Thursday, June 13, 2013

POV Problem


Is 1st person point of view a good choice for a picture book? It was for Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Yes, it's written in 1st person POV, but he is named. Who can forget Alexander?
Can you think of a picture book in 1st person where the narrator isn't named? As of this minute, I can't.

This week something dawned on me. It took a while!
I've told my truck story in 1st person, but the "I" has no name! The young reader has no one to relate to, no identifiable person to talk about!

Why didn't I see this before? Strange things happen when you develop tunnel vision to rhyme, rhythm, plot and pacing. I forgot to establish the relationship between the reader/listener and my main character. I need to give this kid a name.

But here's the problem: If I keep the 1st person POV, I need to figure out how to introduce his name somehow and keep the meter right. If I give him a name and change the POV to 3rd person, it makes many stanzas awkward - large rewrite ahead.

I think POV can be one of the most difficult writing problems. Just when I think I understand all its ramifications, I realize I don't.

Which POV do you like to use? Why?


  1. Hmm, very interesting topic, Gale! I feel there must be a first person narrator who isn't named but I can't think of one either!Maybe your narrator's room can have a sign: "Alexander's Room: Keep Out." Or he can say "Mom says, 'Alexander, go to bed.' But I don't want to go to bed." Or whatever.

    As you know, I'm dealing with this idea of POV right now too, having discovered that I write way, way better in first person. (At least for the moment.) Probably some of us just incline naturally toward one or the other. Or maybe it depends on the story...

    Interesting to think about what would happen if certain great books had been written from different POVs. What if ANNE OF GREEN GABLES had been written in first person? As Anne--or her archenemy, Josie Pye!

  2. Hi Gale,
    Can you put his name in the title, and would that be enough? Don't know, but sometimes I think the voice that you are writing determines the POV, in other words, the writer sometimes 'hears' the story from a certain POV then writes it that way. That doesn't mean it's always right though! Good luck.

  3. Gale-- I'm wondering the same thing as Julie. Could it be as simple as a name in the title? Would this plant your character's name in your readers mind from the start? Will giving your character a name help you to give more personality to your text? (I know when I named 3 unnamed characters recently- they got a whole lot more interesting.)

    I have found that recently I tend to write a lot in third person present tense. But it's a very close third person (so it almost feels like first person to me).

    Good luck solving your POV questions!

  4. Ariel, Julie, Brianna,

    Thanks for the suggestions - I've tried adding the name to the title, but not pleased (at least yet). I've also tried having Mom use his name, but so far, not too pleased with that either. Still thinking . . .

  5. Maybe the trucks could talk to him.

  6. Hmmm...I don't think you need to have a name. Two great books that I can think of off the top of my head are I'M BORED and THE WATERMELON SEED.

    Good luck!

  7. Tammi,
    Thanks for commenting! I'm not familiar with I'M BORED, but I've read THE WATERMELON SEED and in that case, the vibrant crocodile doesn't need a name - he's just crocodile - so it works.
    But when a small boy has a fantasy adventure involving a race to win, perhaps he should have a name?

  8. When I read this post, a red light went off for me too. I totally get what you are saying. It's that little bit of difference between standing alongside the story and jumping right in. It's frustrating to be so close and then have that monkey wrench thrown in. But wrenches are for tightening, not demolition.

  9. J.A.
    Yes, sometimes it's easy to miss something important. Frustrating! Wish I'd had this insight BEFORE I submitted the last time. Would it have made a difference? Doubt it, but I'll never know.