Monday, July 1, 2013

Stick With Your Point-of-View Character

As a writer, I am very observant of the writing technique and style of the books I read. I try mainly to learn from this, deciding what I think is good technique that I would like to emulate and bad technique I would like to avoid. Still, I try not to be openly critical of other authors. Even in writing this post, I will refrain from mentioning the book or author I'm speaking of, only the bad technique that I wish to discuss.

I was reading along the other day in a book (which turned out to be a great book overall) that is written in first person present sense. Twice in the book, the narrator referred to characters by name that were introduced to her pages after she's already been using their name. Since this is written in first person PRESENT TENSE, how in the world could the narrator have known the character names to use them if they had not yet been introduced to her?

To me, this is sloppy writing. Of course the author knows the characters' names, but when writing, you have to stay in the moment with the narrator and your point-of-view (POV) character and only share details that they know at that moment in time. Of course, you can share more if the narrator is third-person omniscient. But whenever you have a book told in first person, you've really got to limit what you say to what they know (especially if you are writing in present tense where no future knowledge or experiences could be coloring the re-telling of the story).

This stuck out to me pretty strongly as I read the book, and really irritated me. Fortunately, it only happened twice and then the rest of the book was gripping enough that I got over it enough to love the story. Still, I wish that little bit had been a bit more polished. (And for anyone wondering, this is a professionally published New York Times Bestseller, so don't blame lack of editing or indie authors for this mistake).

That's it, I've said what I need to say about this. Now I'll get back to writing and hope that nothing I do will irritate anyone else so much that it will be the focus of a blog rant. You can't please everyone though, right?