Home » Distractions from My Angst » Books » A Matter of Perspective: POV WTF

A Matter of Perspective: POV WTF

I tried to write about what happened in Boston and I can’t. It feels appropriative to do so, when I’ve never been to Boston and I know only a few people who live there. So instead, I’ll just say that I’m hoping that they apprehend who is responsible as soon as they can, and that everyone affected by this tragedy finds comfort, and move on to a subject I do know: what I hate about some modern literature.

There are about eight billion “rules” about writing different perspectives, and I tend to think that all of them can be successfully thrown out the window.  If you don’t know the difference between third person and first person point of view (POV), here is a handy link that describes the difference (I’m not going to do it; ain’t nobody got time for that).  For the most part, I’ll roll with any POV if the story’s interesting enough.  However, there is a popular character in first person narration that drives me up the freaking wall. I’m sure you’ve read this book before, but I’ll describe it:

The narrator is female.  Coming of age, or only just out of teens.  She’s quiet and intelligent, but socially awkward with her peers because she’s not sure exactly what to say all the time.  She doesn’t like parties and she doesn’t drink or have boyfriends, generally. She doesn’t think she’s pretty.  She dislikes the “in crowd”, regardless if they’re cheerleaders or bolder young women in her acquaintance.  She likes school, but she’s pretty average – but she’s WAY smarter than most of the other young adults, she tells us. She says her life is pretty boring, actually… until [insert big life-changing event] happens.

What book did I just describe? Could be a few, right?  Twilight? 50 Shades of Gray? A Discovery of Witches? A(ny) Cassandra Clare novel?  A(ny) current Young Adult novel geared toward young women, actually, with the exception of a precious few?

Readers.  Readers. How do we keep reading this shit? That description above isn’t a character; it’s a pastel self-insert with all the qualities women sans self-esteem wish they would possess: shyness, virtue, and a razor-sharp judgment of any woman who actually has the balls to enjoy life. Oh, and while this character is super “average”, she assures us, there are always a few suitors fresh off restraining orders from their ex-girlfriends waiting in the wings.  Because that [insert big life-changing event] I referenced? It’s nearly always a guy. Which is fine if I pick up a romance novel, but this is EVERY GENRE. Sci fi! Dystopia! Historical lit!  I’m pretty sure that if I picked up a freaking cookbook in Barnes and Noble it’d have a demon flashing me his pecs on the cover with the tagline “Jeanie Smith had a normal life… until she ate his crème brûlée”.

And up until recently, this character happened every few books, but now?  I pick up a YA book and if I see first person female POV, I put that book back on the shelf. Because that first person is more likely than not that self-involved, twatty little idiot who can’t survive for five seconds without having someone save the day.

Ladies. Gentlemen. We’ve got to stop this.  We can’t keep letting this allegory-of-a-person be our window into fantastic worlds.  The the Bellas of the world, the Anas and Dianas and the Clarys… they’ve got to die. I want a book with a fearless heroine who sleeps around and makes bad decisions and doesn’t give a shit what other women do and thinks her ass needs work, but on the whole, she thinks she’s one hot momma – AND she’s still smart and in the middle of Big Shit when [enter big life-changing event] happens because you know what?  When big life-changing stuff happens, your life is never empty. You’re never waiting for it. You’ve got Big Things happening to you anyway and then here comes One More.

Am I going to have to write this book?  Or can someone recommend a book where the main first-person POV female actually is a real person and not a plot device?

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9 thoughts on “A Matter of Perspective: POV WTF

  1. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE write this book. These books are almost entirely why I am not a fan of first person pov writing. My most recent exception to this rule was “Old Man’s War,” by John Scalzi. I initially almost put it down but then it drew me in quick.

    • There are some GREAT first person POV books out there… there are even some GREAT first person POV books with a shy, intelligent female as the narrator… but lord are they (recently) few and far between. >.<

    • Very much a douche-move. I remember when I co-edited the lit mag in college how many second-person POV short stories came through and how much it made me yearn for murder.

      And yet I remember how much fun those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books were…

  2. It makes me miss the Animorphs. Rachel was hot and a badass and she knew it most of the time. I’ve read a couple of them recently and while the writing isn’t as great as I remember, that series gave me my love of first person POV.

    • Jamie loves those too! I never read them, sadly. One of my favorite heroines in recent sci fi lite is Georgiana Kincaid in the ‘Succubus on Top’ series. The books themselves are fun, nothing groundbreaking, but the main character is blessedly free of being a shy little sweet thing while still be independent, headstrong, and smart on her feet.

    • I totally know what you mean about dodging the problem – I RP a lot online and I’ve gotten into the habit of just playing a dude because it’s easier to do that than face the shooting gallery ready to tear into a character who’s female. It is so damn HARD to write a female character who isn’t a cut-out of some idea of a character!

      • I used to play a lot more men in RP myself, but lately I’ve found myself playing a lot of girls. I have no idea why or what changed. Maybe I’m trying to figure out to get at them better!

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