Narrative point of view

I lead a monthly writers’ group in San Rafael. Last night the topic was point of view and our discussion was so interesting I decided to try encapsulating it in a blog. Why not?

So here we go. I’m already afraid this is going to be long but oh well.

First person.

Siobhan said that the book should begin with something to grab people’s attention. That is why I started with the dog. I also started with the dog because it happened to me and I find it hard to imagine things which did not happen to me.

…Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

We like how immersive this point of view can be, how it reveals in every sentence the narrator’s perspective and the lens through which they filter reality. We like how the inherent unreliability of a single perspective adds complexity to the story. As writers, we like the opportunity to develop a unique character voice. As readers, we love getting inside a character’s head, inhabiting their experiences and history and emotions. (Someone somewhere has done a lot of research on how what we read impacts us physically through hormones and such, I bet. But I can’t come up with any hard links at the moment. Some day.)

Some interesting variations on first-person narratives include the frame narrator (The Great Gatsby), the unnamed frame narrator (Heart of Darkness), first person omniscient (The Lovely Bones, The Book Thief), first person plural (The Virgin Suicides), the highly unreliable narrator (The Egyptologist, Pale Fire), the author as narrator (The Tetherballs of Bougainville), first person with multiple viewpoints (A Map of the World), and first person epistolary (Les Liaisons Dangereuses).

Second person.

You wake up on a Saturday morning. Instead of watching cartoons or playing outside, you decide to make a potion. A zombie potion! With a zombie potion, people will do whatever you say. And you know just the people to use it on. Your grandparents!

…Anson Montgomery, Your Grandparents Are Zombies! (Choose Your Own Adventure)

Straight to the weird stuff, folks. It’s immersive, yet distancing! At the same time! And weird!

Notable examples: Bright Lights, Big City and A Man Asleep.

Third person.

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.

…Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Back to familiar ground. We like this POV for the buffer it provides between us and the most abrasive, unredeemable narrators. (To this day I’m not sure how Bret Easton Ellis managed to make American Psycho so engaging.) Omniscient narrators can be a lot of fun, but as a writer, how do you preserve some mystery when your narrator can look into time and space and the innermost thoughts of your characters?

Break it down, baby: third person limited–AKA subjective (The Hobbit), third person limited with multiple viewpoints (A Game of Thrones), third person omniscient (War and Peace), and third person objective (“Hills Like White Elephants”–if anyone knows of a novel written in this POV, I’d love to hear about it).

For no reason, here’s a photo of some flowers.

belladonna lilies, AKA naked ladies

belladonna lilies, AKA naked ladies, so I can say there are naked ladies on my blog

Go ahead, have all that fun without me.

It’s opening night at San Diego Comic Con and I’m not there. Super jealous of my friends and all the fun they’re having. It’s not throwback Thursday quite yet, but here’s the yelp review of SDCC that I wrote back in 2008, when I was basically using yelp as a diary.



2008 will be my 4th Comic-Con in SD and I’ve also been to WonderCon in SF a few times and now Comic-Con in NYC. Each time, I’ve been working a booth (Emily the Strange), so these events are both the most miserable and the most entertaining days out of my year. The best thing is what you can learn about the general nerd population, and here is what I have observed:
1. Nerds CAN find love, and/or action, at Comic-Con. If you are a lonely nerd, all you need is a Comic-Con pass, some sort of ridiculous costume, and/or a “free hugz” sign, and you too can lose your virginity.
2. Nerds come in all races. I realize this was ignorant of me, but four years ago I kinda thought that all nerds were white or Asian, and that black & Latino people were simply too cool for all this Comic-Con claptrap. This is far from the case.
3. Nerds truly come into their own at Comic-Con. You can cheerfully yell, “What’s up, nerds?” at a group of them, and get offered swigs of whiskey (out of authentic period goatskin flasks, no less) in return.
4. Many nerds are happy to fight each other with their authentic period swords if you tell them to. This is highly entertaining, whether or not you are already drunk.
5. Be warned, if you work a booth, that some of the nerds at Comic-Con will need to tell you the names of all their cats, their favorite colors, everything they have purchased EVER at Comic-Con, and so forth, until the convention is over, and the cleanup crew are yelling at them that they are in danger of being rolled up with the carpet. (I’m actually not kidding about that last….) Be patient and know that these people have not spoken to another human since last year’s Comic-Con.

I recommend comfy shoes, inappropriate headgear, DEODORANT, handi-wipes, poster tubes (stop asking me for poster tubes, nerds….), sherpas to carry your loot, camera, grabby-grabby hands, patience, beer, goatskin flasks of whiskey, and some type of germ mask, possibly integrated with your japanese-bondage-anime-nurse outfit. You really don’t want the Comic-Con-Cold that I get every damn time.



…and with Jack Sparrow.

OMG he's cuter than Johnny Depp

OMG he’s cuter than Johnny Depp


Hello world!

Grumble grumble grumble. After resisting for years, I am finally acknowledging that I probably am obligated to start a blog. Feeling cranky about it. Clearly I was born in the wrong century, a century in which a writer can’t just be a writer, but must also be a marketer, self-promoter, tweeter, facebooker, videostar on the YouTube. I expect most of my posts will be just this crabby. Here’s a photo of some flowers!

columbine and alyssum

columbine and alyssum