Thursday, January 12, 2012

1st Person POV in YA: Trend or Necessity?

Three year ago I got into book blogging mainly as a tertiary effect of my writing. I write YA. I need to read YA widely. I was sharing my thoughts on YA books on my writing blog. Enter next step. So because of this I tend to be hyper-aware of certain writing trends, especially as they pertain to my own work.

As a writer, my default POV setting is third limited. It leaves a little bit of wiggle room for author input in the stream of consciousness outside of dialogue but it's the next best thing to being in the character's head. It doesn't help that as I was taking writing classes, the views of my professor kind of rubbed off on me when it came to first person: does that character ACTUALLY think like that? So every time I read a first person narrative and the character is talking about an elaborately colored something or a metaphorically outrageous something else I can't help but go, "Really? That's how you REALLY narrate the world inside your own head?" And that can take me out of it. Most of the time I'm okay but sometimes it's really bad and the character just starts coming off as really disingenuous to him or herself. I had this problem with Maggie Stiefvater's LAMENT and BALLAD. I think the writing just got away from the characters and I ended up seeing more author than characters.

So for me, third limited gives you the intimacy of first without such close contact. The downside is that there is a slight bit of distance between the reader and the character. With first, you're in the character's head. You can't get any more intimate than that. On the down side, you're inside the character's head and it may not be a good place to be for many reasons. TWILIGHT would be an example of this for me. The books I wanted to light on fire because being inside Bella's head was insufferable. Transfer them to the movies, you remove that intimacy (and insert constipated acting and way too much Maybelline) and I found the story a bit more enjoyable. I didn't get the repetition of Edward's awesomely hotness or Bella's/SMeyer's limited vocabulary. I was freed by a slightly distanced yet still limited point of view.

I've written in all points of view except second (because that's a killer and I think there's maybe a person and a half that can actually pull that off well) so I've written widely in that regard. My very first novel was third limited and I hated it into the trunk. My second novel was third limited and I'm still working it out because it's ENTIRELY in MC-speak which isn't working well for YA but may be better off in MG minus my heinous swearing. My third novel (which is really a reincarnation of my trunked first, with barely anything salvaged except the base idea) is third limited in a mix of MC and my speak - her sass with some of my vocabulary. I'm still working it out. But when I look at a lot of the novels I'm reading, they're mostly first person and then I start getting pulls to write mine in first but I don't know if it'll be the same. It may work but in my cockles, ultimately I don't think it'd be a fit. Plus I don't know if it's the story telling me to write in first or if I'm subconsciously trying to write to a trend to be more appealing to agents and publishers.

Which leaves me to ask, with all the first person POV floating around YA lately, is it more of a trend or a necessity? I asked this on Twitter when the question first popped into my head and I got more necessity than trend but not by much. The people that favored trend stated they're able to connect to a character regardless of the point of view as long as it's written well. The ones that went with necessity claimed that's how they connected to the MC, period. So does that make a wave or a need?

I still don't know. I'm reading an overwhelming amount of books in first person but that doesn't erase my original feelings about it. C'mon . . . do you think they REALLY think like that? Do you REALLY think like that? But ultimately I don't really think I notice the POV. Sure I know when I'm reading 'I''s over 'he''s but in terms of connection the point of view doesn't matter. I can just as easily not connect with a first person narrative as I can with a third.

What are your thoughts? Is first person a trend or a necessity? Is it a wave that publishers seem to be riding because it's working so why mess with it? What POV do you prefer?
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