Voice and POV (a case of what’s right for the story)

Not so long ago I struck an issue that was causing me MASSIVE writers block. Sure I felt a bit burnt out from writing 40,000 words in three weeks (outside of my FT job)–but, the thing that really got me resisting even going near my laptop to write (CUE: distracting TV show), was whether my MC’s voice was strong enough in third person POV.

I was in the middle of writing a scene that should have been exciting, it had stakes, it had conflict, it had tension–what it did’nt have was my MC’s personality. Which FREAKED me out. Why? Because in earlier scenes I could see the MC in everything, how SHE felt when she saw the setting, how the setting was affected by her mood, how the people she interacted with were affected by how SHE was feeling. And then I looked at the scene I had just written. There was no personality on the page at all, it was a dry explanation of facts that my character was seeing or doing–it was clinical, and cold. A check-list, if you will, of setting and action that was happening to my MC, and not experienced through my MC.

Thanks to the invaluable insights and help from Susan Dennard with this super handy post: Changing a draft from third person to first person (please read it to see why and how Sooz decided to change from third person POV to first person POV for her novel Something Strange and Deadly) — I was able to see where I was going wrong and ways in which to improve.

If you’ve read the link you will see my original question to Sooz was whether I had the wrong POV (still something I am pondering) because I considered the MC’s voice to be weak (or wavering at that point in the story), however instead I’ve been learning  HOW to bring a strong voice into third person POV. Yes there will always be a little more distance in limited third person POV than first person POV–this is built in because first person is seen through the MC’s eyes (I could smell the roses) whereas third person is being narrated (she smelt the roses)–though if you use third person limited you still see/hear/touch/smell/taste from the POV character and have internal narration.

The main lesson that I took away is that in order to have a strong voice for your MC you need to write everything (the setting, the action, their reaction to other characters) with their personality infused into the words that you choose. For example, a MC that is a six year old child would look at a playground (the setting) entirely different to someone with their earphones in just walking through it to get to the shop on the other side. If you were describing that setting with no voice, perhaps these two characters would look at the setting in a similar way: a dry check-list–green grass, swing-set, slide (and not infused with how excited a six year old may be to go playing in the park or how the person wearing earphones only sees the gravel from the path under his feet). This is a pretty simple example but you get the idea.

If you struggle with Voice you’re not alone, let me know if you have any tips or strategies you use to help you bring out a strong MC voice.

Here are some links to some great resources on Voice and/or POV here:

**Note not talking about author voice here (just character voice).

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