Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The I's Have It

Not too long ago, an agent lamented the fact that so many of the submissions she was getting were written in first person point of view. She did not like it. Not one bit.

This made me think: What makes a manuscript particularly suited to first person or third person? Certainly first person has limitations, but I think it also has advantages.

I love Diana Gabaldon's Outlander; she handles first person POV masterfully. The book would not be nearly as powerful were it written in third person. Ms. Gabaldon uses POV to create what I call "literary sleight of hand" -- the heroine (the POV character) innocently leads the reader to believe one thing, but suddenly we discover, along with the heroine, that something else entirely has been going on.

A good example: The heroine (a nurse who has travelled back in time to 1745 Scotland) has just tended to the injured shoulder of the hero, Jamie, whom she has just met. She admonishes him to not move it much, to take care of the dressing, and ease into using it. A few paragraphs later, she sits in front of him on his horse as they ride away.

After a time, we reached a crossroads, where we stopped a moment while the bald man and the leader conferred in low tones. Jamie dropped the reins over the horse's neck and let it wander to the verge to crop grass, while he began twisting and turning behind me.

"Careful!" I said. "Don't twist like that, or your dressing will come off! What are you trying to do?"

"Get my plaid loose to cover you," he replied. "You're shivering."

The first time I read this passage, I gasped. I, like the heroine, was convinced Jamie was doing something stupid to re-injure his shoulder. But instead, Ms. Gabaldon gives us a sublime romantic moment, and it simply took my breath away.

Do you have a favorite first person POV book? What kinds of stories work best in first person?


Callie James said...

I haven't read that book yet, JoAnn. I've heard wonderful things though.

My favorite first person POV book so far is Jennifer Echol's Going Too Far. Easily.

This is a wonderful book. Young adult isn't my favorite genre, but I truly couldn't put this book down.

JoAnn said...

Oh, yes! I totally agree. Jennifer's books are also masterfully done! And her sexual tension just blows me away! I'm reading The Ex Games right now. Sigh! She is incredibly talented.

I don't read historical but someone recommended Outlander to me. I made the mistake of starting it on a Wednesday night. I was so tempted to call in sick on Thursday and Friday -- it too is impossible to put down.

Gwen Hernandez said...

I'm not a big fan of first person POV in romance, but I think Lisa Kleypas uses it to great effect in her Sugar Daddy series of books.

Carla Swafford said...

Of course, I agree with Callie. But another book, in fact, more than one is Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. The urban fantasy appears to do well.