Thursday, April 03, 2008

All in All, there's just no more brick in the wall

This particular post was inspired by Jace’s recent review of Gabriel’s Ghost. We are now both eagerly waiting for Shades of Dark! The author Linnea Sinclair popped in with some comments and one of them just struck me:

First person POV is a POV I love but I didn't set out to write first person. It was simply that the story could be told no other way. It was never even a question but over the past few years, when I've been confronted by readers who refuse to read Gabriel's Ghost because it's first person, I've given it some thought.

A few years ago that could have been me – the reader I mean – not the author (although I’d never write an author and tell her I wouldn’t read her books – I just wouldn’t read them and not tell her)

When I was younger I used to read a lot of first person books and they never bothered me. If I remember correctly most of Mary Stewarts books were written in the first person and I loved them. Jennie could confirm that but the poor dear has gone to Hawaii.

But that was before I really started reading romance books and since I've been pretty much strictly a romance reader for a while now, first person doesn't allow you to get into the hero's head. We only get one person’s POV. I would pick up a book in a bookstore and if it was written in the first person I would immediately put it back on the shelf. I even have a few books I purchased through a book club not realizing they were first person and when I discovered they were, I put them somewhere else and never even attempted them.

But with a well skilled writer, I've discovered you can get a good enough sense of the hero through the heroine's thoughts. I've read a number of really excellent first person romance books now and I no longer cringe when I realize that's how they are written. It's like a much bigger world has opened up again.

I think there is still a certain prejudice amongst many romance fans against first person books, and even I until very recently had a lingering trepidation myself, but I am discovering that I need to get over that.

I first started weakening when I began reading the Stephanie Plum books. Although not exactly romance books, there was enough romance in them to satisfy me. I love them. I adore them. And for the record – I’m a Joe girl – just wanted to get that out.

But even though I was weakening in my stance with first person books, I still wasn’t a happy camper when I heard that Linda Howard would be having a first person book coming out. Her books were definitely more romance focused. I presumed they wouldn’t be as good as her third person books because one of the things I like best about third person books is getting into the hero’s head during love scenes. When you think about it though, it really isn’t all that credible. Let’s face it – men and women view sex differently and being in the hero’s head in a love scene in a book is really still being in a women’s head as the vast majority of romance books are written by women.

Then, because it was Linda Howard and I just couldn’t pass it up, I read To Die For and even though we never got into Wyatt’s head, it didn’t seem to matter. I loved the book and I think it really worked told from Blair’s POV. I know many readers found her annoying, but I loved her. And I think a large part of that was because it was Blair head we were in.

Then after reading Games of Command last year, I simply had to read more Linnea Sinclair books and the next one on my list was Gabriel’s Ghost and I was pretty much sold after that. I loved it just as much as GOC. I remember reading a review on Jennie’s B(ook) Blog just before I posted my own thoughts. Jennie commented that she didn’t even really clue in that it was first person. I thought that this was very telling. A book can be read and enjoyed written in the first person without it even being an issue.

The next big leap was when Lisa Kleypas wrote her first book in the first person – Sugar Daddy. I confess that even though the wall I used to have was more along the lines of rubble, still, this was Lisa Kleypas. Then I got past my previous bias and thought if Linda Howard could write a first person book that I loved, then so could Lisa Kleypas. And so she did! When I picked up The Blue Eyed Devil, there was no hesitation at all. If two of my favourite authors could write in the first person and I could love the books, then I’m pretty sure even the remaining rubble is gone now. I eagerly picked up Blue Eyed Devil and read it - not a single moment of hesitation. And one of the books I'm really looking forward to is as I mentioned earlier, Shades of Dark which like Gabriel's Ghost is again done in the first person.

So how about anyone else? Do you have that preconceived notion that first books person books can’t be as enjoyable as third person? Have you put a book back on the shelf in the store when you discover it’s first person? And even more important *g* if you are one of those kinds of readers, have I a former first person chauvinist convinced you to give one of them a try?

Or are a reader who has no problems with first person romance books? Which ones are your favourites? Now that I'm cured, I'm open.

Next hurdle - first person, present tense. I hear that Grimspace by Ann Aguirre is the book for this one.


Shannon said...

I admit to having returned a book or two to the shelf because it was written in 1st person POV. I don't know why. I still hesitate on occasion. I shouldn't. One of my favorite series is told from the main character's POV (the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.) I think I am more open to that POV in my urban fantasy novels than in romance. I want that connection with the hero. For me, it makes the HEA more believable.

I do need to get past this. I fear I am passing up on some wonderful books. It is a slow recovery process, dealing with 1st personiphobia.

Katie(babs) said...

I never had a problem with the first person POV. I actually enjoy it. I wouldn't mind seeing a heroes POV since it seems we always see the heroine's.
I really enjoyed Linda Howard's Blair series, which is in first person POV and of course Grimspace and Ann does an excellent job at that.

Shannon: I have the Mercedes T books waiting for me at my library. Hopefully I will enjoy the series like you do.

azteclady said...

Grimspace, yes, definitely, go read it now.

With that said... I still don't much like first person narrative, but I devoured and adored Grimspace.

So while I'm no longer going to refuse to read a first person narrative book, I'm aware that I still have a bias against them. Therefore, and given that I also have a limited book buying budget, I do try to be extra careful about which first person narrative book I attempt next.

Anonymous said...

If an author can show and not tell I don't think the POV matters as much.

Jace said...

A few years ago that could have been me – the reader I mean – not the author (although I’d never write an author and tell her I wouldn’t read her books – I just wouldn’t read them and not tell her)


Oh Kristie ... LOL

1st person POV had never bothered me. Hey, which gothic fan can afford to be, huh? ;)

1st person done right can be enjoyable. :) I agree with you on Howard's Blair Mallory books - I liked the 2nd much more than the 1st though.

Kristie (J) said...

Jace: In my younger days I used to read a lot of gothic books too (I almost ate up Victoria Holt!)and you're right - most of them are first person too aren't they? But when I took my long break from romance and then got back into it, I just wouldn't consider a first person romance. Glad I've become enlightened though *g*

Anoymous: *happy grin* that's what I'm discovering too. It's rather freeing!

AztecLady: May I suggest any of the ones I mentioned - although a bit of a warning - not everyone loves Blair like I do. But the others - Yummers! I even lent One for the Money to my former CM today.

Katie: I have a few around the house that I will now read. The one that comes to mind is a couple by Jennifer St. Giles.

Shannon: *g* it is a weird phobia isn't it? Even though I've read the Stephanie Plum books for a few years now - and loved 'em, I still hesitated with the other ones - at last momentarily.

Ana said...

I don't think I have any realy problems with first person narrative if it is done properly i.e. if we don't miss other character's point of view. Not to know what the hero is thinking is a bit frustrating though.

A very good example of a fantastic book with a first person narrative is Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.

Interesting post Kristie!

Carolyn Jean said...

I think your post is right on about first person having to be good enough that you get the hero's POV through the heroine's thoughts, and I'd add, observations.

What I really love about first person, too, is I always feel so much closer to the narrator, and I enjoy that.

Oh, yeah, wasn't GG great?? And LInnea Sinclair is so gracious.

azteclady said...

Kristie, I will try Lisa Kleypas for certain, but I have already tried Stephanie Plum and Blair, and :heavy sigh: they are just not for me.

Tell us how you like Grimspace, please?

MaryKate said...

Another series that does a great job with first person POV is Elizabeth Vaughan's Warlords of the Plains series: WARPRIZE, WARSWORN, WARLORD. Amazing books, all written from the POV of the heroine.

How come no one ever writes first person POV from the hero's perspective?

Mollie said...

I don't even think twice about reading something in 1st person. I think one of the reasons is that I read so much YA stuff (for my other blog ), a lot of which is written in first person. So, it doesn't bother me at all.

nath said...

That would have been me too, a couple of years ago... but like everything, you adapt. I still prefer 3rd person narrative and find that sometimes, 1st person POV takes me more time to get into it... but I'm not avoiding it anymore... LOL, like you though, I'm going to have to conquer 1st POV present tense ^_^;

Katie(babs) said...

how could I forget Elizabeth Vaughn! Thanks for the remindeer MK! Her Warlord series is so good and great heroine POV.

Rosie said...

I was thinking about this very thing when I read BLUE EYED DEVIL by Lisa Kleypas. I love being in the hero's head, but if a story is compelling and done well, I don't even think about it. I would never not buy a book just because it's first person POV.

nath said...

See the thing for me is that certain genres work better when it's 1st POV than others... Like fantasy (Elizabeth Vaughan/Maria V. Snyder) or sci-fi... I don't mind the 1st POV that much... because ultimately, it's their journey that we're following. If it's a series and it's the same narrator, like the Plum, again, I don't mind that much... However, for romance, it's fun to have two sides: the heroine and hero.

azteclady said...

Oh man, yes! I have read, and enjoyed very much, the Warlands trilogy. But I think that nath nailed it--for romance, I tend to prefer seeing both sides of the equation, from inside their heads.

Then again, there are some writers who can pull off practically anything they try their hand at, so :grin: I'm learning never to say never :wink:

Sarai said...

Okay I have to say it doesn't bother me never has. Until I started writing in First POV then I realized a) how hard it is to write and write well and b)dang it I'm tired of reading books like that.
But oh well that's the way the cookie crumbles. As long as the book is well written I couldn't care less. Did even answer a qustion here? or did I just rant?

lisabea said...

3 of my favorite series of ALL time are first person POV: Sookie Stackhouse, Stephanie Plum, and Adrien English.

I lurve it under the right circumstances.

Rowena said...

I didn't expect to like To Die For or Sugar Daddy but like you, I loved both books to pieces! =)

Katie(babs) said...

Ah yes, Stephanie Plum! I love her opinions, voice and she is a Jersey girl ;)

Jennie said...

Yes, all of Mary Stewart's books except one (Thunder on the Right) are 1st person. I like 1st person -- especially in suspense stories. It makes the action feel more immediate.