Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Rulebook Casefile: Different POVs with Different Voices in “Gone Girl”

I talked last time about how I’m not a fan of including lots of third-person POV characters, so it’ll be no surprise that I’m not generally a fan of multiple first-person POVs. You know that I’ve always been a fan of having one hero for the audience to totally bond with.

If Suzy is wondering what’s going on in Bob’s head, then I want to stay with Suzy and bond with her as she tries to figure Bob out, I don’t want to briefly jump into Bob’s head to find out what Suzy will never know.

But if you have to do it, “Gone Girl” is a beautiful example of a multiple first-person POV novel done right:
  • It has a reason to exist: This is the story of a poisonous marriage, viewed though two radically different points of view with radically different facts. Either POV would be insufficient to tell this story. It’s richer for having both. This isn’t a case where we have the hero and an additional POV, the two are given equal weight. The interplay of the two POVs is more interesting than either on its own.
  • It’s careful to let us know exactly where we are at all times, beginning each chapter with the name of the narrator and where we are in the timeline.
  • It actually gives Nick and Amy genuinely different voices. The biggest risk in having multiple POVs is that the reader won’t be reading closely and miss the jump entirely. There’s no risk of that here. After six pages of his bitter, wistful, depressed, regretful, self-lacerating voice, looking back on their wreckage of a relationship, we jump to her chirpy, manic, needy, optimistic voice, looking forward to the sure-to-be-great relationship to come. Her first line is something he would never say “Tra and la!” 
  • And yet both voices are sympathetic, albeit in very different ways. We bond with both, to a certain extent, though we also look down on each (he for being a loser, her for being naïve)
Next we’ll talk about how even their similes are different...

1 comment:

essay best said...

On the highlighted key points - on the story of a poisonus marriage that is clearly being looked at a two radicallly points of view. Thanks for sharing.