In the moment, Rosa tells her story.
“Bronco Bill died today. The service is next Saturday. Do you think you can come?” Cha-cha asks.
“Ah honey, I’m so sorry. It took too long. Did he pass in peace?” I ask.
“Rosa, in the end he went peacefully. And yes, it took him a long time to die. “
We both laugh. It’s bad taste to laugh on the heels of death but God will forgive us both. Bronco lost his fight with Cancer.
“If it had been up to Bronco, he would have preferred dying last year, but he and God were negotiating. My name isn’t Cha-cha. Why do you insist on calling me by that name?”
“Sister that is the name Mother gave you. It’s the name on your birth certificate and what I’ve been calling your for the last fifty or so years.”
“But I changed my name and I am not that old.”
Cha-cha suffers illusions not to mention she was never one to embrace her heritage. “Come on Sis, is this really the time to argue with me about your identity neurosis?”
After the moment, Rosa tells her story.
Cha-Cha called to tell me, her husband of twenty years, had died. He had being fighting cancer for a while and had finally given in. She and I hadn’t been in regular communication so it wasn’t a surprise when she asked me if I would attend his service the following week. Of course, I would go. Bronco was good people. She made me crazy with all her uppity ways. She had slipped her Latina persona the second she left our childhood home and ever since, refused to acknowledge her birth name.
Sometime after the event, a distant third person tells the story
Rosa was standing in the kitchen watching the fog roll out across the Bay when her phone rang. She looked down to see who was calling. She rolled her eyes to the heavens and made the sign of the cross for her bad thoughts. Her sister Cha-Cha had that effect on her. She wasn’t keen to take the call, but if she didn’t, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Cha-Cha was relentless.
At the fifth ring, Cha-Cha considered hanging up but she wasn’t going to let Rosa beat her again. She had dreaded calling her sister, but she had to tell her Bronco Bill had died. Rosa was always fond of her husband.
How do you know which POV is for your story, for you? For some writers, it’s a matter of preference and comfort. Me, I am more comfortable in first person, present. I like being inside of my character’s mind (or them in mine) and living the story as it creates itself on the page. For reasons beyond my consciousness, dissecting the heart of an emotion, analyzing it with detachment, and then channeling through a character’s voice is as easy as drinking a glass or two of La Creama Chardonnay, it flows freely.
As easy as the ‘I’ voice is for me, I struggle, and painfully so, in third person (all varieties). Even if I try writing poetry from the third, I wallow. I am klutzy and butterfingered. The words on the page feel as if they’ve gone through the meat grinder and plop onto the page in a congealed blob, requiring an egg and oatmeal for cohesion.
In the land of third I ask myself how I’ll know what my character feels if I am writing her story outside of her head? And when I write from the past, I wonder how much my character is projecting what she thinks happened when it happened, and not really what did. At best, in the she voice the most I can determine is what she might or might not have felt given the circumstances I painted her into.
To me, it’s a lot like remote dial in. Do your remember the sounds of Internet dial in? The notes of the numbers sounding off—digital signals from the computer turning into frequencies traveling down the telephone lines—the high-pitched ping on connection (if you were lucky), followed by the long hiss before reaching nirvana. This is how writing in third person feels to me. I sit on the other size of the creative wall dialing into my character hoping for an intimate connection.
I don’t give up trying. When I start a new story, I type the opening line in different points of view. The POV that finds it’s way to the page without my involvement is the winner.
How about you, what POV are you most comfortable in? How do you decide which POV to write in?