Sunday, June 19, 2005

Work, work, work....



I've started to feel like these guys (Cairo Spiny Mice, by the way). Go and go and then... thunk.

Been a busy few days! Russ will be back home around midnight tonight. I've actually gotten a lot of things done for a change! The house didn't need as much work as usual, so I've concentrated on the work side of things. Vision is half way there already (yeah, some of you can fall over in a faint now -- it's not the last two days before it's due to go up!), and I did a considerable amount of work on DTF material in the last few days.

I have a list with seventeen things on it for today -- and no, this is not one of them. The first four should go easily. The next four will be more difficult, and the rest of the list is mostly stuff that I didn't do yesterday or the day before because I keep getting to the DTF stuff, and it's time consuming and difficult and takes most of my day.

But it may be better today. I did a good part of the work last night.

That reminds me of something else. I was in the Writing Only chat the other night and someone mentioned that they had just accidentally written an entire section of their novel in first person. I know that problem! It comes from getting too close to your characters. Well, not really too close -- the more you can identify with what your characters are doing and how they are reacting, the better the story. But there is a point where it can interfere with the story -- that point where you stop writing 'Mary had seen enough of the museum and wanted to go sit in the park for a while' and write 'I had seen enough of the museum (etc)' instead.

I've had first draft novels and some times even short stories, that slip in and out of first and third POV at any given time. I've gone back to the edit phase and realized what I'd done. Sometimes it's a bitch to straighten them out. Sometimes it's even more difficult when I can't quite decide which way is better.

But here's the thing: When you're a new writer you often think that first person is the better way to write. It's the more intimate relationship with the MC, and many people find it just easier to write in first person. Third takes a lot more work because the author's view is so much wider.

And that should give you a hint, really. Seriously writing isn't about what's easier. Third is sometimes the far better POV because sometimes a story is stronger for it. First person is a very limited, egotistical POV. You cannot move outside the view of the MC, and that means everything the MC sees and does has to be incredibly important. In first person the author also tends to invest more of himself into the writing, and that can lead to rote stories with the same character in different circumstances.

In third person we start learning that there is more to the world than 'I and me.' In third person you can introduce things that the MC wouldn't know directly about and use that to build tension. You can show other people and other places, and suddenly the novel that was dying down because the MC can't know the other things, and so the reader can't, is suddenly alive with possibilities.

I've read a few books that alternate first person and third person POV chapters. It's a difficult blend, but it can be done quite well. However, if you are one of those people who have never written anything outside of first person or third person, then write some shorter pieces with one or the other before you leap into something as dramatic and difficult as a novel using both.

First person is an excellent POV for many stories. But don't get stuck in a rut and never move out of it. Your stories will be better if you push yourself to do what's interesting, rather than just what comes easy.

5 comments:

Joel said...

What's your view about writing a novel exclusively from the MC character's viewpoint but in third person?

Zette said...

Oh, yes, I've done plenty of those, too. They give you a little more freedom than the first person POV for a single MC character -- but it all depends on how close to the MC you really need to be.

Really, it's all about what make the story best, and that includes what the writer is comfortable doing. A person can practice writing in other POV styles, but until they're really comfortable with them, they can seem forced.

Carter said...

I frequently do a secret first draft in first person, then try it again in third, usually limited to the MC's view. Sometimes it's hard to decide which is better for the "official" version, but it seems to usually come down to third. First seems to work better for flash and shorter stuff for me.

Margaret said...

I have the same difficulty but a different one all the same. When I get too close to a draft, I switch to present tense. You think rooting out I and me is hard! But it's the same motivation. It's when I since so close into the story that I'm living it in present tense rather than narrative present (grammatical past) tense.

Zette said...

Interesting on the first draft, Carter. I never purposely do anything like that, but sometimes it happens anyway. (grin)

Mar -- well, you're just odd, you know. (grin) I can't say I have the present tense problem. I think it's because I dislike reading present tense stories, though, so I probably just don't fall into anything like that.