Saturday, June 21, 2008

POV Problems, or, Everyone Sounds Like Wendy

I recently attempted writing a piece in the 1st person/past POV of a 12 year old girl. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, and, as it turns out, I didn’t. My beta reader remarked that she was like a 37 year old trapped in the body of a 12 year old. Which she was. Although she probably sounds a bit like I did at 12.

So yeah, most of my characters tend to be women between the ages of 25 and 45. None of them are me, but all of them are me-esque, at least when it comes to voice. (Not their actions! I promise!) My next short story that I’ve plotted out is about an oversexed, insecure man in his late 60s, so I hope he doesn’t sound like he’s had a strong dose of estrogen.

Do you have a certain type of character you rely on? Is it anything like you? Or do you easily crawl into someone else’s psyche?


Janna Leadbetter said...

Noooo, it'd be so hard to dive into a POV that didn't, in some way, have my own voice's ring to it. I admit I've never tried, but it seems like it would be so unnatural!

Kudos to you for taking on an over-sexed 60-some-year-old man. Er, um... by writing about him, that is...

Anonymous said...

My MC sounds a bit like me. Her thoughts are her own, but the way she expresses them isn't. During the editing process I'm tackling this problem.

She's 11, but I'm not writing a YA novel.

In my death row WIP, the MC is a male. He's nothing like me, but is very much like men I've come in contact with.

"My beta reader remarked that she was like a 37 year old trapped in the body of a 12 year old."

Take a look at To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout was only six years old, but the reader doesn't question her smarts. That's because Harper Lee planted in our minds that the Scout is smarter than most. And she did this in a way that wasn't very subtle. Anytime she could, Harper Lee reminded the reader that Scout started to read at an early age.

This was her way of letting us know to suspend judgment and to believe Scout was an amazing little girl.

Of course Harper Lee complimented Scout's insightfulness with childlike activities.

WendyCinNYC said...

That's a good point about Scout. It's one of my favorite books and I get so wrapped up in the story that anything the narrator says seems feasible.

I think I'm going to try 3rd person limited instead of 1st with my 12 year old. That might help. Plus tweak her reactions to things a bit--make her a little less wise.

Janna--Ew! and LOL.

colbymarshall said...

anytime I write a character from first POV, it's usually someone at least a little like me- I've never written a man in first. I just realized that!

Melanie Hooyenga said...

My writing experience is a bit limited. My first completed MS was my memoir, and now my MC is man in his early 20s. His thoughts are similar to mine but he talks more like my husband. ;)

Janna - LOL!

Janna Leadbetter said...


WendyCinNYC said...

I do think it's funny that when you write something in 1st POV, some people think it's actually YOU talking. One of my short stories was about a dogwalker who steals from her wealthy clients and I had several people ask if I had ever worked as a dogwalker. LOL, no! Nor do I steal!

I keep attempting a 2nd person piece, but I haven't been happy with anything so far.

Anonymous said...


"make her a little less wise."

Can you blog about how you did that? I'm running into the same problem.

One thing I have done is make my MC insightful without her knowing that what she is observing is wise. Does that make sense?

WendyCinNYC said...


I think she was just a little too mature and too much of a reliable character for a girl of 12. I gave her just a touch more drama (without being too "poor me") and just a little less insightful about why her parents were reacting to something. It's a delicate balance, because who wants to hear about a whiny little snot, but she was just too understanding of adults--her mother in particular--and there wasn't enough conflict between the pair of them.

I'm crossing my fingers that it works.

Melody Platz said...

I'm writing a fantasy novel in first person right now, and my MC is basically me on another planet.

That being said, I can take myself mostly out of the equation when I write dialogue. I write each line of a conversation very carefully, trying to remember age, motivation, gender, and education. I love dialogue. It's so much fun to pretend to be other people talking.

The Writer’s Comfy Corner

Diane J Standiford said...

Wendy, at 12 I spent most of my time with adults and understood them beter than kids. I was easily a 37 year old in a young body. That would be a child I could relate to. OHHHHH, I love diving into people's psyche...for F U N.