POV Choices in YA

Photo credit: Hometown Beauty on Flickr
For many years now, as a writer I’ve been drawn to first person narratives. All but one (my first) of my many WIPs were written with “I”s and “me”s and to say that I’ve devoured a ton of first person YA narratives over the years is an understatement.

As of late, and for a while now, first person has become super popular in YA (I’m guessing Twilight may have something to do with this, given that it was the first first-person YA I’d ever come across and that series was kiiiiinda a big deal, but don’t quote me on that) though it is absolutely not the only POV option out there. So as a writer trying to decide which POV to use, how do you make that choice?

Let’s take a look at your options.

First person:

“This is worse, so much worse, than them seeing some stupid drawings. 
(Self-Portrait: Funeral in the Forest
But Zephyr’s not saying anything, he’s just standing there, looking like his Viking self, except all weird and mute. Why? 
Did I disable him with my mind?” 
-I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, page 5

I suspect first person is so popular now in YA especially because it gives a direct access to the emotional and tumultuous minds of teen protagonists, with the opportunity of a boatload of voice to boot. It’s easy enough for readers to transition into because we generally think in first person, so it feels as though the readers are really in the protagonist’s head, rather than being in a story. I find it an effortless POV to slip into while writing, and it frequently just comes to me naturally which is why I tend to use it so often, but that’s not necessarily the case with everyone.

Second person:

“You’re going to get out. You’ve beaten her. You can find Mercury. You will get three gifts.

But you’ve got to keep going.

You’ll be at the end of the loch in a minute.

Doing well. Doing well.

Not far now.

Soon be able to see over into the valley, and—” 
-Half Bad by Sally Green, page 12

Second person POV is the POV we all learned in middle school not to use. I remember my English teachers telling us second person POV was pretty near pointless to attempt because it was too easy for readers to pull out of the narrative (along the lines of I'm not doing what the book says I'm doing), and generally, second person POV is very rare in YA.

Now while I've yet to come across a YA written entirely in second person (the example I gave above uses sections of second person narrative, but is primarily written in first person), that's not to say that it can't be done. It would, however, probably be super difficult, given alone that readers just aren't used to it. (And honestly? Noooo idea how that would sell, publishing-wise.)

All of that said, you may want to play around with second person if you'd like to try a raw, immediate, and unsettling POV that'll keep your readers on the edge of feeling like everything is a little off. 

Third person: 

“Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold, and it was dark—in the dead of winter the sun didn’t rise until eight—but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to pain Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze.”

-Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, page 1

So I frequently mention voice when talking about first person, but the truth is the third person YAs I’ve read are also really really voice-y. Like the above. Mondayness and Januaryness and that imagery and—

I should probably stop fangirling and talk to you about third person perspective.

In terms of distance, third person perspective is slightly more distant to readers in that they aren’t plopped right in the POV character’s head—instead, they’re fed the story through a narrator, who, depending on how the POV is written (third person limited vs. omniscient, for example) will filter the story through that particular characters thoughts and feelings like first person, but through a separate narration.

That was confusing. Third person can do just about everything first person can do, but can also pull back more than first person can (though it doesn’t have to).

So what POV should you use? The truth is, it’s totally up to you to decide what feels most natural for the story (and for you). But the above are some things you may want to consider when deciding. If you experiment and read widely, you’ll figure out what’s right for your manuscript.

What POV do you prefer to read/write?

Twitter-sized bite:
Brainstorming a new WIP idea and not sure what POV to use? @Ava_Jae breaks down your options & things to consider. (Click to tweet)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...