Monday, February 3, 2014

Why do you write your books using only one point of view?


by Stephanie Morrill


Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Last Friday, I shared on my author blog that I'm releasing a novella written from Abbie Hoyt's perspective. Abbie is the younger sister of Skylar Hoyt, and when we met her in the Skylar series, she was fifteen and pregnant. The series ended after Abbie had her baby, but still in a rather open-ended way. After several years of receiving emails from readers asking about Abbie, Chris, and Owen, I found myself longing to write more of her story, and this novella is the result.

Throwing Stones will be available for free February 14th on my website. Read a description of the story here.
But why did a character as popular and ensconced in conflict as Abbie was in the Skylar series did she not get a turn to speak in the original books? Why was the whole series told from Skylar's point of view (POV)?

And the same question could apply to the Ellie Sweet books. Why is it just Ellie? Why not give her friend Lucy a chance to weigh in on things? Why not let Chase and Palmer get a turn? Here's why:

Um ... I just prefer one point of view.

Seriously, that's a big part of it. I write in first person because it fits my voice and my characters the best. Fortunately I write YA and first person present tense is widely accepted. (The Hunger Games, Twilight, Delirium, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, and every Sarah Dessen book on the shelf are all first person, single POV. Many of those are written in the present tense as well.)

I like how attached the reader becomes to the main character.

This can happen in third person, multi-POV books as well, but I think first person, single-POV books make it the easiest. (Many others disagree with me. That's okay.) When reading The Fault in Our Stars, I loved Hazel right away and didn't want to float into anybody else's head.

While you can write a first person narrative with multiple POV characters, you better make sure their perspective is worth hearing. The Help by Kathryn Stockett and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver are the two best examples of this. In both books, a very big story is going on and each POV tells the same story from a unique angle. 

But the other thing that makes the multiple POVs work is that Stockett and Kingsolver are both phenomenal at character voice. The characters sound so different from each other that once you're into the story, you would know who was speaking even if the chapter wasn't labelled.



You can also write books in third person but one POV. The Uglies by Scott Westerfield is the first book that comes to mind.

I'm not trying to persuade you to (or dissuade from) write in first person or a single POV book, but here are a few negatives about writing books with a single POV:

If the reader isn't wild about your character, they will have a very hard time liking your book because they're stuck with them the entire time. That's not to say they won't read it (I had a friend who didn't bond with Katniss Everdeen but who still read all three books) but it's more of a battle then a book written with multiple POVs. (Or omniscient, but I still don't understand the mechanics of how omniscient is different than head hopping, so don't ask me questions about it!)

If the author doesn't know the character well, the story will fall flat. It's always best to know your main character, of course, but since first person single POV is like taking up residence in another person's head ... you better understand what's going on in there.

The reader can only know what the character knows. This is the biggest drawback for writers who are considering a single POV book. No glimpse inside the villain's head. No behind-the-scenes peeks. Everything has to be interpreted through the POV character, and for some writers that can feel very suffocating as they tell the story.

For most genres, it's not the norm. If you're writing for publication, this can be a big deal. Like the romance genre typically has at least two POVs - the heroine and the hero. Often it will have the main antagonist as well. This is yet another reason why it's important to have read current books in the genre you want to write.

What POV do you normally tell your stories in?

On Wednesday, Jill will post about telling stories using multiple POVs, so make sure to come back for that.

There's still time to win Nicole O'Quigley's beautiful debut, Like Moonlight at Low Tide. And don't forget that this is the last month to earn Go Teen Writers rewards points! 



65 comments:

  1. So excited that Abbie got a story. =) And I love me my multiple POVs. But then, I write romance. Historical romance. I always have at least 2, usually more like 4 POVs. (And in some cases 9 or 10, but let's ignore those. They are the exception, not the rule, LOL.)

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    1. Nine or ten sounds a little crazy to keep track of. Writing a book like that would probably be the death of me.

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  2. It depends. Most of my writing is in multiple third - though very rarely omniscient. I tried that once. It fell apart and I was using multiple third by the end of the book.

    Sometimes I use single first - my newest published book has it - but that's because it's what the main character asked for. She had some pretty good arguments (she was supposed writing the book, not me) so I let her. I tried multiple first once, and I think I handled it pretty well - the two POV's were very easy to tell apart, as one was in Journal format, the other in memoir. However, I've been talking to the characters of that book, and we've come to the conclusion that as it's the only book in its system (all the series that work together) that I do that with, I may turn it back to multiple third, and ask for the opinions of the other five major characters. It seriously needs a rewrite, that's for certain ...

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    1. Yes, some characters are more persnickety than others :) It's great that you're willing to try a variety of POVs!

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  3. Wait, February is the last month for Go Teen Writers reward points?

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    1. It's the last month to EARN points for a while. You will still be able to use points you've earned, and we'll reopen the rewards program again as well, and whatever points you've earned will carry over. Make sense?

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    2. Yup! I hope it will open again soon. :)

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    3. We plan to. Jill and I really believe in the program. We also really believe in seasons where we need to be focused on writing :)

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  4. I usally write in third, and there are mutliple POV's, though say about 75% I guess is from the MC.Even though I rarely write in first (or present tense for that matter), I enjoyed reading the post Stephanie. It's always great to get more insights in why certain POV's work or won't work. Looking forward to the other side of the story on multiple POV's by Jill

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    1. I'm looking forward to Jill's post too! I think it'll be very educational for me as well :) I've attempted third person on a few drafts, but nothing that I've ever published.

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  5. This is such a thought provoking post, Stephanie! Thanks for writing it.

    When I started writing, I wrote in first person because it seemed natural. It was the way I thought, so it was the easiest to write in. All my books are written in single POV, but my first two are first person and my third and fourth books are written in third.

    After thinking a lot about POV in the last few weeks, I decided my second novel needs to be rewritten. I want to add a POV. I'm scared but excited about this, because I've never had two POV in the same book. It should be very interesting.

    I have an easier time writing girls in first person than I do guys. Also, for me, one of the drawbacks of too many POVs is that the story feels stilted, and the reader has to hold a lot of characters and their stories in their head at the same time. That's one of the reasons I'm having a hard time reading the Heroes of Olympus series right now.

    ~Sarah Faulkner

    inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

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    1. That's a great point, Sarah, and it's something writers of books with multiple POVs have to be cautious about. The reader wants to bond with a character or two, but if you try to bond them with too many, they might end up bonding with nobody because they don't have adequate time. Jill talked about that some (and how to deal with it) in a class we taught together, so I'm sure it'll be in Wednesday's post.

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  6. In the past, I've written mostly in first person, past tense. I didn't need the immediacy of the present tense because those stories were middle grade contemporaries. Right now, my WIP is written in third person, past tense. I wanted to see if I could even write in third person (I'm not very good at it) but so far, it's going along well. I haven't hit the Murky Middle yet, though.
    -Sam
    www.youngwriterscafe.wordpress.com

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    1. That's wonderful that you're stretching yourself, Sam!

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  7. I write in first person, one POV, past tense. I think those are the books I enjoy more too. I like realistic books (they're called contemprorary, right?) and one POV is OK with them, I think. I sort of like knowing one side of the story (though maybe I should try reading more multiple POV books).Also, for some genres, like mysteries, it's actually better if we know one POV. To sum that up, thank you for the post, Stephanie. :)

    http://teensliveforjesus.blogspot.ru

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    1. Yes, contemporary is the right term, Sofia. I'm very drawn to those books as well. And, yes, with mysteries it can be easier to build the suspense if you're just dealing with one person and their knowledge versus several.

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    2. 2 books I enjoyed in double POV were Krista Mcgee's Starring Me and Right Where I belong. The first book was written in one and I don't know what I liked more. :) Stephanie, do we have to read the Skylar Hoyt series beforehand, or can Abbie's novella stand by itself?

      P.S. I just mentioned mysteries, I don't write them :)

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  8. I seriously am about crying, just thinking of reading about Abbie! I haven't even read the whole post here yet, but I skipped over and read about the novella on your blog. And yes, I have tears in my eyes. I can't hardly wait for it to be released! My month just got a whole lot better, and it was already going great!

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    1. Oh, you're so sweet, Aidyl! It was really fun to write. I loved both the deeper look inside Abbie and being able to portray Skylar from the exterior.

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  9. I normally write third person, though I have an idea for a first person. The number of POV's always changes. I have one series with numerous POVs and then a series with only one. The single POV takes so much more discipline then multiple because every thing must center around the heroine's presence. I can't have much happen away from her or the reader will not understand what it going on. Where with multiple, I can have characters in all different places.

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    1. I agree - that's a huge advantage of multiple POVs. I like that you've tried both :)

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  10. I typically write in first person. First person comes most naturally to me, and I enjoy writing from one character's perspective. Sometimes when I've tried writing in third person I've discovered that first is actually better for the story, like in the case with my current WIP. Thanks for this post--and I can't wait to read Abbie's story!

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    1. Thanks so much, Jillian!

      And I've done something similar. Once I tried to change a book from first person/present to third/past/multiple POV. It really killed my voice. I think I could have eventually figured it out, but I was surprised by how hard it felt!

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  11. I prefer to write in third person because I feel it is really hard to express the other characters thoughts an emotions sometimes. Plus I usually end up using too many "I"s. But it would be good to see if I could learn how to do it that way I am more flexible in my writing style.

    HP

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    1. That's how I am too. If I write first person, I also tend to write those irritating "I"s. grr. I also love to incorporate daily life of mine into my story, though it would be kinda hard for me right now, cuz I just got a new baby brother and my main character is waaay older!

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    2. LOL Cheri, its nice to know I'm not the only one. Congrats on your new brother!

      HP

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    3. I'm putting on the calendar to write a post about avoiding the overuse of "I" since that seems to be common :)

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    4. i'll def be waiting! Thanks, HP, on the congrats! he's sure a cute lil thing!

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  12. I generally write in third person with multiple POV's because I like to be able to have two main characters who get separated at times. I feel like this gives me a more complete story for the way that I write.

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    1. That works really well for a lot of stories, Lauren. I'm looking forward to Jill's post on that this Wednesday.

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  13. First person is most comfortable for me. But recently I started experimenting with a third person present tense. It's going to be a little challenge, but quite fun, too. :)

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    1. It's good to stretch yourself like that sometimes. Good for you!

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  14. Wonderful post, Stephanie! :) When I didn't know what I was doing, I wrote in third person--or I head hopped. But now I can't even think about doing anything beside first person past tense. I tried to write my current WIP, Painted Skies, in third person, but that was an utter fail--so I switched to first person, and, oh my gosh, how much easier and better the writing is. But I love to read books in all POVs, third person is one of my favs--I just can't write it. :P

    TW Wright
    Ravens and Writing Desks

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    1. I'm glad you've figured out what works for you, TW! I'm similar. As a reader, I don't have much of a preference, but as a writer I certainly do!

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  15. Almost always, I use first person. It helps me get a better sense of the character, I think. And lately I've enjoyed present tense. I like reading first person better, too--especially present. I won't not read a book for its being in third person, but I do tend to feel better connected to the character in first person.

    As for multiple POVs...this is something I've only done recently, and I think it's Mrs. Williamson's fault with the Blood of Kings trilogy ;) For now, I'm really loving it, actually. I have two first person POVs in the pair of books I've been working on and I can honestly say it's really helped the story. They're both main characters, per se, but like Achan was the true main character in Blood of Kings, my female MC is the "main main" character. :)

    Anyway! Nice post! I'm so behind on GTW...but hey, at least it's because I'm editing. Almost done with that book of mine...hopefully finishing THIS WEEK, eep! :)

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    1. Congratulations, Amanda! That's a great reason to take a break from blog reading. We encourage that :)

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    2. Well, it helped, because......I'm done now! Eeeeek! So exciting and a little scary...

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  16. Julie-Anne HepfnerFebruary 3, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    I was so happy to see this post!

    I have been thinking about POV quite a bit recently because I am writing a Historical Romance, but in first person, single POV. While I know this is not done in my genre, it is what I am comfortable with at the moment. I may have to change it in edits if I want to get it published, but I will have to see how the story turns out.

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    1. She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell (pretty sure that's the title, anyway) is a historical romance and written in first person, single POV. So it can work!

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  17. I usually use third person, just because it suits my story best. But I'm currently writing a first person novel and I sure find it easier to write than third person.

    I'm puzzled myself about third person omniscient versus head hopping so I'm staying away from it for now. I can't wait for the multiple third person post as I use that one a lot!

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    1. I've read omniscient books that I really enjoy...but I always find myself wishing there was less distance between me and the character.

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  18. I write in third person several POV. Like what His Princess said (Love the "name" by the way) I can't write in first person without putting millions of 'I's. And I have a hard time giving my character her own voice, when I'm writing 'I' all the time. :)
    Plus I'm writing adventure/mystery that kind of stuff, so I like to have more than one POV. But I do like reading all the different styles.

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    1. Maybe I need to do a post on avoiding the I thing, since that seems to be a common issue. I also see it in many of the pieces I critique.

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  19. My WIP is single, third limited, past tense. Some of my characters demand to be first person narrators, and some are third person narrators. If I try to write third person ones in first, they just sound...off. The first person narrators are too bossy for me to have much experience going the other way, but I can imagine how the flat narrator of a story for school would have fallen, had I written her in third. As for single vs. multiple POVs, that tends to be a story-by-story basis. Whoa, I sound like I have so much experience with this. This is actually the first draft of my first novel. Or at least the first one I think will make it because it has both a) made it past the first few chapters + 10k (50 actually; NaNo project), and b) it, um, has a plot.

    Speaking of the plot, I'm having some conundrums and issues right now. As of yesterday, I have a villain. As of today, I have a much-obsessed over villiainous motive with a possible motive for the motive, all without TOO much muttering about why anarchists-who-are-not-exactly-anarchists would want telepathy. Hopefully. (The answer: they're deaf. Now I have to work that into the plot...)

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    1. Anonymous, it sounds like you have no problems figure out your characters' personalities!

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    2. Oh, I wish. For narrators I have to figure out which sort they are; sometimes they sound either equally good or equally horrible. No matter what, they will be a different character than their POV-type counterpart, and I have to find out who the character is. My MC now is third person, and I know now it was the right choice. In first person, she sounded a little snarky, which is just not like Meredith, at all. I know that now, but she might have very well been spiteful if I had written her in first. In fact, a lot of first person I attempt sounds judgmental, like my narrator will point out flaws, and I can't seem to make then do it in a nice way. That's why my first person (generally) characters are the bossy ones -- they've got that sarcastic personality type, and, literally, are bossy. Or they use lots of big words.

      For some non-narrators, I'll know their role in the story but not who they are. (Cut-outs, in other words.) In an unfinished short story lurking on my computer, the narrator's love interest plays a role being a catalyst for her making a choice, but as a character he's kinda meh. So when I come back to that after first drafting my WIP, he's going to have an obsession with liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen makes things cool. Downright cold, if you'll pardon the pun.

      Recently I read the first two Reinvention Of Skylar Hoyt novels. (Book 3 is at another branch of the library. I think I'll have to buy it, especially so I can read about Abbie!) I'm not really much like Skylar, but I can understand Skylar, which is more important. It's encouraging when you mention developing Skylar's story in one of your posts, because it reminds me that even published authors with great characters still had to do work to develop them, that even though voices read effortlessly they probably weren't written that way.

      By the way, which profile do we select if we want to publish comments with a pen name? I'm not allowed to use my real one on the internet. If we use the name/ URL, do we have to have a website or something? *blushes, not knowing much about computers*

      - The same anonymous from above. Possibly pen name Miri Williams, or Melissa Larken.

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    3. You can do the name/URL, but just do the name! :) That's what I do! :)

      -Patience

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  20. I have a very hard time expressing emotions when I write in third person. I much prefer first person, but I haven't always. I also had a hard time using "I" too much. It's unavoidable to not use it, but having short, bare bone sentences helps. It is harder to express the emotions of others, so I have my MC trying to figure out what others are thinking and feeling, and she's not always right and that leads to false conclusions and sometimes negative consequences when she's wrong, and I feel like that adds to the story. Like Tris in Divergent. She was almost always wrong about Four's motives, and that was very real because we don't always know how people think, and we can come to the wrong conclusions and we, and those around us, have to deal with those consequences. Sometimes I write scenes from other character's POV's, but not to be in the actual book. Just an extra to help me get to know some of my side characters.

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  21. I loved this post, Ms. Stephanie! Typically, when I write in first person I like to keep one POV. It's easier to stay inside the characters head that way. However, since reading Roth's Allegiant I've considered eventually writing a story in first person with two POV's. Tris and Four both had completely different voices and it was so easy to switch between their chapters.

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  22. I personally prefer one POV, especially when I'm reading. It gets tempting to write in more than one buuuut, as a reader I find it super hard to emotionally invest in TWO characters all at once. Plus, I find a lot of writers don't make enough difference between their characters' voices and it gets confusing.

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  23. I'm currently writing a novel using the One Year Advemture Novel curriculum, so it will be the first time I write a novel in first person. But I have always stuck to one POV character per novel - I think it gets really messy with two or more, though that's just my personal opinion. Although I do like to see the story from the villain's perspective. I always gotta love the villain. XD

    Too many POV's can really ruin a story - especially if they're all in first person. I think it gets tricky switching from character to character in first person point of view.

    So far, generally all my work has been in third person, but a tight POV around him or her.

    Robert

    sunsetrising.blogspot.com

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  24. I prefer third person and multiple P. O. V. s (That way I can love all the characters!). I usually use two or three veiws. I barely ever write in first person, but I say whatever is best for the story. I find third person easier to visualize, but first person is better for feeling the emotions.
    Personally, I'm at the opposite spectrum of you. I love multiple P. O. V. s and third person as long as it's done right.
    Either way, I say pick the P. O. V. s that fits your story best because neither of them are "better" than the other.

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  25. I never want to get "handicapped" - as I think about it - in using one writing method so I write in first and third person....I plan to try out second person soon. Also I play around with the tenses. Some I use past, some present, and one short story I did in the future present tense....that turned out neat.

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    1. Ooh. I've been plotting a second person story. Need to pull it back out and work on it ..

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    2. Second person sounds so difficult! :)

      -Patience

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    3. What's your story about ? I haven't chosen how to write the second person story yet :)

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    4. The story of "your" (the reader's) very important childhood before it became imperative that you be sent to the real world with your memories erased. It will be amazing. When I get around to it.

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  26. I always write in first person point of view. I've tried to write in other views, but it never works for me.

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  27. I usually write in first person. My current WIP switches between the MMC and the FMC' s POV's, an occasionally I have a chapter from the antagonists' POV. Is that weird? To switch between two and then throw in the antagonist suddenly?

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  28. Oh, this was a great post, Mrs. Morrill! Thank you. :) And congratulations on your book! :D How very exciting! :)

    I used to do third person all the time, but decided to try first person . . . and it's now my favorite POV. :) Absolutely amazing the difference. I love the feel, the style, and think that it's much easier for me to write in first person and deliver the emotions and thoughts of the MC. :)

    With first person, you can only do one POV right? At first I thought that I would feel "handicapped", without being able to have a second POV character, but that didn't prove to be the case at all. :)

    -Patience

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  29. Thank you. I have sooooo much trouble with POV and other tiny details. I'm always thinking: "I'm always writing in first person! People will notice. I'm stuck in a rut. XC Isn't that name strange for a boy? Too babyish?" And then I realize something. I never think about those things when I'M reading. Sigh.

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