So, if you guys have read any of my reviews, you know I like to talk about the author’s voice and the point-of-view used in the book I’m reading. I do this because I think they’re both pretty important aspects of any book. When I say ‘author’s voice’ I’m pretty much referring to the author’s style of writing. It’s what words they use, how they use them, punctuation, and a whole other heap of concepts that result in a book that literally sounds different from a book in the same genre by a different author.
Take Beth Revis and Meg Cabot. If I were to give you ‘Across The Universe’ by Beth Revis and ‘How To Be Popular’ By Meg Cabot and ordered you to read them, you’d unconciously pick up the differences in voice. Beth Revis’ writing has a flowing beauty to it that I liken to music, which features tons of character development. Meg Cabot’s is good in it’s own way but it’s aimed at effectively conveying the emotions of its teenaged protagonist, a character development exercise on its own but in a less subtle manner. If I were then to hand you ‘A Million Suns’ and ‘Pants on Fire’ with no covers etc, just the stories, you’d be able to figure out they were written by two very different authors and might even be able to figure out who those authors are. This is not to say one author can’t have a different voice for different types of books, author’s voice does help set a ton for the story being told. Rather the point is that each voice is distinctly that author’s and can be distinguished.
Now point-of-view, or POV, refers to the type of narration or where narration comes from in the story. Both Beth Revis and Meg Cabot use first person in the writing, though Meg Cabot is also known for writing third person. The difference between first and third person is that in the first person POV, the narration comes from a character in the story, usually the protagonist and thus you see the use of the word ‘I’ and a limited view of the events of the story. Third person POV means simply that narration comes from a source outside the characters. You’ll recognise it when the story refers to each character by name etc. Authors prefer different POVs in their writing, they may use first person when they want the reader to feel like they’re in their characters head or are feeling their character’s feelings. Third person may make readers a little more detached from the emotions of the characters so they can pay equal attention to the story or maybe even be overwhelmed by the story rather than the character’s emotions.
Voice and POV come together in a dynamic way. Authors can use ‘voice’ to compliment POV, or to fill in gaps it might leave. In Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters, first person is used and thus the voice used becomes Kelsey’s voice. The author, Meredith Zeitlin, was able to create an ‘author’s voice’ for this book that also served as her character’s voice, a typical manoeuvre when using first person. Through use of specific words, grammar, etc, writers are able to develop characters with each word they right by having readers feel like they are hearing directly from the characters themselves. It allows them to get to know the character in a way that feels effortless. This is not to say that the third person POV falters in this aspect, the author’s voice in third person books can also be manipulated to set a tone, give readers a setting, and help them to settle into to the story and get used to the characters.
No one POV is better than the other, rather one might suit one author’s purposes more than another at a particular point of time. Knowing which to use and knowing how to adapt one’s ‘voice’ are among the key components of weaving a great story. And there is an art to it that some can master and others might not.
Have you ever read a book that felt seamless in the way it was written? As if the use of the POV and author’s voice helped make that story the best it could be? Have you ever read a book where the POV or the voice used seemed to detract from the story written?
Take some time to think about it. I’d love if you’d share your thoughts in the comment section. Happy Friday, everyone!