Monday, July 16, 2012


In general, first person point of view is considered a more intimate approach to story telling. However, the novel I just finished reading for our book club actually seemed to be distanced by the first person narrator.

I'll go into more detail about this particular novel following our book club discussion. But I have to admit that it took me halfway into the novel to get hooked, and even then I was irritated with the story as I rushed to the end to just finish the darned thing.

As I closed the book it struck me that what most bothered me was the POV. In this particular novel there was a lot of telling. Not so much showing. You know the writing cliche:  "Show, don't tell."

First person POV limits the story to the experiences of the narrator. So the narrator needs to be present at key scenes throughout the novel, or the narrator must be able to fill in those scenes in an interesting manner.

The narrator of the historical novel in question was constrained by the social norms of the period and culture portrayed. Although the narrator did attempt to push the envelope at times. In addition, the narration was represented as a journal of sorts. Which meant the scenes had already occurred in the past. Although the narrator recreated scenes to give them more immediate impact for the reader, much significant action had to be summarized by the narrator after the fact.

First person POV is more immediate when the author selects the right narrator. In this particular case, I think the author selected the wrong person to tell the story. The narrator was an interesting character to establish the time and setting for the story. But I think the narrator was too removed from the central premise for the novel.

A good lesson in approaching POV. What does the reader need to experience for the story to work? How can that experience best be presented to the reader?

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