Camp NaNo: Crisis of POV

It’s Day Four of Camp NaNo and I’m 3,500 words in to my novel, which now sits at 12,000 total. I’ve actually been writing about 2,000 a day, but I’m being strict, and not including any words from short stories, articles or blog posts in my daily count. Overall, it’s been a good experience so far. I’ve been avoiding self-editing, but I’ve come to a problem that can’t be avoided for long.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. My natural style in writing is third person–limited, past tense, but for this story, I chose first person, present. There were reasons behind it. One of the themes of the book is that the protagonist is forced to live in the present (hence present tense) because her past has been destroyed, and her future is uncertain (no hope to hold on to). Also, because of some of the events in the story, I believed the first person perspective would offer a visceral, immediate reaction to the emotions of Katerine (the main character).

I was aware of the challenges I would face with this style, and the many, many edits that it will need to get the tense and perspective perfect, but I think it’s important for me, as an aspiring author, to do these sorts of challenges to improve myself. It’s not good enough to be comfortable.

That said, Katerine is fourteen years old, uneducated, and she’s just… not interesting. Her life happens to her right now, and I type in horror as I realize she is turning into the type of female ‘heroine’ that I abhor. Passive. Unengaged. Unhappy (though that’s to be expected). The characters around her are breathing life into the story, but Katerine has yet to show me who she is. And it’s making me rethink the whole POV thing. After all, why write in first person if your main POV is going to be boring? There should be something entertaining about a first person POV; they should be charming, witty, intelligent or something else that makes them stand out in ‘the crowd’. Katerine just doesn’t have that yet.

So, I’ve been reconsidering the POV, but I’m in a crisis about it. If I change it to third person, I don’t think it’ll solve the basic problem that Katerine is boring. Another option might be to add multiple POVs, though which to add I’m not sure. Perhaps someone with more knowledge to inform the reader of things which will move Katerine down the road, but she is unaware of. I fear changing the verb tense.

In the end, though, it’s really all down to Katerine and my portrayal of her. I’ve got to focus more on who she is. I need to develop her more. Then maybe she will show me her own unique voice.

Some related posts on POV, which I found interesting:

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14 thoughts on “Camp NaNo: Crisis of POV

  1. dollyperry says:

    Hi!
    I’m writing in 3rd POV and having something of the same problem with my main character. There just doesn’t seemed to be any kind of motivation or personality there. Whenever this happens to me, I will sometimes change the POV to first person (or anything other than what I’m working in at the moment) and write something of an interview between my MC and a newscaster or reporter. It’s mostly just dialogue, with little to no interaction between the characters. But that way, I’m able to focus on the content and ask my MC why they’re doing what they’re doing, why they’re stuck where they are, or ask them questions from their past. This usually helps me to round out the character and to better understand what kind of person they are, then transfer my findings to the story and the situation they’re stuck in.
    I don’t know if this would help you at all, but I just discovered it quite recently and it seems to work for me.
    Good luck on your novel!

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Hi Dolly!

      Thanks so much for the comment. Yes, that’s a very good idea. I was half doing that while mumbling to myself today, haha. I ended up drawing thought bubbles and filling them up with questions and answers… it worked out pretty well. So now I have something to go one.

      Congratulations on 15,000 words!!! That’s really amazing and inspiring! 😀

      Thanks again for stopping by, and good luck with your own writing as well!

      Like

  2. Victoria Grefer says:

    best of luck!!!! POV is hard. The concept for your novel sounds really intriguing, though, so don’t lose hope! I don’t know if this is helpful, or is what YOU should do, but in this situation, I would keep plugging alone as I have it until the protagonist shows me who she is. I would keep writing until that point and after the draft is done, during editing, I would substantially alter a lot of the uninteresting stuff at the beginning. Maybe, knowing her at that point, you can make great adjustments.

    There is always a risk that the character herself is just not meant to be protagonist material, though. If that’s the case, keeping going won’t help much. So it’s tough.

    If nothing else, remember that NaNoWriMo is all about the experience, in both senses of the world: the bucket list ‘I did this’ kind of experience as well as “I improved my writing skills” experience. Even if you don’t end up with a readable, publishable novel, you will grow as a writer.

    Kudos–MAJOR kudos–for stepping out of your comfort zone. That’s amazing. I hope things turn around for you!

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Thank you so much for the comment Victoria!

      I spent the rest of my afternoon (between teaching classes as work, because that’s basically all of my free time during the week, lol) outlining the story and really getting to know Katerine better. She’s one of those characters you have to work backwards from, because she ‘came to me’ as an old, rugged and weathered woman, and was slow to open up about her life. Trying to go from almost 70 to 14 has been really hard! But I’m getting there. Slowly but surely. 😉 Your suggestion is really good and spot on. I’ve heard the first three chapters are always the roughest, so I’m not going to let myself get too attached or concerned about them. Just have to keep writing!

      Thank you so much again!

      Like

  3. poncho131 says:

    頑張れ!Believe in your character and keep writing. As Victoria said, you will get something out of this experience no matter what. Best of luck!
    ~苦栗鼠

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      ありがとう!なんか、頑張る!ザンブラノさんもJLPTで頑張れ!

      I’m having a lot of fun with it, despite my crisis. I’m definitely going to get something out of it– hopefully a handle on first person and the young female POV! Thanks!

      Like

  4. jncahill says:

    Glad my post on POVs was useful to you. Best of luck with NaNo and figuring things out. Sometimes books and characters can be hard to write.

    If you feel your character is too boring, it’s time to give her more of a personality. Little details can sometimes mean a lot (Habits/mannerisms/favorites/etc). I find the personality tests (like on dating websites) can be helpful for placing myself in my character’s shoes and thinking seriously about how they would respond to the question. Helps me learn more about them and how to better portray that.

    Happy writing!

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Wow, thank you so much for coming by and responding! Yes, I loved your posts. I really hope a lot of people will get a chance to see them. 🙂

      I agree with you, 100%. I actually spent the entire afternoon in a paper notebook and just outlined the story and who she is at points X, Y and Z. Now that I know where the story is /going/, I have an idea of where she needs to /be/ for the point I’m writing right now. It’s a huge relief!

      Thanks so much again for the comment, and the well wishes. I’ll do my best!

      Like

  5. Andrew says:

    I’m not much in favor of 1st; however, and I don’t know if this will work for your story, one way of making it effective is how Doyle used it in the Holmes stories.

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Oh, I wish I could use it like Doyle. He used “double I”, which is sort of a cheat way to get the audience extra information… Unfortunately for this story, it just wouldn’t work. I also don’t want to make it obvious as to whether my MC will live or die by the end of the story 😉 But yeah, loved the first person in Holmes… not sure I’ve ever come across a first person female POV in fantasy that I’ve liked, which is probably why I’m so worried, haha.

      Thanks for the suggestion though. I should pull down that tome of Doyle I bought and glance over it. Good reminder!

      Like

      • Andrew says:

        I’ve actually often wondered why no one seems to do that kind of 1st person. I have a story like that in my head, but I don’t think I’ll get to it any time soon.

        Like

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