Last Week’s WW: Invincibility Kills
When I first started writing, and for some time after that, I found that I had trouble developing a style that I liked. What’s worse, is that I had problems describing what specifically I didn’t like about it.
I’d tell my guy that I felt like my style was “stiff” and sounded “too formal”. He’d look at me and say, “I’ve got no idea what you mean.” But I didn’t know how to elaborate.
At this time, I was doing most all of my writing in third person. The large majority of the books that I read were written in it, so it was something with which I was familiar. I remember in some ways thinking that it was good that I was writing in third person because I had read somewhere that writing in first person was easier, and I didn’t want to do what was easy.
Writing in first person isn’t easier than writing in third, it’s just different. And it comes with it’s own host of challenges.
I did discover that I enjoyed writing in first person, and now most of my projects are written from that perspective. I found that, by writing in this narrative style, I was able to channel my characters. My writing, my world building, it all came out through their brains and mouths. I found that relaxed style that I had been searching for. I felt that I could be less formal in my writing, that, since it was like dialogue, I could write the way I wanted to without as much concern for the rules of literature. (Which is only okay to do to a point, unless you really nail it.)
The downside/challenges, well, there are a couple.
In first person, you generally only know what your POV character knows. If it’s written in flash back, you can mention things that he’s learned since, but it risks taking you out of the scene and reminding you that someone is telling you a story. So, you’re limited to what you can say. You might know all that is going on in the world, but it’s doubtful that your character does.
You have to get in their heads. Really, deeply, as much as you’re in your own, get in their heads. I’ve learned this recently. I’m writing a first person, inward journey based scifi story, and I realized that I wasn’t nearly deep enough into the characters thoughts and motivations. And you have to balance all of their internal dialogue, memories, thoughts, feelings, sensations… with everything that is actually happening in the story.
I feel that in third person you have far more control over how deep into a character you go. You can be omniscient as a narrator, limited, or anywhere in between. You can have a scene and mention what every person in that scene is thinking or knows with absolute certainty.
I think it’s more of a challenge to connect people with a character in third person. Not that you can’t. You absolutely can. But you don’t know them on such an intimate level as you do with first person.
And, as I mentioned above, I have trouble with formality in third person. It doesn’t have that same flow. You can’t tell people things. Yes, yes, you should always show. But having the narrator talk in a way that explains that which you can’t show, can be very freeing.
Best way to write?
Which ever way is best for you and your story. Not every story is going to have the same POV or narration style. If you’re good, after spending time crafting your skill, you will settle on a writing style, so that when someone picks up one of your stories, they’ll know you wrote it, without any other information other than their own familiarity with your work.
For me, I hope I find a way to blend the two. No, not some strange: I said, then he (the same person) did blah blah blah… kind of craziness.
I hope that some day I can get the ease and fluidity, the comfort and familiarity that I get from writing in first person, and find a way to apply it to third.