Sunset on a recent trip to Twain Harte, CA. I'm pretty sure Andi took this one!
I'm working on a new manuscript, and a few weeks ago I met with my favorite former teacher for a consultation. I tend to write in a billion documents scattered throughout my hard drive all at once, and I was startled to discover, when I knitted them all together, that they made up about the length of a book. I'd been writing in fits and starts and not feeling like things were really coming together yet, and one thing I hadn't resolved yet was the point of view. When I sent off the manuscript the first two-thirds were in the first person, and the last part was in the omniscient third.
I always write in the first person. I can remember exactly one exception in the past decade or so of writing, and it's a short story I've been toying with on and off and halfheartedly trying to publish somewhere, so far without success. But when I was writing my last book there were some mechanical issues that would have been so easy to resolve if the story wasn't told only by a narrator who wasn't around for everything I wanted to include in the story, and last summer I also read a book in the omniscient third that I loved so much that I thought, I need to try that.
So for this story, I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and took what felt like a risk, or at least would be considered one in a workshop: I wrote in the omniscient third. I entered the consciousness of even peripheral characters and I made declarations about them; the narrator knew everything. I played with that, and I wrote it, and I sent it off.
The first thing my teacher said to me when we met was that she wanted just to focus on the first part of the story--the first-person section--because the other wasn't working; there was, as she put it, no portal to welcome the reader into the story. It wasn't a surprise, and if anything, it was something of a relief, and to be honest my instincts had been telling me the same thing already. Because what was missing was the most important part of a story for me: the act of the narrator retelling it. Everything I've ever written has been so much about a narrator piecing together his or her story after the fact, sorting through the details and the meaning and the implications of it. Without that, I was missing the fuel that drove the whole story.
Do you notice point of view when you're reading? Does it make a big difference for you or do you have a strong preference for what you read?