Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Choose Your Voice

I love author visits. I am currently teaching writing classes for first, second, and third grade at a charter school. Yesterday I taught dialogue and tomorrow I will teach about voice or point of view. POV is the way writers usually say it. I like to call it voice.

I like to call it voice, because it reminds me that voice is what lets us know what's going on a characters head. Every story has a storyteller, and the storyteller is the one with the voice. That's the person who lets us into their head.

In books we have the unspeakable privilege of getting inside a character's head. This rarely happens in tv or movies. In books it happens all the time. We hop inside a characters head easily when the book is written in first person. The storyteller is a character and we see the story through their eyes.

Here's an exampler of first person from The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills.

"I sat on a stool back by the woodstove with Clemmie on my lap, so no one would step on us. I couldn't stand it! They all wore black, black like the coal mines that killed my papa. He didn't even like black. He liked all the bright colors of the day. So why were they wearing black, I wondered."

When the storyteller is a narrator, we can also see into a character's head but it happens a little differently. The narrator tells us what the character is thinking or feeling. Usually the narrator only tells us about the thoughts and feelings of one character. Head hopping is when a narrator talks about the thoughts and feelings of lots of characters. It is hard to pull off. Sticking with one is usually a good idea. This type of writing is called third person.

Here is an example of third person from the book Lu and the Swamp Ghost by James Carville.

"My poor swamp ghost! Lu thought. He may have no family, but he does have a friend. Quietly she eased away from the table, loaded a basket, and lifted a key from a hook on the wall."

Recently I started wondering if there is such a thing as second person. It makes sense that if there is a first person, and a third person, there should be a second person.

Voila, I found it. Second person is when the storyteller addresses the audience. It is not very common in fiction, but is often used in non-fiction, especially how to books. Since I am a lover of picture books, I looked for examples in picture books and I found a few.

Here is an example of second person from The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! by Mo Willems.

"Oh, Don't worry. I'll take care of it! I promise I'll water it once a month. What?! Everybody knows that puppies need plenty of sunshine and water! Oh...I get it. You don't want me to be happy, do you? You don't want me to take a piggy back ride on my puppy! Or play tennis with it! You just don't understand."

All three styles can be very engaging. Choose your voice. The choice is yours.

Linda Garner


Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss linda! wow good voice stuff. i gotta tell you i didnt ever hear of 2nd person before. its kinda cool but i bet its pretty hard to do. mostly i do 3rd person but i wanna try doing a story in 1st person. thanks for a neat post.
...hugs from lenny

Carolyn V said...

Nice examples Linda! I read a whole YA in 2nd person once. I still wonder how the writer did that! So hard. ;)