My weekly review of Is Life Like This?
Week 7 focused on point of view. I wrote one story eight times to see which POV will work best.
Who will tell the story?
1. FIRST PERSON
1.1: First-person is sometimes reminiscent.
I drove to school the morning I turned sixteen. I whistled, smiled, stopped in the 7-11 for some doughnut holes, checked my teeth in the mirror, touched up my lip gloss. It felt so good not to ride the bus. Until I pulled into the student lot. The coolest girls in school were sitting in Emily’s convertible with the top down, smoking. “Nice wheels,” snickered Emily.
1.2: Sometimes our hero gives us the present tense version.
I’m driving to school. I’m sixteen now! I’m whistling, smiling. I stop in the 7-11 for some doughnut holes, check my teeth in the mirror, touch up my lip gloss. I feel so cool not riding the bus– until I pull into the student lot. There’s Emily Shelly, the coolest girl in school, sitting in her convertible with the top down, smoking. “Nice wheels,” she snickers.
2. SECOND PERSON
2.1: You get to be the hero (present tense). This one feels gimmicky, but use it if you like kicking convention to the curb. Who knows? You might pull it off.
You’re sixteen. You’re smiling, whistling. It’s the first time you get to drive to school. You stop in the 7-11 for some doughnut holes. When they’re gone, you check your teeth in the mirror. You feel so cool not riding the bus– until you pull into the student lot. There’s Emily Shelly, the coolest girl in school, smoking in her convertible. “Nice wheels,” she snickers.
2.2: You were the hero (reminiscent). This is sometimes called the I-substitute, used by someone who desires to remove herself from the events. She hopes we do not recognize her, but it is often thinly veiled so does not come off well for longer pieces.
You were sixteen. You stopped in for some doughnut holes, checked your teeth in the mirror, touched up your lip gloss. You were smiling, whistling. You felt so cool not riding the bus– until you pulled into the student lot. The cool girls were sitting in Emily Shelly’s convertible with the top down. “Nice wheels,” she snickered, blowing smoke in your direction.
3. THIRD PERSON
3.1: Third-person limited, or selective omniscience. We see inside only one person’s mind.
She drove to school the morning she turned sixteen. She whistled, smiled, stopped in the 7-11 for some doughnut holes. She checked her teeth in the mirror when she pulled into the student lot. Then she noticed them– Emily, Shelly, Monique– the coolest girls in school. She tried looking down, pretending to collect her things. “Why now?” she thought, hoping to get into the building without incident. “Nice wheels,” snickered Monique, blowing smoke in her direction.
3.2: Third-person with multiple selective omniscience is when you shift from one person’s viewpoint to someone else’s.
Driving to school the morning she turned sixteen, Doris felt excited. She noticed the clock. Plenty of time to stop for some doughnut holes, she thought. She pulled into the student lot, whistling, smiling. Nothing could get her down! She checked her lip gloss in the mirror.
She hoped Henry from Chess Club would see her truck. Old, dented, rusty, but she thought Henry would be impressed. Then she noticed her. Emily– the coolest girl in school. “Nice wheels,” snickered Emily, blowing smoke in Doris’ direction, looking bored. When will I get out of this podunk town? Emily thought, putting the top up on her bright red convertible.
3.3: Third-person omniscient. We know everything everyone is thinking. There is the tendency to tell too much while showing too little. It gets tedious if you digress or shift focus too often.
Doris felt excited driving to school. Sixteen! She noticed the clock. Plenty of time to stop for some doughnut holes, she thought. She pulled into the student lot, checking her lip gloss in the mirror.
She hoped Henry from Chess Club would see her in the truck. Henry loved trucks. His mom drove rigs for the county. He idolized his mom, so Doris figured this would be her opportunity to impress him. Then she noticed Emily sitting in her red convertible, smoking.
“Nice wheels,” snickered Emily, blowing smoke in Doris’ direction. When will I ever get out of this podunk town? she thought.
3.4: Third-person objective– my go-to storytelling method. We’re on the outside looking in. We know how our heroine feels only by seeing how she functions in the scene.
Doris pulled into the 7-11 before school. “Six doughnut holes, sir.” Doris smiled politely.
Mr. Wilson smiled, too. “Driving, eh?”
“I’m sixteen now!”
Doris finished the doughnuts in the student lot. She checked her teeth in the mirror.
“Nice wheels, dork,” snickered Emily from her bright red convertible one spot over. Looking bored, she blew smoke rings in Doris’ direction.
“Grow up,” Doris replied, touching up her lip gloss. “You know you should quit smoking? You’re going to be so wrinkled by our tenth reunion.” Doris chuckled. She looked up to see Henry running over to see her truck.
“Hey, Henry! How’re things in Chess Club?”
“Sweet ride, Doris!” replied Henry.
I’m going with third-person limited for my novel, with plenty of third-person objective thrown in. I’d like to keep out of my hero’s mind for most of it, just let the scene unfold, let her respond to events. Too much introspection gets depressing! So I’ll show, not tell, whenever possible.
Cheers to WordPress for the fun writing prompt! How the heck did Ernest Vincent Wright do it?