Periodically on whatever writing loop or group I belong to, someone asks everyone else whether to use "Mom" and "Dad" in the narrative for the deep third POV character, or "his mother/mom" and "his father/dad."
It seems like such a simple question. You want your third person POV to be as deep as possible, climbing under the skin of your main character and showing the reader his world and experiences through his eyes. So, if he calls his parents "Mom" and "Pop," then perhaps they should be "Mom" and "Pop" throughout.
I have to admit, that never really set well with me, and recently I figured out why.
During the day, I've been editing a manuscript in which the author wrote in the deep third person POV of an eight-year-old child I'll call Cheryl. Cheryl called her mother "Mommy." So, I read sentences like these: Cheryl looked for Mommy, Cheryl helped Mommy, Cheryl tried not to get Mommy mad, and so on.
In the evening, I've been reading Brandilyn Collins's Double Blind, which is written in first person, in the POV of Lisa. Lisa's mother showed up at her door, taking her entirely by surprise. Collins alternates between calling Lisa's mother "my mother" and "Mom," but when she calls her mother "Mom," it's natural because of the first person POV: "Mom and I exchanged a glance" (quoting from page 123).
Seeing the difference between these two novels brought the answer home to me. The reason using "Mommy" in deep third hits me wrong is because the main character herself is still called by her name.
I rarely if ever think or speak of myself as "Linda." I use the first person pronouns. But when writing in third person, we have no choice but to put in that distance where the character "calls" herself by her name. "Cheryl tried not to make Mommy mad." It seems odd to me that, as the reader goes from paragraph to paragraph, she will call the main character by her name, but the MC's parent "Mommy."
I don't recommend calling "Mommy" Francine while in the main character's POV, but "her mother" is okay, or "her mom." Of course, an alternative is to make sure you have to identify her at all. As I said in "Proper Nouns, Pronouns, and Deeper POV," it's okay to use pronouns. If you've already identified "Mom," it's okay to call her "her" as long as you're not confusing your reader.
So for what it's worth, there's my opinion about something that has confused quite a few newbie authors. Maybe even now it's clear as mud.
Linda Apple is the author of Writing From Your Soul, Writing Life ~ Your Stories Matter, Connect ~ A Simple Guide to Public Speaking for Writers, POW; Promises Kept and Women Of Washington Avenue, her debut novel and the first book in her Moonlight Mississippi series. Her personal experience stories have been published in 16 of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her devotions have been published in numerous devotion magazines and books. She lives in Fayetteville Arkansas with her husband, Neal, their five children, five children-in-love, and ten grandchildren.
Jody Bailey Day writes inspirational fiction from west Texas. Her debut novel, Washout Express, released June 2013 from Harbourlight Books. Her short stories, poems, devotionals, and articles have appeared in Mature Living, Splickety Magazine, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Southern Writers Magazine, and Christiandevotions.us, She is a two time Grand Prize Winner at the East Texas Christian Writers Conference, and a Faithwriters.com Best of the Best award winner. She and her pastor husband have six grown children and nine grandchildren.
Deborah Dee Harper writes from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, by way of Michigan, Kentucky, Alaska, Mississippi, and Alaska (again). Deb is a graduate of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild classes and writes Christian humorous and inspirational books for both children and adults. Her children’s adventure series, Laramie on the Lam, available in both e-book and print, is being re-published as six individual print books. Her Road’s End series (Misstep, Faux Pas, and Misjudge) for adults is also contracted and should be published soon. She is currently nearing completion on the first book of another series. She is represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency.
Lisa Lickel is an award-winning multi-published inspirational novelist, blogger, reviewer, and writing mentor. A freelance editor, Lisa loves all things historical. Her work has appeared in Writer's Digest and Christian Fiction Online.
Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador, where she could rival Captain Jean Luc Picard in consumption of Earl Grey tea. She is the author of Emergence, Retaliation, and Capitulation, novellas and novels in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in English literature (Renaissance) and for eighteen years taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His poetry has appeared in leading journals and is collected in his book Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond.His fiction includes a light-hearted mystery, Rhapsody in Red, and two suspense novels, Deadly Addictive and The Lazarus File, and a historical romance, Lightning on a Quiet Night. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ groups and conferences. He lives near Houston, TX, where he continues to write fiction and poetry, as well as essays on writing, ethical issues, and U.S. foreign policy.
Editor/Author Linda Yezak lives with her husband in a forest in east Texas, where tall tales abound and exaggeration is an art form. She is a speaker/lecturer for various writers' groups and conferences. Her fiction books include Give the Lady a Ride, The Simulacrum, and The Cat Lady's Secret. Her nonfiction books include Writing in Obedience, co-written with Hartline Literary agent Terry Burns.
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