Are You a POV Snob? by Mae Clair

I’ve resisted writing this post for a long time because I kept deluding myself into thinking the title didn’t apply to me. But I can’t deny the truth any longer.

Yes, friends, I have shameful confession to make: I am a POV snob.

So, what exactly does this wretched trait imply?

Bald man with glasses and a snobbish expressionI’ve come to realize there is a standard set of guidelines I follow when choosing what to read. At first I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. Then a nasty little light bulb pinged on in my head, and I realized I rarely, if ever, deviate from the selection process below.

Before unveiling that list–and the woeful extent of my snobbery–I offer a heartfelt disclaimer so you don’t think I’m totally reprehensible:  My checklist only applies to authors I do not know personally, or have not previously read.  If you’re reading this blog and you fall into either of those categories, there’s no “checklist” involved.

For new authors, however, I systematically apply the following to determine whether or not I should purchase their novel:

  1. Do I like the genre?
  2. Do I like the cover? (Covers rank highly on my list. Without a snazzy cover, I rarely look further).
  3. Does the blurb intrigue me?
  4. Does the book have good reviews? (A few bad ones won’t deter me, but if most slant that way, I usually pass).
  5. Is the story written in first person POV?

“Yes” answers to the first four questions will have me pretty hyped up by the time I reach number five. I love to read, and by then I’m anticipating a great story because four of my five “must haves” have been met. But—and here’s where the snobbery kicks in—If the answer to number five is “yes,” it kills the whole deal.

POV snob. All. The. Way.

How did this happen, I wonder?  In my younger years I wrote a few shorts, and even a novel in first person, all presently languishing in a drawer somewhere. I’ve even tried to overcome my natural reluctance by purchasing the occasional novel written in first person, breaking my own stringent rules.

Did I enjoy those? Heck, yes!  Granted, they only amount to a handful, but a few rank among my all-time favorites such as The Alienist by Caleb Carr, and Bag of Bones by Stephen King.

Still…by habit, I always seek out novels written in third person narrative. I think it’s because I can sink into the story. I don’t have an “I” narrator relating it to me, so I’m able to become part of scene and connect more easily with the characters.

Many readers (and writers) love first person narrative, thus I am going to make a valiant effort to embrace it. Hence my reluctant revelation, crawling into the light to confess I am a POV snob. In 2015, I hope to slink from my comfort shell and read more books written in first person (we won’t mention present tense narrative. I have to take baby steps 🙂 ).

What about you?  Do you prefer one type of narrative over another? Do you have guidelines you apply when deciding if a book is worthy of your time? Are you—gasp!—a POV snob?

33 thoughts on “Are You a POV Snob? by Mae Clair

  1. I have to admit I feel quite the opposite when it comes to pov. I’ve found that while I have enjoyed many books in differentiating pov’s, the one’s I feel most connected to right away are in first person. However, my brain struggles to make those “personal” connections in 3rd pov. I enjoy them. Lots of stories, in fact, but it seems I get too easily confused on who is speaking or doing the action. And find myself, more often than not, back tracking a few sentences to figure out what I missed. I’ve also discovered that writing in first person is way easier for me.
    By the way… THE BEST I NEVER HAD is in first person. Get ready to power through that one in May 😉

    • Ooh, I didn’t know your next one was coming out in May. CONGRATS! And hey, I loved WITNESS TO MY HEART. You rocked it with that one, so you see, I do enjoy first person POV books, I just naturally reach for that “other” narrative, LOL. My former critique partner of 12 years (who passed away three years ago) used to roll her eyes at me whenever we discussed POV. She was the first to force me from my snobbery by getting me to read 1st, long before I even submitted for publication 🙂 What a sense of humor that woman had! I won’t tell you the things she called me, but we had fun with our POV discussions.

      Can’t wait to see what you have coming up with your next one. You always entertain me!

    • Hi, Victoria. Many thanks for stopping by to comment, and thanks for the Triberr share. I think my POV preferences go back to many, many years of reading third and omni. First became “new” territory for me. I usually track the number of books I read each year. Perhaps I should start tracking how many I read in first vs. third, and then I’ll be able to tell if I’m reformed by the end of 2015!

  2. Reading your post, all I can say is “Wait for me! Wait for me too!”
    I fit the first 5 points. Regarding the last one. . . I’ve read novels in 1st POV but, I must confess, like you, I prefer 3rd POV, either omniscient or limited. As about writing, I could never do it in 1st POV. I tried and I simply can’t. 3rd POV suits me better.

    • My writing style definitely fits third much better, but this post has me wondering if I should dig out that short story (a fantasy) and novel (urban fantasy/paranormal) and at least look at them again. I would redo the novel in third person, but the short was pretty cool the way it was written–in first. I’m presently reading book 4 of a 5 book series, and then maybe I’ll break out of my comfort zone and –gasp!– take a detour in first! 🙂

  3. I don’t think your preferences make you a snob! I do think that you have to feel connected to characters, and 1st POV can seem rather in-your-face sometimes. If you don’t enjoy that character’s personality, you’ll definitely feel it, and quickly, with 1st POV. LOL It’s a lot of fun to write, observing the world just through that character’s eyes. 🙂

    • Hmmm, I never thought about it that way. Perhaps that’s why I have ENJOYED a lot of first person pov books while others left me cold. There’s one best-selling series, which I’ll wisely leave nameless, that I did have to struggle through. I couldn’t connect with the character, who pretty much annoyed me much of the time, but both my former CP and my MOM insisted I would love it! 🙂

    • Good for you! I think as an author, my voice just fits better with third, so I tend to stick with what comes more naturally for me, but I did enjoy writing that short fantasy piece in first many years ago. Perhaps I need to dust off some of the tools in my toolbox! 🙂

  4. Interesting. I prefer 3rd person myself because, as a snoop, I like to know what others are thinking. And believe it or not, there are a few publishers out there who prefer that the novels they publish have both the hero and heroine’s POV (Not so much the bad guy though… go figure.) Anyway…although I have read first person POV novels and enjoyed some of them, I really want to know what the significant other is thinking… Yes I do…

    • Another good point. Perhaps that is yet another reason I gravitate to third. I like to get both perspectives (which usually creates more anguish and a stronger emotional bond for me). It could also be the genres I read, many of which seem to work better in third. I do, however, remember a series I loved “back in the day” that was written in first–Roger Zelazny’s “Nine Princes in Amber.” I devoured that, LOL!

  5. Not here. I really barely notice the difference anymore since I’ve read so many of all ways now. To me, it’s all about the story, which I know it is for you too, just getting over that initial hump 😉

    • Exactly what my old CP used to say…forget the POV and focus on the story. With authors I don’t know, it’s sometimes like wading into cold water. Once I get past the initial shock of the first “I” and adjust, I’m content to wallow, much like I would in a pool. 🙂

    • Hi, Erin! Lovely to have you drop in and comment. I’m glad my woeful snobbery gave you a chuckle. And you sound like an author’s dream, being open to any type of narration. I’m working on getting there, LOL!

  6. Mae, I totally get where you’re coming from. I used to detest novels written in first person. I still often feel like I’m missing big chunks of the story when a novel is told from only one side, but in the past several years, more and more books in the paranormal and urban fantasy genres, my go-to genres, have been told through first person. So, I felt like I had to get with the flow.

    While I could put up with first person in previous years, just about! I detested and loathed first person present tense. That sort of story-telling used to make me want to hurl a book out the window. Again, in the past few years I’m reading more books told like this, and if the author is doing her job well, I barely notice it. L.H Cosway, for instance, writes in first person present tense, but she’s a skilled writer, so I never mind it.

    • It will definitely take me a while before I can tackle first person present tense… That one still makes my hackles rise but it could be because I haven’t encountered a good read yet. I need to learn to move past noticing style and focus on story. Judging by your past dislikes and current likes, there is hope for me! 🙂

  7. Hi Mae, As soon as I saw your post title, I knew I had to read it. Then I saw #5. I must thank you for the kind and helpful comments regarding my 1st Person Paranormal Mystery Series. : ) I’ve read so many types of novels over the years, mostly in third and omni that it wasn’t until the paranormal genres became popular that I read more 1st person. A lot of my favorite series are in 1st person. I wrote in first person because I had such a hard time staying in POV writing third person. But 1st person has its own set of problems. Now, I’m writing in third and have got that down well. Least, I think I have. Great post!

    • Hey, you know what I just realized–and this is huge!–I didn’t even think about your paranormal series being written in 1st. That’s because I didn’t focus on the “I” narrative, I just enjoyed the stories. I think that’s because Rosemary felt so “real” and relatable and that’s sometimes a hard accomplishment in 1st ( at least from my reader’s perspective). And congrats on branching into third. I’m loving Talon and his gang!

  8. Love your post. I also prefer 3rd person POV. In romance I like to see what the hero is thinking and feeling at times, as well as the heroine. When I start a book and it’s in 1st, I get jolted, but I usually will continue the book. So many writers on loops fuss about head hopping– there’s another topic for you lol. I avoid it in my writing because that’s the way I was trained, but when reading I am not a purist about it. My writing mentor always said the goal is to avoid head hopping until you can head hop so smoothly the reader will not notice.

    • I love getting the H/h perspective too, Flossie. I also read a lot of thrillers, and I think because of the way the plots are structured, they just naturally work better in 3rd. As for head hopping, it seems to creep up in many books. I do notice it, but for the most part, can still enjoy the story if it’s not excessive. Like you, I was trained, one POV per scene and so I stick to that when I write. Thanks for the great comments!

  9. I actually feel far more comfortable writing first person. ‘I am Cara’ is a first person book, but I get around the limits by allowing each of my principle characters a voice. The current millstone, ‘Boulter’s Green’, is an experiment with various POV. The advantage of first person, for me, lies in the ease with which my character leads the reader into the story. There seems less need for scene-setting, a process which otherwise can become word-heavy sometimes, I find. But I have written third person, too, in other books. I guess it just depends on the book, the character, and the voice.

    • I think that’s a good way to sum it up, Frederick…the book, the character and the voice. A friend of mine writes a great paranormal mystery series in first, and that character has such a strong quirky voice, I can’t imagine the series being written in third. I’ve also read first person POV books wherein the author gives each character a voice. From a reader’s perspective, that works great! I can still get inside each character’s head.

      I do recall one book I read, however, that had 2 alternating 1st person POVs. Unfortunately, that author wasn’t able to give each character a distinctive voice, and one sounded exactly like the other.

      It sounds like you have a good handle on POV for each of your books. BTW, Boutler’s Green is a great title!

  10. I don’t think I’m a snob, but I like 3rd person. I like the depth it gives. I have and will continue to read 1st person stories, I even like the omni thing from books from earlier era’s but 3rd person is my favourite.
    There is a level of writing that I think of as chocolate layer writing, its rich, deep and I live the scene with the character. I am her or him, feel with them, see and hear with them, and I understand their needs. I love that full emersion kind of feeling. Thanks for posting on this Mae, sorry to be late to the replies.

    • Hi, Daisy! So glad you dropped by. What a wonderful way to express the type of writing you like as “chocolate layer.” It’s exactly what I enjoy in a novel…that rich, deep immersion, as you said. It’s the same type of bond I like to feel with a character, and I usually get that feeling best when reading third person POV. I am, however, going to continue to branch out into reading more first (or at least attempt, too), but I think I will always be a die hard fan of third and even omni.

  11. I’m so glad YOU said this! Brave woman. lol I’ve been a closet POV snob for a while and never said anything because I personally like so many authors who write in 1st…but I don’t care for their pov takes. Why? Dunno. I’ve read some really awesome books in 1st and loved those, but my reading list is a duplicate of yours. When I get to five it kills it for me and I often have to force myself. Usually when I pick up one and make myself start reading I’ll get into the story and enjoy it. Not always, but often. Still, it takes a lot for me to pick up the book in the first place no matter how attractive it sounds or looks. I can’t even write in 1st person. I’ve tried and maybe someday I’ll finish that one story I have sitting in my hard drive growing mold. Maybe that will break my snobbishness. I hate this about myself. As a reader, I’m working on myself like you are. Good luck!

    • Finally, another POV snob who crawls into the light of shame along with me, LOL! You sound exactly like I do….I HAVE enjoyed those first person POV books I’ve read, but it does take an effort to crack the spine (or open the Kindle). Unless I know the author, in which case I know their style, and am content to go along for the ride. Still, I will always be in love with 3rd person. I just love the richness of it. Glad to hear I am not alone in my preference But I AM making a valiant effort to expand my horizons and embrace more books in first. 🙂

  12. Wow, Mae, I’m glad we’re writing buds or you’d never have let my first 2 books make it past #5. lol Interestingly enough, when I first started writing I felt compelled to write 1st person POV. Now that I’ve written a few in 3rd, I’ve fallen in love w/ that style. As a reader, I will read either, though my snobbery/stopper comes with first person PRESENT POV–can’t do it. My poor brain just can’t wrap around a narrator who is telling a story as it happens. How do they know? It hasn’t happened yet! I know, I know, there are some terrific stories out there w/ this writing, but like you, my brain just shuts down when I come across this POV. Maybe this year I’ll try to grow out of my snobbery, too. 😉

    • Hi, Kyra! It’s wonderful to have you pop-in and comment 🙂 And yep, we’re writing buds, so I’m happy to read your books! 🙂 I have to say though, that I’m delighted to hear you’re making the switch to third. I do love that POV best! And I’m with you on first person present POV …I absolutely cannot go there. Present tense in general just throws me off, unless it’s part of a dream or thought sequence in a third person POV novel. I’m such a snob, LOL!

      • Haha then we’re present tense snobs together 😉 I have friends who can read it all, some who can’t stand one or the other. Everyone is different, I suppose. As authors, we just hope our beloved story falls into the hands of the reader who will love it most. Happy writing in 2015!

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