I’ve been working on the novella DANGEROUS GROUND. This will be coming out April 29th from Loose Id (I think they already have the artwork up). And it will be in print as part of the HOSTAGE! anthology from MLR Press. I’m hoping the print book will release around the same time as the electronic novella, but I’m not sure. I have a sneaking suspicion Laura is running behind on her story. That’s the downside of being an entrepreneur. Less time for her own creative efforts.
Anyway, I was having a little trouble with this story. Not anything to do with the story itself – I like the story. Basically it’s about two agents from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security – best friends and on-the-job partners – who go camping in the High Sierras to try and repair their damaged relationship after one of them is nearly killed in a shooting –which follows straight on the heels of having made a (sexual) play for his partner and been turned down.
No, the problem – maybe “problem” isn’t the right word. More like…consideration…was to do with the POV with which I was going to tell the story. Choosing POV is one of the most vital story-telling decisions you can make, but often writers just go with whatever they’re used to writing in, whatever is comfortable – if they think about it all.
For example, lately I find I really like the idea of omniscient roving POV for fan fiction. And as I started to analyze why, I decided that it has to do with the camera’s POV in most television shows or movies. Most often the camera provides the viewer with an essentially omniscient and roving POV. We get insight into what’s happening with everyone critical in a scene through close ups or zoom shots, and this is as often as not NOT through the POV of the main character or protag. In fact, sometimes the main character has left the scene and we get a close up on the face of the person or people still remaining – often doing something sinister like reaching for the phone or scowling into a thoughtful distance.
So in a weird way, I think the roving omniscient POV might be the truest and most accurate way of capturing the feel of canon for fan fiction (in the case of stories based on television shows or films) because it mostly closely mirrors the original method of storytelling.
What’s odd about this is I generally prefer a tight and limited POV usage for my own work. But I fooled around with omniscient POV for this story -- and I think that’s because this particular story was strongly influenced by my fondness for the old British TV show The Professionals.
There’s an episode in that show where one of the partners is shot in the heart (which is nice and symbolic, since he’s the more “sensitive” ruthless field op) and naturally it’s fueled many a fan fic. And there are lots of different dynamics to explore there – especially if you’re writing from a slash viewpoint (but even if you’re not, it’s a great dynamic – which is why so many shows have these sorts of Very Special Episodes).
Never minding the obvious I Love Him and He Might Not Live stuff, there’s the terror of brushing up against your own mortality, the fear of not making it back, the fear of being shot again – true of both partners, really. And then there’s survivor guilt, blah, blah, blah. Suffice it to say, there’s lots to work with.
And the more possible story dynamics, the more tempting it is to use different POVs to capture all the potential angles.
Originally I’d intended to do the story in first person POV, which is my favorite to work in, and, as I say, I experimented with omniscient, but in the end I thought maybe it was more useful for this story – where the two protags will spend a sizable time apart – to go with alternating third person POV. In this case I do want the reader to get both characters’ side of the story – although in most M/M romance novels I think it’s more effective storytelling not to give the reader that insight, it keeps tension ratcheted up high, offers a little suspense when the reader doesn’t know both sides of the story. But from a practical standpoint this story requires insight into both characters.
Awhile back I read an interview with crime writer Sara Paretsky, and she was talking about how she writes – how she believes all writing takes place from three perspectives. Perspective being related to – but different than – POV. And I thought that was a good observation, and worth sharing:
A) We write from the perspective of the POV character of the moment – what that character thinks and experiences; the obvious filter being that character’s point of view. It’s an internal and personal view point. And the better we are at getting inside a character’s head, the more “real” that character feels.
B) We write from an omniscient perspective – we observe the POV character and narrate what we see – what that character is doing, how that character looks – it’s the camera’s POV that I mentioned earlier. It’s the entire scene and everything happening in it – including the POV character’s place within the scene. It’s setting the scene for the reader, a neutral reporting on what’s happening. It’s external and impersonal, and you get this even when you’re telling a story from a first person POV, although the main character’s POV acts as a filter.
C) We write from the author’s perspective – this is our own objective and removed viewpoint as writer and storyteller – deliberately and consciously making stylistic choices: picking words, phrases, images, discarding this word as overused, this metaphor as cliché. It’s the analytical and detached viewpoint of the craftsman.
And I think the best stories and the most successful storytellers are those who seamlessly integrate all three perspectives. Some people have a knack for this, and if there is such a thing as a born writer, I think it’s probably in this ability to see all three angles at the same time, to move fluidly from one perspective to the next: to visualize the entire scene, to place your main character within the moment of that scene, to never lose control of how you will tell the reader about the scene.
It’s easier said than done, but I think some people do it instinctively. But like just about anything in writing, even if you don’t do it instinctively, you can learn to do it. You can train yourself to do it by checking for each of these elements when the time comes to self-edit your work.
What you don’t want to do is choose POV based on what you think is most commercial or what some editor says sells best. POV decisions should be made based solely on your competency and the needs of the story.