What’s Your Point of View?

jpcoverphotoWhen I wrote my debut novel, Into the Free, I never gave much thought to point-of-view; but as the words began to hit the page, they naturally fell into first-person narration.

First-person narration tells the story from the point-of-view of one character in a novel (usually the protagonist), and makes use of the words “I” and “me.” Critics point out that this style limits the perspective because it doesn’t allow readers to access other characters in the story. While this is a viable opinion, I argue that first-person allows the reader to gain even greater perspective by viewing the universe from the lens of that one character on a much more intimate level than anything an omniscient third-person narrator can provide. (We’ll leave second-person for another day.)

Yes, the view of other characters will be skewed by that one character’s interpretation of their actions, appearance, etc., but readers are granted full-access into the brain of that one narrating voice, even more so when that narrator is a trust-worthy character who isn’t deceiving us as we read. Essentially, we, as readers, are allowed to become that character. This enables us to enter that character’s world, interacting with the other characters, experiencing the events, and engaging at every sensory level throughout the story.

When an author delivers a story in first-person, we close the book feeling as if we have lived to tell the tale. This intrusive point-of-view makes the entire reading experience personal for us, moving it from the level of observation to participation. And because, by nature, the first-person perspective limits every scene to those in which the narrator is actively present (or his/her memory of such), we aren’t forced to pull back and watch something happening across space or time. We have no choice but to dive right into every single event of the story. We feel it, taste it, smell it, and react to it cognitively, emotionally, and instinctually.

As a reader, I have always enjoyed reading first-person narrations. Some of my favorite books were written using this point-of-view, and as a result, the narrators have become some of my favorite characters. Consider Scout in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, or Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, who tells us the tragic love story between Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom from his perspective.

Your turn: What point-of-view do you prefer to read? What do you prefer to write? Share some of your favorite examples, and introduce us to those characters who continue to stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.

Writing prompt: If you’re stuck in a scene, try writing it from another character’s point-of-view. What can you learn from seeing the event from a different perspective?

How to Plan a Book Club World Premiere

Image by Salvatore Vuono

As I’ve journeyed to the February 2012 publication date of my first novel, Into the Free, I’ve listened carefully to authors who have “been ‘round this track” a few times before me. One such author is bestselling novelist Lisa Wingate.

Just before her sixteenth novel, Dandelion Summer, hit shelves, Lisa shared the book with a lucky group of ladies from the McGregor Tiara Literary Society. Then she shared their reaction to the book with the world via YouTube.

Book Premiere? That’s Genius!

I’ve always been a member of at least one book club, and I am drawn to books that encourage people to discuss the themes of the story. I was intrigued by Lisa’s idea for a premiere. I figured, Hollywood holds premieres for new movies, right? Publishers have started making trailers for books, just as producers do for films…so…why not follow that line of thinking and host a premiere for my novel? I was convinced Lisa Wingate was brilliant. And I was right.

But Lisa is not just brilliant. She is generous and compassionate and eager to share her talents with others. It’s no surprise she provided a step-by-step tutorial on her Southern Belle View blog for others who might want to plan such an event. There you’ll find detailed instructions on planning, organizing, recording, and sharing the big premiere.

Without her directions, I would have overlooked details about release forms and microphones. I would have struggled using Windows Movie Maker to edit the clips, and I would have been clueless about lighting, length, and little tips to make the event fun for all involved.

Roll out the Red Carpet!

Thanks to Lisa Wingate’s fabulous advice, and Terri Blackstock’s kind suggestion to check out Lisa’s idea, I have since held three book premieres across the country for Into the Free. I’m editing them now and will be sharing them with the public in January, 2012. But just for fun, I have posted some of the photos and comments on my website.

If you’re planning to launch a book in the future, I strongly encourage you to consider a book club premiere. Even if the camera malfunctions (as mine did with the third event) or Skype gets moody (as it did with the group in Colorado), it’s still a ton of fun and very interesting to hear reader feedback before the book ever hits shelves.

Big thanks to the Beach Babes of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Porch Pals in Longmont, Colorado; and the University Literary Circle from Oxford, Mississippi for playing along with me.

And…be sure to view  clips from Lisa Wingate’s world premiere for Dandelion Summer.