A story strikes your mind and you wonder about how to start penning it. You start looking up great authors and novelists to try to mimic their style. Perhaps you do a decent job at it but along the way, you will realize that you need your own voice and your own lane to stand out. When that realization hits you, you’ve finally found your voice; the voice of your characters. The voice they assert to you and you have finally decided to go by. A story normally writes itself. A character’s voice also reveals itself to you if you let it take the lead and listen to the story it wants you to pen. This leads to the POV (Point Of View). Let your characters decide it. Why? Because your story will feel more authentic if you don’t try to force it in a specific mold. There are three main POVs with some sub-genres attached to each of them; first person POV, third person POV, and Omniscient. Other less common types of POVs are second person and the fourth wall. I shall explain.
I’ve used many POVs and voices in my published and unpublished works.
1. The first person POV uses the ‘I’ to narrate the story. The narrator speaks directly to the reader. It allows a close intimacy between the character and the reader. However, you’re limited in perspective. You can’t get into the heads of other characters. You see things through the lens of your main character. To bypass that, you can write your manuscript with alternating strong first person characters so the reader can get their questions answered. If not, make sure your main character is interesting enough to go solo for a full length novel. That’s why, first person works best with short stories. It prevents your story to become trite and your readers to get bored with your main character yapping about for 300 plus pages. Some (see few) authors do it well and others, heh… Tried &Tested is a great story with first person POV by the way. Check out some examples of first POV from two of my short stories below.
A few minutes later, I was sitting in the director’s office. I perused the walls decorated with row upon row of awards and degrees. One of them was the very reason why I chose Kidding Daycare for Najla.
Best Daycare of WFAA
The award and their great online reviews made me select them to look after baby girl while I was working. I stared at the award and wondered if awards truly meant anything until I heard her voice. In that moment, I hoped I wasn’t wrong about their services. (Excerpt from The Nanny)
I consider myself decent looking, but not a stunning model like my mother claims at every opportunity. My evenly toned skin and long nose are the trademark features of my ancestors from the Black Sea region. (Excerpt from Fixed Up!)
2. The second person POV uses ‘You’ to narrate the story. It pulls the reader in and make him part of the story. It’s very hard to do in fiction. It works best in non-fiction.
You will have your time to be heard. You can do it after your spouse is done talking by requesting the floor the same way you yielded it without interrupting. (Excerpt from Is Bringing Up Past Arguments Healthy for a Marriage?)
3. The third person POV allows and gives more perspective. Here you use ‘He’ and ‘She’ to tell the story. That said, you can additionally do third-person omniscient or third- person close. In third-person omniscient, you know the feelings of everyone on the page. You will loose on intimacy but you will definitely get the perspective missing with first person. With third-person close though, you’re only privy with the main character’s thoughts. You still use ‘He’ and ‘She’. It’s similar to first person POV with ‘I’ . Again, you have to make sure that your character is interesting enough to go for a full length novel. Choose wisely :). I really like third-person close actually. Why? Because my characters always feel like extensions of me in other ways, and it makes the storytelling personal and genuine in my opinion. I feel like they have trusted me enough to relay their voices. It feels less self-centered and makes me feel more of a djeli, a griote.
BACK IN HER ROOM, Rokeeya was torn about the implications of the members smoking weed. Not only did they risk being kicked out of campus and their charter removed, they could also face slander, and her leadership being questioned. Bad news travelled fast. Right now, no one outside the fraternity and RTL knew that drugs were consumed on campus. She needed to talk to the president of that fraternity but she couldn’t do it alone. She needed someone to accompany her. Fatou would think that was a terrible idea but this sisterhood meant everything to Rokeeya. If it wasn’t for this sisterhood, she would have… She couldn’t bear to think of it as she stared at the ceiling. (Excerpt from Respect The Letters)
4. Breaking the fourth wall works great in journaling and chronicling types of stories. Some YA books do it actually like in tidbits of Whichwood. In this style, the character is aware of its fictional nature when it speaks to the reader. Again here, you have to have a really peculiar character to pull it off in a novel. Check out the example below.
Just a minute, my cell phone is going off. I quit working at the firm but I still talk to the girls. They are probably both calling me to check in on me. Here we go again, Francis Underwood is back. I ignore Habeeba’s comment and press Answer on my phone. “Hey girl! What’s up with you?” they scream through the phone. It seems like I am on a speaker. (Excerpt from The Hazardous Life of Nilüfer)
Above all, listen to the voice of the character and strive to pen it powerfully. You can only achieve it by being ruthless with your own manuscript. Check out this book to help you in the task.
Follow me ^_^ on Amazon here.
Thank you for reading,