Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Being Mentored-Point of View

The point of view (POV) we chose for our WIP/manuscript can make or break our story's success.

Master writers select a character to tell a compelling story. The chosen one has the most obstacles, the most to lose, the greatest need, and the reason to move forward.

Consider The Three Little Pigs. This short story, told from the pigs' POV, compels readers to side with the pigs and disapprove/fear the wolf. Many children and adults have enjoyed re-readings of this story.

But on March 1, 1996, Lane Smith authored The True Story of the Three Little Pigs from the Wolf's point of view.  This book has earned high reviews and possibly is as well known to children today as The Three Little Pigs. I must admit--I liked this book more.

As I sat down to write this post, I realized The True Story of the Three Little Pigs would not have grabbed my vote had The Three Little Pigs not been written first. So I asked myself, would I have enjoyed the Wolf's POV had I not known the Little Pig's POV?  Probably not.

Let's look at a few works by master writers to examine why he/she chose their character's POV:

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - POV chosen:  Scarlett O'Hara - Civil War romance novel

Does Scarlet really prove to be the best choice for POV? 
Here is the test, (feel free to add your comments at the end of the post)

Reason to Move Forward: Survive affects of the war, find true love
Needs: Romance, wealth, attention, status, security
Losses: home, husbands, child, stability, wealth, 
Obstacles:  ego, Ashley married Melanie, Brett's true love, Civil War

Contenders for POV:
1. Ashley:  NO! His story would be boring, whimpy, whiney
2. Rhett:     No. Life came to easy for him. He had everything he wanted and few if any obstacles
3. Melanie: NO! Melanie's story would be too sweet, gushy, positive
4. Mammy: Perhaps, but her POV would write a different story. I think I'd like to read it.
5. Scarlett: Yes. Only Scarlett could tell this story.

The Husband Tree by Mary Connealy - POV: Belle Tanner
Western historical romance

Here is Belle's test:
Reason to move forward: Move surplus cattle to auction before winter, protect ranch, no more lazy-money grabbing husbands
Needs: true companion, honesty, trust, ranch hand
Losses: ranch, cattle, home, access to way home, daughter, ranch help
Obstacles: handsome lazy-money grabbing men, winter, too many cattle, needed major repairs for home

Contenders for POV:
1. Lindsey (Belle's daughter): No. She did not return home which would have changed the ending. While she had some of the needs, losses, reasons to move forward, she did not have the greatest.
2. Silas: Possible. Most humor material would be lost, his character would tell a gruffer story, may not lasso readers into the story.
3. Belle: Yes. Humor, rugged spirit, gooey heart, independent, in need of help more than she realized.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers - POV:  Angel (aka Sarah) A retelling of the Bible book, Hosea

Here is Angel's test:
Reason to Move forward: survival 
Needs:  escape from evil, a reason for hope, commitment, saving, home, security, true love, dependability
Losses: home, parents, respect, freedom, love, choice
Obstacles: money, captors, imprisonment, lack of life skills, anger

Contenders for POV:
1. Duke or Duchess: NO. Both caused serious problems and neither wanted to move away from their negative setting.
2. Michael: possible, but essential beginning story line would be lost, did not have greatest needs/obstacles, would be told from hero's POV
3. Angel: YES. Her story yanks every emotion into play.

Let's also consider a true reporting of this event: 
Consider your answers for David, or for your own POV

David and Goliath by God - POV: David
Historical battle

Here is David's test
Reason to move forward:

Contenders for POV:

What if you chose a different character for your WIP? 
Could this change bring spice, sassy, salt, suspense, page turning interest?


Debra E. Marvin said...

I always start a scene with this question for POV: Who has the most to lose? I hope it works. And boy oh boy I jumped on that photo of Scarlett. What a book/What a movie.


Joanne Sher said...

Fabulous post/reminder for me! Need to think on this one.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

I sooo appreciated this post, Mary. I used to use The True Story of the Three Little Pigs in my fifth grade class when talking about American government. LOVE this story!You bring up some great points.

Thanks for listing the "criteria" you use to determine if the right POV is telling the story. I am going to consider these as I work on my wip. I'll be pondering this post today!

Casey said...

Excellent, excellent points, I'm going to have to Tweet this.

I had never really thought about POV in those terms, rigting first person, I've always fit my story to the character, (what can I do to make this worse?) but when you analize stories like this it proves how important the RIGHT POV is.

Michael Duncan said...

Fantastic! I have always struggled with this issue - my editor is very adept at pointing out where I slip - and this little POV challenge is great. Thanks for the insight and encouragement.

Mary Vee Writer said...

What a great way to start. I must admit, in the past I've thought about the story line first. After writing this post, I have understood the importance of addressing POV right away, before the pen hits the paper. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Glad you could stop by today. I hope this post helps stir the pot :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

You used the "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" for American Gov? Great idea.
My list is a basic one, but I'd like to consider more, too. Can you think of any additional criteria we can add to the list? It's always good to have other ideas to help us all!
Sure appreciate your stopping by today.

Faith said...

Great test! I should probably think about using my POV to more advantage. Thanks so much!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I recently reconsidered the pov from my first manuscript--written a while..long while back.
Well, a new idea came to switch the pov. I probably wouldn't have bothered, except, changing the pov has really--totally spruced up the story.
So why didn't I think of that the first time?

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks for stopping by today. Glad this post helped.
Hope to see you again on the Alley.

Mary Vee Writer said...

You're welcome Faye.
Thanks for stopping by the Alley today.

Pepper said...

Great post, Mary. What a wonderful thing to consider. Sometimes I will write a scene from a minor characters pov to deepen that character. I might not even use the scene in my story, but it helps make my characters more three dimensional.
Great reminder

Mary Vee Writer said...

You're right, Pepper. Authors have included scenes with those minor character, but the emphasis is always there: to enhance the 3D of the POV.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Excellent points! I still remember Francine River's Redeeming Love even though I read it years ago. Angel is the only pov that could carry the story. I haven't read The Husband Tree, but I must put it on my list. Gone with the Wind was truly Scarlett's story.

Goliath might make an interesting pov especially if you really added to his back story, but I'd still favor David.

Great post!


Mary Vee Writer said...

Isn't interesting that God chose the "hero" (His tool for a hero) for this story, yet it remained exciting, inundated with problems/challenges, unreachable, unsuspecting victor. Hmmm the more I think about the David and Goliath story, the more I see!
Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again.

Mary Connealy said...

I love the back and forth between the hero and heroine POV just because there's so much opportunity for the READER to see that the CHARACTERS are all messed up. Tricky to make sure the reader gets what I want them to get, that the characters are deeply misunderstanding each other.
Loved this article. Thanks for including Belle. I love that woman. Loved Silas, too, but that is definitely Belle's story. :)

Mary Connealy said...

p.s. I'm honored to be in that company of books. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I agree, the back and forth is essential, Mary. Without Silas, Belle would have been only a feisty thing instead of the 3D character we met.

p.s. We're honored to have your visit:) and to help brag about your fab book

Mary Connealy said...

And I think it's good to point out that while I have stopped in to comment, neither francine rivers nor Margaret Mitchell have bothered to drop in. :)

God may have stopped by. :)

Pepper said...

Anyone else feel that Mary Connealy was kind of in her last comment.

Just sayin.....