Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fun with Point of View

I got the book done yesterday, so now just about everything writing-wise is with someone else. I need to do a little more thinking about cover art for a discussion with the artist. This is probably the hardest part of self publishing for me. In a way, it's so much easier to just give the publisher ideas and then accept what they give me (so far, I've been very lucky. Have I mentioned how much I love my new cover?). I keep forgetting that I can now give a lot more direction instead of taking what they give me and suggesting a few tweaks. I like what she's done, in general, but it seems like she wants more specific feedback, which is good. It will just take some thought because I'm really not a visual person. In fact, when I gave her the info on the book and the characters, she had to ask me for physical descriptions because when I described the characters, I told her their traits and personalities. Yes, to the artist. Who has to draw them.

I read a very frustrating book over the past few days. It did something very interesting with point of view that I think I'm going to steal, but then didn't use it, and by the time the plot got to a point where it got interesting, I'd lost interest because of the stuff that came before. I'm not going to name and shame but keep it vague because it's more about concepts than about this particular book.

The basic plot is that a princess runs away from an arranged political marriage to live an ordinary life as a commoner. The prince she was supposed to marry (and has never even seen) tracks her down, as does an assassin from an enemy country who was sent to stop the marriage from happening. Where it gets interesting is that it's all told in first person, with each character getting his or her own viewpoint chapters. In the guys' chapters, they're initially identified in the chapter heading as "the assassin" and "the prince," which means no names or physical descriptions are given, so that when they both show up and we see them from the heroine's point of view, we don't know which one is which. We know one of them is an assassin and the other is her erstwhile princely fiance, but she doesn't even know that anyone's after her, and the assassin doesn't know the other is the prince, and vice versa. Once they've told her names, sometimes their chapters are labeled with those names if those chapters are about events we've seen from her point of view, but it goes back to the titles if they're thinking about their reasons for being there.

That's an absolutely delicious setup because it keeps us guessing. Which of these two guys is which? Will she figure it out? What if she's trusting the wrong one?

Except this is a YA book so what happens is a love triangle with lots of misunderstandings. Both guys fall in love with her almost instantly, and their chapters mostly consist of them thinking about what a special snowflake she is and how she's not what they thought she would be like, that she's not like other girls who are only into girly stuff, but she's actually strong and capable, blah, blah, blah, and she's drawn to both of them but unsure which one she likes best because they both have their strong points. And they compete over her and I start to lose interest, so by the time we're halfway through the book and the assassin reveals himself (and I guessed right which was which), I no longer much cared what happened. I think, though, that my expectations were entirely based on the use of point of view so even though the story itself became more interesting, I was less interested once I knew who all the characters were.

So I think I'm totally going to steal this approach and use point of view to hide who's who, and I'll use it for suspense purposes rather than love triangles, and I may not reveal who's who until near the end. I just need a story idea to go with it because I'm not sure it fits any of my existing proto ideas.

By the way, I am getting so tired of the "she's cool because she's not like other girls who are all girly" trope, particularly in children's and teen fiction. I guess it came from trying to shatter gender norms and show that it was okay for a girl not to be all pink and princessy, but they went too far so that the message that comes out is that being like a girl is bad, but a girl who's more like a boy is cool -- the awesome girl is the one who swordfights and uses a bow and arrow and rides like a boy, while the girl who does needlework and likes music and wears pretty clothes is icky. We don't get a reversal of the trope for boys. I can't think of a case of the boy who likes sports and fighting being icky and boring because he's like all the other boys, but hey, it's awesome that this one boy can sew a perfect stitch and play the lute (unless he's the gay best friend, but then he's awesome as a replacement for a girl and in more or less a girl role rather than being an object of romantic desire). I suppose in fantasy it comes in handy if the girl can join in on the adventure with some skills, but when someone tears his pants, they'll wish they had the girl who can sew.

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