POV woes

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Raspberry

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Hello!
I am not new to writing, with a couple of books published traditionally, but this time it's getting to me. I am writing a suspense and started out with it a bit over a year ago. Multiple 3rd person (limited), past tense. Very thriller like, with action and multiple plotlines that merge at the end (as if I ever made it that far). Unlike the other times, I got lost in my plot, that much that I quit writing the story and let it sit. Actually I took a sabbatical from writing altogether. A few months ago, I found my way back to writing and decided to tackle this story once again.

This time with two 1st person narrators, in present tense. It was testing the waters as before I was no friend of this combination at all. However, with that constellation it was so much easier to develop plot and character arc. Although there are two narrators, one has the lead. So far, so good. I feel it fits the story.

But...
I'm not getting more out of the story than 65k. Someone told me I need to bump it up, which I cannot without introducing another character's pov. (I hate first person narrators that are bumbling along, lost in self-reflection). It's a suspense after all, so I feel the story needs a certain tightness.

Are three first person narrators too many? Plus, the third one I have in mind may reveal to much. His part stays shady until the end, but in his design he can't be a deceptive narrator. I could use another character, but this would feel forced.
Back to third pov for all? With a three 3rd person (limited) setup like I started out and wrote almost all of my novels?

Is there a trend to first person/present?
How many first person narrators fit well into a suspense?
Better first person/past tense?
Suspense better in 3rd/past tense?

Humph. Any advice or opinion before I jump out of our window (first floor)?
 
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lizmonster

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I tend to be against artificial means of plumping up word count, but I'll admit my problem is usually the opposite.

65K is a little slim for suspense, but I think not outrageously so. Have you had anyone read it for you yet?
 
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Raspberry

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The ideas I am having would be complimenting the story, I had the thread in my original setup. But it was taking too much away from the central conflict, thus I cut it out. I was thinking now more in the line of adding flashbacks (sparsely). I wouldn't want to fill the story line up to 80k or so, but just a tad.

I have three test readers going through it, in the 1st/present combo. Waiting on their input.
 

ironmikezero

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Why not introduce a plausible red herring in the plot? Both 1st person narrators can muse and wax thereon to your heart's content--just be certain this new plot device is cohesive, potentially relevant, serves to heighten the suspense/tension, and above all moves the story along. Done well, a red herring can enhance the overall tale (and your word count).
 

Woollybear

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If it is a simple matter of word count, I find that doing the exercises in The Emotional Craft of Fiction (in which various exercises give you paragraphs of emotional interiority) are good for expanding a story in a beefy (not flabby) way. I always get thousands of new words when I do those exercises, and then it's a matter of seeing which are pulling double duty--often they can not only add emotion but also stakes and context, deepen character, and so on. I write science fiction, and I'm a plotter, in case that matters. My draft sits at 117K right now, and without having done these exercises it would probably be closer to 98K (first draft was that ballpark.)

If you already bring emotional context into your work, this thought might not help much.

(No comments on the number of first person narrators you have. I've not read multi-first person much.)
 
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Roxxsmom

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I haven't read enough suspense in recent years to comment on the use of multi first person in this genre, but it's something that pops up sometimes in fantasy. The first draft of my current WIP is multi first person, and I'm wavering between two and three. I've even read novels where one pov is in first and another is in limited third.

I think multiple viewpoints in general work best when some of the tension is generated by what one person knows and another doesn't, and in some cases, by the relationship between the two people themselves. Person A has a secret they are keeping from person B. Person B assumes something about person A that isn't true. What complications arise from this lack of knowledge by person B? How will person B react when they finally find out the truth about person A? Another variable is how two people might piece things together as the story progresses.

The thing to look out for is the frustrating issue of two people who ostensibly should be able to disclose things to one another earlier in the story, so the tension is the consequence of a conversation they could have easily had but didn't for reasons that seem contrived. This can be in the eye of the beholder, of course, as one person's deepest, darkest most shameful secret is something another person would proudly wear on their sleeve. So it's all in the characterization.

I think the length thing might be a matter of what is sometimes called the "showing vs telling" thing, though I can't say for sure without reading a couple of chapters of your manuscript. I used to have a critting partner who had lovely plots and ideas for stories, but things that should have been novels were closer to novella length. The reason was they did a lot of "telling" during scenes and were really light on description in general.

Sometimes it is better to summarize. If nothing interesting happens on the protagonist's drive to work, you don't have to do more than say she drove to work. And some dialogs can be quickly summarized too.

But other scenes are important enough to require "animation," and some conversations are important enough to be presented as dialog in scenes, with other details about the subtext and setting included.

My first drafts tend to run long, because I want to show every conversation and animate less important scenes. So editing tends to involve going back and deciding what can be cut or summarized.
 
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gothicangel

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Have you thought about switching to limited third person. I am writing my WIP in this POV. I tried writing in multiple first person before, and in suspense/thrillers I think having more than one POV character can have the effect of letting all the air out of the tyres. I have noticed a there is a trend in MTS for multiple POVS but for me, it doesn't work a lot of the time.

What about adding a sub-plot? I do agree with lizmonster, I dislike padding too.
 

Janine R

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I think multiple 1st person present can work well. You may find it fattens as you rewrite. If you can get it up to 70,000 you’re probably good to go. If you had a plot thread in mind when you started out, maybe it needs that.
 

Autumn Leaves

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How many first person narrators fit well into a suspense?
Though Wilkie Collins, of course, doesn't exactly belong to the newest trends in mystery/suspense and so the opinion of today's agents/editors/other readers might differ from mine, The Woman in White is one of my all-time favorites, and it has several first person narrators, which works brilliantly for the plot.
 

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