First point of view or third point of view? That is the question. It’s a parable that I’ve been wrestling with for a few months as I’ve tried to decide which point of view fits my novel. To better understand the way my kooky mind works you have to understand that I originally wrote “Only the holy remain” in third person and then I changed it to first person then back to third before realizing that the character’s voice better served the narrative in first person.
I came to this conclusion after listening to the character. Yeah, that’s right, I said, “listening to the character”. I know it sounds crazy but in truth it’s some of the best advice I was ever given. Listening to the character allowed me to find Frank Calhoun’s voice and in essence it allowed me to find my own. No longer did I feel as though I was imitating, and at times, parodying the works of other writers that had come before me. By allowing myself to be open to listening to the voice of my character I started to see that I was blazing my own trail, or in my case, going down my own dark alley and discovering what was around the corner.
As a writer, especially a crime writer coming from the tough streets of Chicago’s West side, I felt that I had a love/hate relationship with cops. At one end of the spectrum I lived by the unwritten street code that cops, and I do mean all cops, are bad. But on the other end of this spectrum I loved detective stories, and even felt a working class kinship (if it can be called that) to the everyday patrol officers. Now I know that every cop isn’t bad, but I’ve run into a lot of them that give the phrase “one bad apple” a strong conviction. I’ve also known some very bad criminals, which I could say the same about.
I guess this is why I wanted to write crime and suspense-thriller fiction, or more so, I wanted to write about “crime” without writing just about cops or just about criminals. I guess this is how “only the holy remain” came about. You see, I wanted someone like Frank Calhoun that understood the reasoning of having a legal system, but also understood that the streets lived by its own laws. I wanted a character that could blur the lines between the two worlds when needed, but not cross them, and more importantly, I wanted a character that came from a different part of Chicago. A Chicago I’ve never read about (so far, unless you count Native Son) but I knew existed. A Chicago that is grey and where only the holiest of those that believe in a brighter day fight to survive and remain.
This is why first POV worked for me. Because It allowed me to do all those things, but I wouldn’t have been able to do them unless I had allowed myself to listen to my character and follow his every command.
Read the first chapter of Only The Holy Remain here
Next update: Writing an animated Bible. You might as well just write a novella.