A Naked Point Of View

With most learning, reality trumps textbook.

In my post about my struggle with period placement within or outside quotation marks, your comments sealed my knowledge better than published grammar sources. Perhaps it was the repetition of your responses; perhaps it was your real-life experiences; perhaps it was because I’m an idiot. Regardless, I am now a confident planter of periods, and I have you to thank.

But I’m greedy. I want to siphon more.

For you non-writers, please don’t glaze over. As always, I’ll try to make my inquiry fun.

Help a Girl Out With Her Point of View (POV)

When writing fiction, one must avoid unintentional shifting between points of view. If the writer chooses two different points of view with which to tell the story, then a chapter or scene change should ease the transition.

I do not have a problem with that. I can maintain POV almost as well as Viagra can maintain an erection. Where I need your guidance is with my POV choices in my current work-in-progress.

I want to use first-person POV for my main protagonist and third-person POV for my other essential character, making the transition through chapter changes. So it might go something like this (here’s the time for you non-writers to tune back in):*

Stay tuned. The juicy part’s coming.

Chapter One

Although reluctant to leave the shower, I knew the day called. Toweling off I went through my mental to-do list. Get chocolate for dinner, drop potty-mouthed teen off to concussion/football practice, locate magician preteen who made himself vanish, ignore husband, and plant ass on chair and write. Oh, and must remember that hubby said the Amish men would be by to finish the pergola in the backyard.

Replacing the towel, I realized I’d forgotten to bring clothes into the bathroom. No worries. I would shimmy into the bedroom au naturel and grab some skivvies and shorts. I was in a good mood; even did a little two-step. And why not? The day was warm, and sun streamed through the floor-to-ceiling windows, all four blinds raised to showcase the light.

As I hummed I’m Too Sexy, opening and closing drawers in search of the day’s Banana Republic options, my subconscious signaled an alarm. I froze, and a chill enveloped me. Something was off.  With my back to the windows, I inched my spine into an upright position, my heart beating in my throat. Please say it ain’t so.

On wobbly legs that no longer two-stepped, I turned around. I swallowed. There, a mere six feet away, carrying two-by-fours and hammering nails, worked five bearded and suspendered Amish men, their unobstructed window view anything but biblical.

Who says a naked middle-aged woman can’t outrun a cheetah?

Chapter Two

Jacob Yoder stood to full height and stretched his aching muscles. The job wasn’t difficult, but it was the second of four today. Lifting his hat, hammer still in hand, he wiped sweat from his brow and thought about the fried chicken and apple pie Rebecca would serve tonight. She was a good woman, his Rebecca. A good, God-fearing woman, modest and humble.

Jacob replaced his hat, and in between his men’s hammering, he heard loud music coming from the English home. The beat was heavy and pulsating and surely filled with sin.

Lifting his chin, he turned towards the source of the music and the bedroom before him. Why do the English need such big windows? But before Jacob could answer his own question, all thought ceased, and the hammer dropped from his hand and smashed his toes.

That there was no Rebecca.

Oh Mijn God!

So there you have it. Can I switch between first-person POV and third-person POV? Will that jar the reader too much? Or, if you are not a writer, have you ever stood naked in front of deeply religious men?

*For those of you wondering if this story is true, the answer is a mortifying yes. At least for chapter one. As for chapter two, luckily for this naked introvert, none of the men were looking. Which means one of two things:

1) They didn’t notice.

Or

2) They noticed but were not the least bit interested.

You tell me which is worse…

Note to readers paying attention: I know in the past I promised to keep my posts less than 700 words, but I just couldn’t manage with this one. Please don’t stab my eye. It’s pretty darn close. And by the way, the above isn’t really my work-in-progress. I was just trying to illustrate my POV question in a less technical manner.

All images from Microsoft Clip Art

126 Responses to “A Naked Point Of View”

  1. El Guapo

    The POV shift works well, the story is hilarious and the delivery is great!
    And if they weren’t looking, I’d imagine it was their loss.

    Reply
  2. Lori DiNardi

    I see this is a bit of an older post, but I have to thank you for the laugh. You left out option three though. Perhaps, being Amish men, they were embarrassed (for them, for you) and hid that they saw you. But what do I know about the Amish? I needed this laugh, thanks again.

    Reply
    • crubin

      Another commenter mentioned that as well–that perhaps they were being respectful. I still hope it was because they didn’t notice. Surely, it’s harder to see in than out, right?
      :)

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I appreciate your visit. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Reply
  3. slklesko

    Hahaha… I loved that. That really happened to you??

    I think that if done consistently, the reader will adapt to the POV shift. I’ve written the same way before. No biggie in my eyes!

    Reply
    • crubin

      Sadly, it did. But I choose to assume that the fact none of them were looking my way meant they hadn’t noticed. Perhaps they couldn’t see in as well as I could see out. Let’s hope, anyway…

      Thanks for sharing your point of view on POV (oh, aren’t I a regular riot?). If it’s done well, like you, I think a reader can adapt.

      Reply
  4. livingthechaylifebaby

    The novel I’m working on now is first person with three person perspective. Similar to The Help. It helps me to write from all three pov’s and I think it will make it more compelling for the reader.

    Reply
    • crubin

      Good to know. I’ll have to tally up the “for” and “against” numbers from the comments and use the results to help guide my decision. Thanks for sharing your two cents.
      :)

      Reply
  5. subtlekate

    It’s great to get this sorted out in the planning stage. I had written a great deal and then decided first person was giving me a narrow view and had to change all the I’s to her’s Ouch. I’m interested in what conclusion you draw.

    Reply
    • crubin

      I’ve had to revise from 1st person to 3rd person POV in the past as well, so I want to enter this project on more solid ground. It’s nice gathering so many different opinions–will help me decide. I’ll have to do a follow-up post down the road.

      Thanks for dropping in.
      :)

      Reply
    • crubin

      Then you should try Cialis. That way you can get the stiff neck when it’s most convenient for you. Like right before your wife asks you to take that yoga class with her. “Sorry, hon. No can do…”

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I appreciate it!

      Reply
  6. Kourtney Heintz

    I think as long as you establish the POV switches early on in the novel (Chapter1 first person, chapter 2 third person), the reader will not be jarred and they will go with it. :) Especially since you are delineating POV shifts by chapter which is so much easier to follow. :)

    Reply
    • crubin

      I tend to agree with you as I’ve adapted to novels this way myself. But I was surprised by how many commenters felt the switch would be too jarring, and they preferred a single point of view. It’s helpful to hear opinions on both sides of the issue that I can use to guide my decision (when this endless outline is finally done!)

      Thanks, Kourtney. I value your opinion.

      Reply
  7. Stacie Chadwick

    You can definitely switch back and forth, especially considering how well-constructed/delineated you’ll make each of the voices.

    I have a more pressing question though. Why is it that you know how long Viagra lasts?
    =p

    Reply
    • crubin

      I like to take the little blue pill myself. Keeps my typing fingers from going limp…

      Thanks for the opinion on the POV switcheroo. Everyone’s thoughts have been so helpful. Blogging life can be good.
      :)

      Reply
  8. riatarded

    Also, yes you can! This was well done! I liked the description in the first chapter! Very awesome!

    Reply
    • crubin

      Thank you! There are commenters on both sides of the fence on this POV issue. When I’m done outlining my WIP, I’ll have to make my final decision. I just don’t want to have to do a bunch of rewriting if I choose poorly.
      :)

      Reply
      • riatarded

        haha ok! I enjoy reading stories like these! In my opinion, the main character should always be writing in first person while others are written for in third person.

        But then again I am slightly eccentric :p

        Reply
    • crubin

      Sorry, that’s it for the story of Jacob and me. I think we both need to put this one behind us.
      :)

      But I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  9. legionwriter

    I think it’s possible if you separate with chapter breaks. I’d just make sure you’re prepared for the reader to feel distant from the 3rd person characters in comparison to the first person.

    Reply
    • crubin

      That’s kind of what I want–more intimacy with my 1st person POV character and more distance with the 3rd person POV character, so you’re spot on in your assessment. Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it.

      Reply
  10. butimbeautiful

    It works for me, the two-person POV thing. I can follow it. I could even follow 3 person POV, if it’s clearly delineated. Have written a novel which is 2 person POV, and the first reader said you couldn’t tell Character A (by style) from Character B – which was a mistake on my part.

    Reply
    • crubin

      That’s good to know. Thank you. I, too, don’t have a problem with two, or even three different points of view. I just haven’t seen 1st person alternated with 3rd person much, but the times I did, I was able to adjust. I’ll use all of these great opinions I’ve received to help weigh my decision once I finish my WIP outline.

      Thanks for dropping by!

      Reply
  11. introvertedblogger

    The reader in me does not mind POV change at all, as long as there is a clear distinction between them. However, when the novel moves from first person to third I can get frustrated. I recently read a novel, all in first person, with different characters and it worked brilliantly. It was like an eye moving around, giving me all the corners to look into. Can Jospeh have the same POV as you? Would he then give us a much deeper intimate impression of keeping a straight face while your funning around in your birthday suit?
    Having said that, as a writer I enjoy fiddling with POV. I have my main character in third and some diary entries in first.

    Reply
    • crubin

      You’ve actually encountered novels with more than one 1st person POV character? I’ve never seen that. I would think it would be difficult to follow. Does the author make the transition through designated chapters with the characters’ names? That’s really interesting, and now you’ve given me even more to think about. Luckily, I’m still in the planning/outlining stage, so I have plenty of time to change to one POV if that makes more sense.

      Thanks for yet another viewpoint!

      Reply
  12. i mayfly

    For the record: I vote for “Didn’t notice.”

    As for the POV discussion, I’m the POV of the fly on the wall soaking in all this good advice coming your way.

    OK, as a reader I don’t mind a change in POV if it contributes to the storytelling. Even abrupt changes I can appreciate, if I feel the author respects me as a reader. (If that makes any sense. Sometimes I feel the story is overly complicated just to showcase the “brilliance” of the author. That’s fine; just don’t count me in.) I don’t mind thinking with my fiction; I love a puzzle and to add my own interpretations/ connections. Complicated is not always a bad thing. And then sometimes I just like to escape and laugh and breath heavy.

    I’ve also seen where multiple POVs use the chapter heading to delineate whose up to bat. Chapter One – John, Chapter Two – Sue, Chapter Three – Hank. It seemed a little direct at the time, but I knew right away which character’s eyes were spinning the yarn…so to speak. ;-) (Yogi Berra-ism)

    Either way you chose, I’m thinking you’ll make it work for YOU. If it rings true for you, I’m sure it will for your readers.

    Reply
    • crubin

      Thanks! It really is a treat to receive all of this wonderful advice. I’ll try not to exploit the privilege by asking readers their opinions on various writing techniques in too many posts, but I am grateful for everyone’s help. As I’m still outlining my WIP, I’m not committed to the POV, so I’ll take all this feedback into consideration. Like you, I’m not too put off by a few different points of view as long as the author is clear on whose head we’re in. And I’m with you on the brilliance thing (which I can easily say will not take place in my novel–ha ha!).

      As for the Amish men, I hope you’re right and they didn’t notice. Thinking that is the only way I can sleep at night.
      :)

      Reply
  13. Carol Wuenschell

    The story is hilarious. So funny and well told.

    However, I am one who has a problem with mixing first and third person without some explanation (ie, the first person parts are letters or journal entries.) The problem is this: when I read first person narration (without an explanation), I in effect become that person, with all of the limitations that imposes. Namely, I can’t know about things that happened when I wasn’t present and can’t get inside of anyone else’s head or see things through their eyes. If I then turn the page and find third person narration, my brain screams, “who the h— is talking??? How can I know this?” The switch in the opposite direction is just as jarring. I was watching from the “outside” (though what I would call omnisciently – I’m not sure what the difference between third person and omniscient) and suddenly I’ve become a character in the story! How the h— did that happen? The switch in your piece, above, didn’t seem too bad, but then you set us up by telling us you were going to do it, didn’t you?

    I haven’t personally read anything that did this kind of switching (without an explanation for the first person). Since others have, such works must exist. To me it sounds like someone is trying to be “artsy” rather than just telling an honest story. My choice for your piece would be all in third person. It’s possible to go quite deeply into a person’s head in third person, so that first person doesn’t gain enough to make it worth the restrictions, or worth jolting the readers – possibly losing some of them. It’s up to you, of course, and it depends somewhat on what you’re trying to do.
    That’s my two cent – and, as usual, longer than your post!

    Reply
    • crubin

      But I so appreciate your two cents! I’m still in the outlining phase of my WIP, so I have time to structure the POV anyway I want. Everyone’s opinion is very helpful. There are people on both sides of the fence on this one. I have read a few novels that used both 1st and 3rd person, and I was thrown off at first, but then got into the story. All were thrillers. To be honest, I’m starting to rethink the use of both points of view. I’ll finish my outline–which presently I’m working from the angle of two different points of view–and then see how best to proceed.

      Thanks again for you input. I really appreciate you taking the time to share it. This seeking advice on my blog is very useful, but I promise not to abuse it. I’ll continue to throw in pointless drivel.
      :)

      Reply

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