First POV or Third POV?

June 24, 2010

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.

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