30 January 2006

POV

Word Nerd is going to try *fingers crossed* to not blog all week long about Joanne Harris' new novel, Gentlemen & Players. It's going to be hard because there's so much good stuff to talk about.

Today. POV (point-of-view, for those of you unfamiliar with the acronym). Generally, Word Nerd despises books that flip between limited-third person POVs. Usually. (Unless it's George R.R. Martin). Worse still, usually, are those that dish up one or more first-person POVs. Because usually it's a tacky trick for letting the reader know something that's going on somewhere else that somehow is going to be important later.

A quick crash course in POV. First-person POV is the "I" narrator. Limited-third person is when the only action/knowledge the reader has is what is experienced by the characters. Omniscient third is when the author sees all and knows all and can write about information that the character has no way of knowing about.

Harris' book is told in two first-person POVs. And it's wonderful. What makes it so good is that the two characters actually sound different. Wickedly different, in fact. And yet both characters are convinced of the rightness of their views of the world, which leaves the reader to untangle the truth from the lies that both characters present.

What also makes this great in Gentlemen & Players is that the reader gets an up-close view of not one, but two, characters' downfalls.

3 comments:

Roxann said...

So, when you're talking about these third-person POVs, are you referring to books like Lord of the Rings (to pick a well-known story) or are you referring to works with a slightly smaller scope in nature (sorry, can't think of any titles offhand...)?

Bethany K. Warner said...

Every rule has exceptions, right? LOTR is one such book for the Word Nerd. Moreover, that book likely is more an omniscient third than a limited third, even though Tolkein writes large chunks limited to one set of characters.

If you want a good example of flipping POVs, think of BabySitters' Club books for girls.

And if you want to see it done well, another exception, the sequel to Nick Sagan's "Idlewild" ("Edenborn") does a pretty bang-up job.

Mattern said...

Edenborn was very good. I wonder if they will ever release everfree?