clairvoyant": I've had a few clients try out this attribute in their major POV character before and it's not as easy as it might seem! One problem is that conflict born of secrets, misunderstandings, and outright lies no longer exists. Sometimes you need that conflict to drive the story. The result of a clairvoyant POV character--"she thinks I don't know that she thinks I think..." --is POV soup. POV is an interesting delimiter that, if honored, should force our creativity as writers. Whether first or third, don't worry about getting around it--use it!

  2. I write deep 3rd. It's virtually identical to 1st (to check, try to substitute "I" or "he" depending on which way you're going). I actually feel closer to 3rd person POV characters as a reader, although it depends on the story. I wrote a couple of mystery shorts where the protagonist simply stepped up and made me use 1st. It works well in mystery, because in a true classic mystery, the reader can't know anything until the detective/protagonist knows it.

  3. I prefer to write and read a third person POV. I find the "I, I, I" is boring and rather than immerse me in the character's head, it pulls me out of the story.

  4. I like both 1st and 3rd for reading and writing. The best part of writing in 1st is that you don't know what the other people are thinking so discovery happens for the MC and the reader at the same time.

  5. I agree that a writer can achieve the intimacy with a character with 3rd person. It happens when the characters become so real that they are driving the narrative. I think that is what Terry referred to as deep 3rd.

  6. I love writing in third person although I've written in first person, too. I think the "I, I, I, I, I" of first-person is what typically pulls me out of a story; however, I love being connected to one character - whether that's in first person or a deep third person POV - and seeing what happens.

  7. As a reader, I don't honestly care about the POV, so long as it's a good story. My fiance prefers POVs other than first and deep third; he likes being able to follow other characters.

    When writing, I prefer to work in first person. I like how much more I can discuss my character's feelings and what they're thinking more.

    And, as Terry pointed out, you get to keep the reader in the shadows, same as the character. I like the tension of not knowing what the bad guy is up to.


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