Before I was a writer, I was a reader. I didn’t have the know-how to put into words how Point of View (PoV) affected me, but I realize now how much of an impact it really had on my reading experience.
For example, I read Alan Campbell’s: Scar Night cover-to-cover in a matter of a week. I absolutely loved it. But even while I was reading it, I knew it was a little more distanced than what I was used to. At the time, I didn’t know why, but now I can say that it’s because Campbell writes in “Third Person Limited”. Which means the narrator only knows what the main character knows, but it is told as a matter of the narrator’s observation rather than seeing the action though the main character’s eyes.
Knowing this, it feels natural that Third Person would make it more difficult to connect with the main character. We cannot get in his or her head, we can’t feel the emotion and the worries with them. We have to crouch down and observe like a stalker in a dark alley.
When I tried to move onto Campbell’s second book in the series, Iron Angel, I was shocked how quickly I lost interest. I rarely put a book down once I begin reading it, but I actually had to stop reading after about 80 pages. So, why didn’t I have this problem in Scar Night? In Scar Night, the story is in the “real world”, so to speak. The observations are not difficult to comprehend, even in the fantasy world setting. I fell in love with the main character and his awkward personality. Even in Third Person, I was able to emotionally connect. I think this is a triumph for Campbell, that is not an easy thing to do in Third Person writing. (I’ve tried!)
However, in Iron Angel, the world shifts to a more supernatural setting. The “real world” is all but nonexistent. Campbell’s descriptions are doing their best to describe the bizarre world around the main character, but without getting in his head and seeing what he sees, I just don’t feel as connected. And to add to it, the main character becomes possessed with other souls. How am I supposed to understand how he’s feeling and what he’s going through? He’s constantly conflicted, and I don’t always know why. I found I lost my emotional connection with the main character, and therefore my interest.
While this isn’t really a review of Campbell’s work, which is stellar, it’s a great example of how PoV can affect the reader. I’ve discovered that I’m drawn to books written in First Person. What I don’t understand is that this PoV seems to be reserved more for young adult genres. Does it make me less of an adult to enjoy it more than Third Person?
I’d like to think I just appreciate emotional connection more than I do the artistic nuance offered in Third Person. And after writing a novel in First Person, I personally believe that it is much more challenging than Third. It’s very easy to overdo the “tell” versus “show” in First Person, as well as avoid an obnoxious use of “I” and “me”. Any writer who can pull it off has put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and has earned my respect!