POINT OF VIEW
Choosing the point of view for my novels is the single most frustrating aspect of writing them. With Cricket and Grey I solved the dilemma by using both. Not a style preferred by all readers but it felt right for that book. It served the story in a way I needed it to. However, I’m working on my Bad Romance manuscript and just like with every novel I have in progress, this is the point that really makes me feel stabby. This particular novel needs to be in one single POV. So I’ve written a short first chapter in 1st and a short first chapter in 3rd. Here’s what I want to do: show you the first few paragraphs of each version and hear what your preference is. You have to bear in mind that this is merely a first draft which means VERY ROUGH WRITING. So the only thing I want to know is – which version draws you in the most. If neither draws you in at all, don’t comment at all. Ready?
First few paragraphs in 1st person:
The moment our eyes met across the stuffy crowded bar and he grabbed his crotch, licked his lips, and winked at me, I regretted letting my friends drag me to Rick’s place on the night of my homecoming party. I was starting to regret going out at all. The group of friends I’d missed so much while working in Los Angeles seemed different to me now. Maybe because I was thirty two years old and I was getting tired of the bar-hopping lifestyle my friends seemed to be holding onto tightly. By eleven o’clock Kim was barfing into the bathroom trashcan at a bar with the unfortunate name of “Salt Lick”. They all promised me they’d hand Rick’s balls to him if he bothered me, but by the time we reached Frontier, Kim and Suze were licking just about everything that got close enough to their faces for their tongues to reach. Far from protecting me from having to deal with Rick, Suze dragged him to our table as soon as she saw his little performance.
“Look who I found!” she said to him, pointing at me like an exhibit “The little royal highness herself has returned from the south” she tossed back the rest of her drink and burped.
“I knew you’d come crawling back eventually” he said, grinning smugly.
“I’d use those rad psychic skills of yours to save your balls from my knee” I suggested.
“You’re just as hatchet-tongued as ever” he said.
“My works here is dones” Suze said, hiccuping once before wandering off to locate better sport.
“Play your cards right and Suze will lick you without you having to ask for it”
“She’d lick a pile of shit in her condition” he said, looking at Suze’s retreating back.
“That’s what I just said”
He looked down at me with annoyance, opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, and walked off in the casual way he always did.
I could see Kim trying to swallow another person whole in an epic face-sucking session, and Suze was suggestively licking beer foam off of some girl’s glass while the girl looked on in amazed horror. I was much too sober and suddenly feeling more lonely than I had felt living alone in Los Angeles for the last six years.
I squeezed myself between two people at the bar to order myself a drink.
“Want a lift? You can see better from my lap” offered the man to my left. I sized him up and down slowly, to be sure he noticed.
“I get it, clown, I’m short” I said. The bartender, a thin Asian guy, threw a bar towel over his shoulder and leaned in to take my order.
“I’ll try the Garland Special” I shouted into his ear.
“Feeling desperate, are you?” he asked.
“I beg your pardon!”
“You have to be in a desperate mood to appreciate this one. If you’re not feeling desperation of any kind, may I suggest the Coit Tower Fog instead?”
“Desperate and much too dry. I’ll stick with the Garland Special”
It took him a while to get to my order but when he did I watched with fascination as he made my drink with an economy of energy that still managed to communicate a flourish. What he set in front of me did look like despair itself. The liquor was a muddled brownish color near the bottom with floating bits reminding me of flotsam in the bay. A slightly charred dark brown onion stabbed through with a knotted wooden pick drowned itself under the layer of ice. I fished it out and, without thinking about it, popped it in my mouth. It was a revelation. It tasted of balsamic vinegar with the smallest wisp of rosemary and though it had seemed solid enough in my drink it gave itself to me like a prostitute to her last John. Then I laughed out loud at my own thoughts brought on by a goddamn cocktail onion. The bartender looked over his shoulder in my direction and smiled when I raised my drink to him in salute.
First few paragraphs in 3rd person:
The night was clear and hot. The smell of piss on grimy asphalt wafted from the entrances of every alleyway mixing exotically with the heavy perfume of the drunken crowds stumbling down Comumbus and Broadway. This wasn’t the homecoming Geneva had imagined for herself. She watched Suze and Kim chattering with their heads close together just ahead of her. Her best friends through high school were looking old and slatternly in their tiny dresses and five inch knock-off Louboutins. She felt betrayed by time and memory. The friends she left behind were fun and spirited but now they just looked like unprofessional call girls. They’d criticized her look too.
“Chinos, Eva? Really?” Suze said, looking Geneva up and down.
“They’re not chinos, they’re-”
“Are you gay?” Kim broke in.
“You’ve known me for seventeen years and you don’t know I only date men?”
“If you’re not gay, why wear men’s shoes? You didn’t used to wear men’s shoes” Suze looked like a person who knew they’d asked the clincher of a question and practically licked the cream from her paws while Geneva just stared at her with a distinct chill in her expression.
The whole conversation was ridiculous and yet it bothered Geneva. Her friends didn’t used to be so stupid. The fact that she was wearing Dickies and men’s wing tip shoes didn’t make her look the least bit manly. Even her boyishly narrow hips couldn’t do that. She was wearing her signature style, men’s pants and shoes, a fitted scoop necked tee, antique Victorian garnet chandelier earrings, her dense curls pulled into a messy top knot, and her small wrists were weighted with several gold bracelets. Her dark upward slanting eyes were set off with black liner making them appear bigger than they were. In spite of her lashes being straight and not very long, it was her eyes that most people remembered most about her face. More than they remembered her full lips on which she always wore a shade of crimson lipstick that particularly set off her creamy brown skin.
Geneva didn’t regret moving back to San Francisco. The air here had that inimitable blend of city grime and sea fog that was part of her childhood and after six years of living under the heavy hot smog of Los Angeles, it felt wonderful to breath the fresher city air of home. Even on rare steamy summer nights such as this one, the air was so much cleaner. What she was regretting was letting Suze and Kim take her out. They were determined to end the evening drunk in strangers’ beds. Now they were dragging her to Frontier, the bar her ex-boyfriend owned. No amount of objection deterred her two friends. She thought about abandoning them and heading home to the tiny studio apartment she just moved into. Surely unpacking boxes was better than this.
Instead she followed behind them reluctantly telling herself that the sooner she faced Rick, the better. Just as they reached the bar, Kim lunged to the nearest trash can and barfed loudly. When she was finished, she wiped her mouth on the back of her hand,and said “Let’s DO this, bitches!” They entered the crowded bar and looked for a table.
Which version draws you in more? I think doing this exercise convinces me that 1st is the strongest.