“The truth is not distorted here, but rather a certain distortion is used to get at the truth.”
- Flannery O’Connor
Frankly, I’m stuck. My 100-page novel manuscript has sat quietly for a few weeks now, as I’ve pondered and knitted hats and fretted and written a couple of short stories and fussed and knitted some more.
A friend who keeps a journal recently told me how interesting it’s been for her to write about her life from the third person point of view. It’s been a great exercise in establishing some distance from the business of everyday living so she can sit back and observe, rather than be too deeply involved in what she’s written.
It got me thinking about point-of-view (POV) and how I use it in the fiction I write. At writing camp this past summer a literary agent told us that with very few exceptions will he represent a novel that is NOT written in the first person. He feels that the first person POV brings a certain intimacy that you just can’t find in something written in the third.
It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable writing fiction in the first person. I’d say most of my short stories have been written in the third person, and two of the three POV’s in my novel are also in the third. As I think of it, there is a distance in fiction with the third person, and maybe it is a safe distance. But safe for whom? The reader? The writer? And safe from what?
Or is it more a question of what fits the voice of the story best? As my mentor suggested at writing camp, the novel is the voice. Margaret Laurence’s The Divinersis written in the third person, and I can’t imagine it being written any other way; nor can I imagine a more intimate portrayal of Morag Gunn.
There is no easy answer to this one. But it makes me think about experimenting with POV’s in my novel. Maybe it would help me to get things moving again and push it out of the mud puddle.
It also makes me wonder if the agent at writing camp might be short-changing himself, and the rest of us, of another Diviners.