Friday, May 7, 2010

Tell Me Do You Lose Your Way Each Day

I read a ton of book reviews and notations on fiction writing. Every-so-often there comes about mention of a novel written in "first persons" or rotating first person narratives. Different characters sharing the same story.

This is how I wrote the first draft of LPT. This is how I originally saw LPT--all except the ending. The end of the novel was always supposed to be in third person. And then, when I wrote the first draft, it turns out that the opening scene worked best in third person, also, and easily glided back into first. But I wonder... How horrible or how successful (or some bland medium between the two) would it be if I added more third person, leveling out with a variety of first persons... Will that jerk the reader around too much? Or will it be delightful.

The trouble with so many books in first persons--and even some of the best contemporary fiction in first persons, say Bret Easton Ellis' The Rules of Attraction or Elliot Perlman's Seven Types of Ambiguity, eventually, the voices blend together. It's as if the writer cannot detach enough from his/her personal voice to sustain each of the individual character voices. (I think the most successful account of first persons I've read is Melvin Burgess' Smack, which, albeit young adult fiction, is an excellent read).

The voices blended in my manuscript for LPT, also. Sometimes I forgot who was narrating, which made the story confusing. Not the point.

Rumor has it most people who read books are smart. But "most people" that I meet at random are idiots. They are. So if my first persons aren't full of personality, or have some dramatically different voices, or ... something... then I should probably review and revise the execution of my narratives.


Well, because I know them, I'm going to go ahead and tell you that there is a lot of personality in this novel. Cameron is pragmatic and decided, then suddenly insane; Danny is quick witted and irritating; Ren... is a little bit of a bitch; and so on....

What I'm getting at is this: I think (though it seems a dangerous move) that I will flip between both first (first persons) and third depending on what the scene wants.

Somethings are just better off written in third person. And some scenes are just better off in first. I like action, literal scene written in third person. And I like character narratives to be narrated by the characters themselves--I do not want to be told information (especially background information) about a character in third person. That's boring. But something about the use of the word "I" make this acceptable (as long as the narrative is interesting and personal).

And there are just certain characters I'm not interested in writing about through first person. My hesitation may be due to lack of intimacy. But I'm working on it.

I think, every so often, I'll allow the characters of this novel to interrupt the story with their own thoughts, their own perspectives. For the while, I'm going to shift things into third person and see what I come up with.

Why is this such a conflict for me? Don't most writers know when they start writing if the book will be in first person or in third (or, God forbid, second)?

No. They don't. And by "they," I mean me.

This an isolated incident and it's sort of driving me crazy.

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