I just finished Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games. Overall, I'd give it a solid B. The first three-fourths were a good B+ or even A-, but that final quarter of the book was where it kinda dropped off. It bothered me for a little while, wondering where did Suzanne Collins go wrong.
After contemplating the third book and comparing it to Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I figured out what irked me about her final installment - it was the point of view (POV) she employed. It worked just fine for the first two books, but in book three, it doesn't. Without giving away the plot, just know that the story needed to be told from a perspective of someone that was ACTUALLY involved in the plot, since Collins wrote all three of her books from the first person POV.
Having worked with young aspiring writers, point of view seems to be a pretty easy concept to grasp. But when you sit down to write, it's one of those things that can either make or break your story. And then you get to over-thinking things. So I'd like to just talk about point of view, the strengths and weaknesses of each, and why you might use one POV over the other.
First Person POV: The entire story is told through the eyes of your main character. Easiest way to identify this POV is when you see the narrator using the pronouns I, me, us, we.
Some people might argue with me, and I don't mean to diss First Person at all. But it is the EASIEST POV for a beginning writer to write in. Think about it - we experience the world through First Person, so writing in that voice comes more naturally. Just because it is easier doesn't make it easy, however. But it is the least complex from a juggling-all-of-your-literally-elements standpoint.
First Person Pros:
1) The reader connects to your protagonist easier. First person is super intimate, making it easier for your reader to really get caught up in your narrator and your story.
2) Your main character's personality is allowed to develop more deeply. Since you're telling the story from your protagonist's POV, it's very liberating for a writer in working to make that character more three-dimensional.
3) You get to build suspense. Since this POV is limited to one person, you're able to conceal clues much easier. This is a helpful device when you want to surprise, shock, or get your reader to throw your book across the room.
4) If you write Young Adult, your readers will love it. Most teens are naturally self-centered and First Person satisfies that innate mode of thinking. If you disagree, you haven't been around teenagers enough. I taught 9th and 10th graders...oh man. Seeing things from multiple perspectives takes a certain amount of maturity. First Person is just easier for them to settle into.
First Person Cons:
1) Because you are limited to your main character, other characters might not feel as well developed. So your reader is relying on your protagonist's single perspective.
2) If your protagonist is unlikable. Maybe your main character is a jackass. Many readers might get turned off if they're repulsed by your protagonist's thoughts, feelings, and words. I personally enjoy reading a book with a main character I don't necessarily like - it shows just how strong the writer is. First Person makes that kind of dynamic almost impossible (i.e. Bella in Twilight. She was so boring and stupid, which is why I hated the books).
3) No subplots. With the limitation of First Person, you're really not able to develop subplots. I've seen writers try to get around this by changing the viewpoint to another character (split point of view). I will say that 95% of these efforts usually fail, as it's really tough to pull off.
4) It's easier for you to do more telling instead of showing. Because you're stuck in that one person's mind, it's all too natural to keep doing all of this introspective writing and have nothing going on. Sometimes, when I'm reading a book in First Person, and the writer has gone through four or five pages of the protagonist's innermost thoughts, I get bored. I want stuff to happen.
All in all, First Person is a growing POV and more books are using it. Young Adult, mainstream fiction, mysteries, thrillers...these are genres that generally are First Person friendly.
For more complex plots with multiple layers (i.e. epic fantasy or science fiction operas), I'd stay away from First Person POV.
Blogging since 2005.
Medical sales warrior by day, writing ninja by night...
I am the author of The Mechanica Wars series. The first book, Dragonfly Warrior, will be published in January, 2014 by 4 Wing Press.
I love science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, biographies, and chocolate chip cookies.