Choosing a Perspective for your Novel09:07
Over the past week or so, I've been reading Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris. It's a brilliant and funny novel that details the behavior of a group of advertising executives as their agency undergoes layoffs during the late 90's.
One particularly noteworthy aspect of Then We Came to the End is it's perspective. The novel is written in first person plural (we, us, etc.) which is extremely rare in fiction, especially long form fiction. There are a few famous short stories that use this perspective—A Rose For Emily being perhaps the most famous—but it's generally avoided by writers.
This makes sense, given how cumbersome the perspective can be. First person plural happens to fit well with Ferris's novel because the group of ad people function almost like a unified entity of gossip, fear, self-doubt, and jealousy. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but notice certain sections where Ferris had to strain a bit to make his chosen perspective fit the narrative. It by no means ruins the novel which, like I said, is fantastic; however, I suspect Ferris had a few "smashing-face-into-desk" type nights as he wrote Then We Came to the End.
This got me thinking about perspective in general. I think some writers have a tendency to forget that they can choose their perspective, and end up diving into whichever one feels right at the outset. This can sometimes backfire when mid-way through a short story or novel the writer realizes their ensemble cast of characters would have way more depth if they had written in 3rd, rather than 1st person.
I'm curious to hear how authors choose their perspective? Have you ever had to backtrack significantly? Do you give it a lot of thought before pen/finger hits paper/keyboard? Any perspective success stories?