Tense and point-of-view are a couple things I’ve played around with. To be perfectly honest, had I known where the Henchmen series wound up going I might have considered writing it in 3rd person. As that series gets more and more complicated, keeping it in Steven’s limited point of view gets harder and harder. On the other hand, by limiting it exclusively to 1st person, it allowed me to go a bit deeper into his head than would normally be acceptable in 3rd person.
Now I’m working on what some people would consider my first traditional book: Greetings From Sunny Aluna. It’s the first book I’ve seriously approached that’s outside the Henchmen series and it’s the first book I’m writing in 3rd person past tense. See, old dogs can learn new tricks. Even if those new tricks are actually really old tricks.
Why the switch? Honestly, there’s no real reason other than I felt like trying it out. As I started plotting out the novel, I realized I wanted to explore the world of Aluna through multiple eyes. That necessitated a change from 1st person to 3rd person. The tense change was arbitrary. I figured if I was going to shift things up, I may as well go full bore.
The whole thing has required a change in thinking. 1st person present tense allows for a depth of character that’s largely unprecedented anywhere else. 3rd person past tense doesn’t have that depth, but it does allow more things to happen simultuously. All in all, kind of a mixed bag.
Does that mean I’ll never got back to 1st person? Likely not. There is that last Henchmen novel to write and it would be weird to write one of the four books differently from the rest. For right now, though, I’m appreciating the breadth I can get into with 3rd person.
For the handful of people out there unfamiliar with point of view and tense, here’s a quick refresher. Pick one that works and play with it. They all have their ups and downs and, no matter what anyone says, none are right or wrong. Never let anyone tell you how to tell the story you’re telling.
Past: All the action takes place in the past. Past tense storytelling removes some of the immediacy of the story, but allows an author to manipulate time more easily.
Present: All the action takes place in the present. Present tense storytelling can add immediacy to the story and, if handled well, can draw a reader into what’s happening right now. The downside to present tense is it makes things foreshadowing more difficult.
Point of View
1st Person: The story is told from a single character’s point of view. It uses words like I and we to refer to the narrator. 1st person allows some serious depth of character development because the entire story is told through the eyes of the narrator. The downside to 1st person is it gets difficult to juggle plots where a lot of things are happening at the same time.
2nd Person: Fairly rare in fiction. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever come across one. 2nd person makes extensive use of you and yours. Think about the last letter you wrote to your grandma. And then about reading a letter the side of a novel.
3rd Person (limited and omniscient): 3rd person is, by far, the most common style of writing fiction. In 3rd person the narrator is telling a story and has either limited understand (limited) or complete understanding of the entire story (omniscient). The upside to 3rd person is it allows for complicated plots. The downside is authors tend to head hop and the narrator can seem distant.
What do you think? Do you have a favorite style to read or write in?