How Do You Choose a Book’s Voice?

Guy flying on a fast rocket ship, hand to forehead looking far away for destination, has to choose a way as cloud arrows leads to three different directions.

Today’s book tour stop is a special one. They asked for the guest post to be written from a character’s Point-of-View. Of course, Jo volunteered. 😉

The PoV that you choose for a particular piece can define how your reader engages with the book, and how much the narrator can be trusted. You basically have three choices: First, Second, or Third Person Point-of-View.

I knew from the beginning that the Conn-Mann series would be in First Person because that was the challenge I set myself–to do a long-form piece of fiction with this PoV. It’s tricky to pull off for a long term story. I had done a few short stories this way before, but novel-length had always eluded me.

The hardest part of First Person is that the reader should only get the thoughts and observations of the narrator. For example, Jo’s first impression of the newspaper editor at the beginning of The Marvelous Mechanical Man is that he is an “odious, little toad,” and she spends several books avoiding him. However, she revises that opinion later when she bothers to spend more time with him.

Is he really so despicable? No. He just reacts to her in the manner that his upbringing and time-period suggests.

Jo often finds things to be one way and has to adjust her thinking after gathering more data. This is both the positive–the reader learns with the narrator–and the negative–they don’t always get the correct facts of the situation–of First Person.

Second Person PoV is rare to find, and I think this is because it is very difficult to pull off well. I, myself, only managed it once–though I haven’t given up the idea of trying again someday. This was a piece for the Empty Rooms/Missing double anthology for Horrified Press. Here’s a sample:



The room is empty now. Why is it empty?

Where is the cradle that Grandfather made for your mother? Where is the layette with all the painstakingly embroidered dresses and onesies? Where is the rocker that Danny bought at the thrift store because it reminded him of his mother?

You circle the room. There is nothing here. Not even a scrap of paper or a diaper pin. Where has everything gone? Even the bright yellow walls have been repainted gray. Why did he do that?

You drift toward the door…and it is drifting…you feel as if your feet aren’t even touching the ground. How odd…

I think you can probably see why this PoV is usually reserved for Choose Your Own Adventure books…

Third Person PoV is so popular it’s twins! In this style of writing, the narrator can know everything that everyone knows–omniscient point-of-view–or only the perspective of one particular character–limited point-of-view. This is the PoV of most writing these days, with Limited being the favorite twin.

If you are a writer, and beginning a new piece, you should let the story tell you the PoV it needs. I’ve told this story elsewhere…but when I wrote my story “Broken Crystal” for Dark Divinations (an anthology I desperately wanted to be a part of) I wrote the first draft in Third Person PoV. I liked it, but it didn’t feel like it was the best it could be. I sent it to a friend for review, and she suggested I try rewriting it in First Person PoV, and it made a world of difference.

About RieSheridanRose

Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. A lot. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers Vols. 1 and 2,  and Killing It Softly. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. She tweets as @RieSheridanRose.
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