Tag Archives: perspective

Bound A-Z: I is for… “I”


Go on any writing forum, whether it be a big one like KBoards or a little Facebook genre writers’ group, and you’ll see the question:

“First or third-person point of view. Which is better?”

I can tell you exactly how the responses play out, too: Someone will state that they flat-out refuse to read anything written in first person (and may admit in a later comment that it can be done well, but usually isn’t). Someone else will say that they really prefer to read stories in first person, but third is okay if we’re deep in one character’s viewpoint. Someone will say either is fine as long as it’s done well. Someone else will insist that omniscient POV is the best, but they’re the only person who knows how to do it right, so back off, NOOBS. Another person will say first person POV is cool and all, but it’s just so damned limiting to be stuck in one character’s head for a whole book.*

And then I jump in and I’m like, “You know you don’t have to stick with one…”

It’s a tough question for a writer, and an important one.

For anyone not familiar with the terminology, POV (or point of view) is how the story is told. First person is an “I” story–a character is telling is what happened to him/her, or what is happening in the case of a present-tense story. Third person is the writer or narrator telling us about the characters and what’s happening to them. He said this, Kelly said that, Marcus gesticulated wildly.

Dammit Marcus, stop being dramatic.

Third person POV might be “deep third”, where we’re anchored in one character’s thoughts and experiences, seeing the world through their eyes, even hearing their thoughts. We can’t see what other characters are thinking, or what’s happening in the next room. At the other end of the spectrum is omniscient third person, in which we can see everyone’s thoughts and know anything that’s going on.

As a reader, I dislike omniscient, or anything that involves jumping from character to character with nothing more than a paragraph break. I’ve seen it done well, it’s just not my preference.

And that right there? That last sentence? That’s how a lot of people feel about first person POV, which is what I chose to use in the Bound trilogy.

I’m not here to defend that choice, as I don’t think it requires defending. I just thought it might be interesting to look at why the heck I’d do a thing like that when some people refuse to buy if the Amazon “Look Inside” pages feature the dreaded “I”.

1) I write the stories I want to read, and I prefer reading first-person POV stories. I love how clearly character voice can come out. Yes, this is possible in very deep third-person POV, but I still feel a sense of distance from the story in that format. That’s not to say I don’t love me some third-person POV books. I do. But there’s something incredible about being right there with the character, hearing their tale straight from their lips and minds, that I’ve yet to find elsewhere.

2) It doesn’t have to be limiting, especially if you use more than one character’s point of view. Bound features what’s called “dual POV.” Torn has three characters. This gives us the opportunity to not only see the world through multiple sets of eyes (and therefore not be trapped in one place), but it changes the way we see our POV characters. The first draft of Bound was almost entirely told from Rowan’s POV. Readers’ view of her changed when we had a chance to see her as Aren did, and his character changed and deepened when I climbed into his head.

3) It’s fun. Writing in first person, and especially in multiple first, brings challenges. Characters have to have different voices as they tell their story, even more in first person than in limited third. They’ll use different words, different idioms if they’re not from the same place. Two characters will look at an autumn forest and see two completely different things. One might be flooded with emotions while another barely registers them. A thief’s daughter from the back alleys of Luid won’t think the same way as a princess, even in sections of text that seem on the surface to be narration.

4) It’s how the story wanted to be told, how it naturally started when I finally got over my stupid nerves and started writing. I tried it in third person, and it didn’t have the same feel. It felt flat and distant, and that was the last thing I wanted. Other stories have worked well as third-person tales in the past, but Rowan most definitely wanted this one told in her own words. Aren was a little more reluctant, but he came around.

I guess the take-away from this is a piece of advice to writers. Wait… I hate giving advice. Okay, it’s a bit of experience that I want to share in case it helps you.

The reason I tried writing Bound in third person that one time was because I heard it would sell better.

Had I chosen to follow that advice, to make my story bend to what someone else wanted, I would have ended up with a book I didn’t like. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have finished writing it.

There are times when it makes sense to take advice, like when it comes from your agent, or an editor who has bought your book (or who you’re paying to make it bleed red).

And there are times when you have to go your own way and write the story that’s in your heart, bring your vision into the world in a way that only you can.


Tell Me: …no, I don’t want to start the “first vs third” debate here, because the truth is that there is no right or wrong answer. What I want to know is this: what’s the strangest perspective, point of view, or method of getting a story across that you’ve encountered. Epistolary storytelling? Strange framing of a story within a story? Second-person *shudder*?

*The other objection people frequently have to first-person narration is that it decreases tension because you know the narrator lived to tell the tale. I would respectfully argue that multiple first-person POV alleviates this, as well… as long as there’s one person left to finish the story, anyone could die. OR BE A GHOST nope that’s a bad idea. Bad Kate.



Good Thing/Bad Thing

…sometimes, a thing is both.

Last night, we all (as in, my family, probably not you guys) went to the dentist. For many people this is a BAD THING, because they tend to imagine dentists as sadistic, pick-and-drill-wielding demons. The only thing that brings these fiends more delight than pain is causing frustration, and this they accomplish by asking you questions when they’ve got their be-latexed fingers jammed in your gob, making “Ungh, funghuh” the only possible answer, no matter whether the question is “How are the kids?” or “Do you mind if I remove all of your molars?”

I get that. I went to that dentist once.

But I enjoy going to the dentist. I don’t just mean I enjoy that sexyclean feeling my teeth get after it’s all done, though that’s pretty fantastic. I enjoy the cleaning. The scraping. The picking. The flossing.

I find it relaxing, even when it makes my gums bleed.

So really, that was a good thing in all respects. Even better: No cavities in any of us!*

However, I did learn that I have what they call TMJ, which stands for “Your Jaw Joint is F*%&ed, Yo.” This explains why I haven’t been able to open my mouth far for the past month, and why it hurts when I try. It means I need to wear something like a hockey mouth-guard at night to stop me grinding my teeth, which I will probably gag on, because that is a thing for me.

So that’s bad, right?

Not necessarily.

Yes, it stinks that I have this screwed up jaw. Yes, it’s probably going to be a hard adjustment for me to get used to the treatment, and yes, I wish I could go see my friend’s doctor who actually FIXED her jaw… but he’s in Ontario and I’m not, so that’s not going to happen. Yes, I’m told that I now need to cut up my apples and my sandwiches like a small child, which won’t feel AT ALL weird.

BUT… it’s a good thing that I got it checked out, and that there is a treatment for me, if not a cure for the problem. My jaw might start to feel better once this thing is in place. Even better, I might be able to start my days without headaches. Sure, I might still get the odd migraine, but maybe I won’t wake up every morning with the old “I have to get up for painkillers, but getting up hurts” dilemma.

So bad thing? Maybe. But I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. I’m going to be thankful that we have a good dental and health plan that allowed me to go to the dentist, that will cover my treatment (at least most of it), and that might even pay for part of massage treatments on my jaw (YAY!). I’m going to be SUPER thankful that the end might be in sight for my morning headaches, which continue even though I’ve had some success tackling the migraines lately.

I’m certainly not saying I can do this in all circumstances. I’m not Pollyanna, and a lot of the time is’s REALLY FRIGGING HARD to look on the bright side. Sometimes things happen that just suck, and there doesn’t seem to be much to be thankful for. But sometimes it’s possible to re-frame our way of looking at something, and see how much we have to be thankful for.

EDIT TO ADD: Bonus content! Here’s my friend Hayley describing her treatment, which is what I’d like. She’s the most adorable Bugs Bunny ever!

So tell me: Have you ever had a bad news or a bad situation turn into something you could be thankful for?

(I’m going to leave this here… if you’re offended by mild swearing or Monty Python’s Life of Brian, feel free to skip. For everyone who enjoys their trademark absurdity, enjoy.)

*This was a particular relief for my older son, who’s occasionally called “Bullet-Tooth” around our house because he has several metal teeth. Just one of those unlucky people who get ALL OF THE CAVITIES no matter how careful we are. He IS going to need spacers put in, but not until after Christmas.

Too Much Profound for Before Coffee

This morning, I threatened to kill someone.

Three someones, actually, and every one of them feline.

Charlie was the first. He started up before 6:00, which is never a good time to be bothering me. “Woe? WOE?” Up and down the hallway, crying. “WOE! BOWEL! HELLO?!” (Charlie has a large vocabulary for a cat, it’s kind of freaky).

He may also be part guinea pig. We're looking in to it.

He may also be part guinea pig. We’re looking in to it.

Next came Harriet, climbing on me and purring. She was already on The List; as I was trying to fall asleep last night she kept creeping up to my pillow and trying to scoot under the covers, and then climbing on me and purring.

Climbing and purring (and cuddling, and kneading, and then purring so hard she chokes on it) is a big thing for Harriet.

"You can't stay mad at me!"

“You can’t stay mad at me!”

I wish I could say that I figured out a way to make her understand that 6-ish in the morning is not Happy Happy Cuddle Time, but I didn’t. I gave in and scratched her head until she fell asleep. Don’t judge me.

Of course, this meant it was Lucy’s turn. What she lacks in vocabulary she makes up in persistence and volume*. “Mew? Mew! MEEEW! MEEEEE, YOOOOOUUUUUU!!!” and then a “WOO!” or two for good measure.

She may also be part evil. We're looking into it.

She may also be part evil. We’re looking into it.

Then there was the tiny incident of Charlie and Harriet staging a boxing match right outside of the bedroom where the kids sleep.

A reasonable person would have got out of bed. I’m not a reasonable person. I knew they had plenty of food, their fountain was working and full, the litter boxes were reasonably clean. Lucy probably wanted out, Harriet’s just a love machine, and Charlie is a raving lunatic. I wasn’t going to give in to their demands. Not before 7:00. Instead, I shout-whispered death threats at all of them and put my ear plugs back in.

So then I got up, because it’s Friday, Simon still has school, and it takes at least half an hour to get his butt out of bed. The cats followed me into the boys’ room. Charlie jumped up on Ike’s bed and demanded affection from another sleepy human, Harriet jumped on Simon’s butt and started purring at HIM, and Lucy… I don’t know where she went, she’s a little ninja.

All this time, Jack was sleeping in the computer room, because he thinks that’s his bedroom now.  He came out, yawning and stretching and farting.  And then prancing, because he’s a Boxer, and that’s just what they do. He pranced and frolicked and skittered across the laminate floors and to the back door. I let him out, turned around…

…and saw that the door to the basement was closed.


That never happens. We keep plastic bags stored there so the door can’t close, but closed it was. The cats couldn’t get to their full food dishes or their reasonably-clean litter boxes. The fountain’s in the kitchen, so they had water, but still. They had reasons for the protest they were staging all morning. I just hadn’t understood them.

I felt, quite frankly, like an asshole.

I also realized that I run into situations like this with people almost every day. The cranky kid who whines and forgets to say please and thank you. The five year-old pitching a fit over something as small as losing one of his dinky cars.  The cashier at the gas station who all but ignores me, the guy who cuts me off in traffic, the friend who doesn’t seem to put as much into the relationship as I do, the mom who lets her kid take a toy from mine at the park while she’s texting away on her phone and not paying attention.

Yes, they’re all annoying. Sometimes people are just jerks. But maybe their basement doors are closed, and I haven’t bothered to get up and look. In a lot of those cases, I’ll never know. I can ask my son whether something at school is bothering him, or I can try putting him to bed earlier to see if that helps him cope, but I don’t know what that cashier had to overcome to drag her ass to work this morning. I don’t know where that driver is going (he should still be careful no matter what, but that’s not the point), the friend might be struggling with depression and not showing it, and that mom isn’t necessarily texting her best friend to rehash last night’s episode of The Bachelor.

It’s funny that I was thinking about this stuff this morning. Jae at Lit & Scribbles posted one of my recent favourite videos today, and it fits perfectly here (and has a larger message to share). I can’t remember if I’ve shared it here or only on Facebook, but it bears repeating anyway.

We choose how we see the world, we choose whether we judge people harshly or give them the benefit of the doubt. We can remember that their basement doors might be closed, but they either can’t or don’t want to tell us. We can chuck a stuffed dragon in their general direction to make them shut up, or we can get out of bed to see if something’s really wrong. That last one may just be me, but you get my point.

When you’re having a down, sullen, or cranky day, you probably know why. You have reasons and excuses, and you might even expect to be given some leeway for that. Maybe other people do, too.

I know of at least three people who will, if they read this, go “BULLSH*T, people are assholes. Except for me, I’m the only non-asshole.” That’s your choice. I can’t always muster the energy required to choose my attitude, but today I’m going to try.

Just something to think about, courtesy of my cats.

*She does say “hello” sometimes, but that’s a story that involves the ghost of a cat who died a few years ago. Another day, perhaps.

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