I struggle with finding topics to write about on this blog. I have no real writing advice to offer anyone and since this is a writing blog that leaves me with nothing to say.
Then I came across at The Blood-Red Pencil about the pros and cons of the first person narrative (here). After shooting off a couple of tweets about my problem I decided that talking about my problems with the first person narrative would be an excellent blog post.
I don’t write in the first person narrative. Well, that is a bit of a lie. I have written in the first person narrative. Once. And that was in letter form. It was my first flash fiction piece, which I am extremely proud of and happy that I finished (edited and everything). But I can’t help but that it is cheating to call it a true first person narrative. It’s a letter. All the letter’s that I have ever read have been in first person. I wouldn’t know what to do with a letter written in any other style, but first person.
My default narrative is third person limited. It is the style that I have been using since I work my first R.L. Stine still teen horror back in middle school. Before, almost every house had a computer, when I would have to use school’s computers in the library before class, at lunch, and after class. It’s this long history with the third person limited narrative that makes it my go to form. Third person seems to flow from my finger tips when I sit down to write. It’s rather effortless and since I have come to accept that I am lazy, I have never thought to change it.
I imagine that the first person narrative requires the writer to “become one with their characters”. I don’t think I could ever become one with my characters and I doubt that they would want to become one with me. Instead, I see them as people that have a story that they want told and I am their way to get it out.
I think I write in the same way that I watch movies. As a observer. I see what is happening to my characters and I write it down. (Which might sound a little odd because I write emotions better than I write details but that is another post). I do get to see/feel their emotions and translate that onto paper but with everything else I am a passive observer. An observer with a limited perspective. I can only write about what they see, feel, think, and hear. I don’t experience those thoughts and emotions myself. I am more like the friend that sees everything, hears everything but gets to do it without the personal involvement.
That probably says a lot about me now that I think about it. I am normally a very detached person. So, it’s not a surprise that I am detached from my characters and see them as something separate from myself. Hence, the third person limited default.
Another reason that I don’t write in first person is because I don’t read in first person. I have a hard time connecting to books written in first person and have the opinion that the first person narrative is really hard to pull off successfully. Some of the books that I have liked the least have been in the first person narrative, which is why I don’t read much Young Adult Fiction. Since first person is popular in that genre.
To me first person requires a specific skill set that is surround by the author’s ability to make the reader care about the main character in the first couple of pages. You have to make your reader feel that they are vested in the character and that they care enough about them to want to hear their every thoughts, good or bad.
It’s just such a tricky style for me and one that I have seen that is pulled off with little success (IMHO).
I think one of the challenges for me as a writer is going to be trying to write in first person. Coming out of my comfort zone as a third person narrative writer and trying to embrace something new and challenging.
Maybe one day, after I complete all the projects that I am currently working on.