First Person Time

I finished the first draft of Progeny a few months back. It’s been out there with my reader friends. Several have gotten back to me with¬†encouragement¬†and constructive feedback. A nice combination of “I liked it!” and “what the hell were you thinking here?” My old friend Tom pointed out some great stuff and once I make those fixes, I’ll post the book for the Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and right here.

On Progeny, I used the third person because… I don’t remember why, actually. I never broke from the main character’s story. Maybe I thought I would splinter off the plot lines as the story went on, but then I didn’t. Truth is, I prefer the first person. So when I started this next project, it’s a little crazy that I didn’t think of going first person right of the bat. Why? Not sure.

I was thinking of ways to open the next project and I turned to some of my favorite books for inspiration (aka theft). Count Zero is third person, but has multiple threads. Altered Carbon is first person. Lee Childs’ first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, is in the first person, but the rest of the Reacher books I’ve read (up through book 4, I think) are all third person. Weird to switch it up, but I guess he decided he wanted the reader to know what was happening to people in the story besides Reacher. Mankell’s Faceless Killers is third person, but feels like a first person narrative. You get the sense you’re feeling what Wallender feels even if you never hear his inner thoughts. It’s great writing, and way out of my league.

One of my problems with Progeny is how much it felt like a screenplay (as I’ve said many times here). Third person description and action. How many times can you write, “Jim thought” after every time the guy has a thought? Gets old. For the new project (untitled as of right now), I wrote the first chapter in the third person and I struggled with the same problem. Pretty bland storytelling. Dry description and chains of dialog. Just for kicks, I rewrote the chapter again in the first person. It was like a light went on. Actually, it was more like a floodgate opened. The words came easy and the story unfolded more naturally. The story is about a guy who acquires rare objects for the ultra rich. It’s a future where cities have no vehicle traffic and areas are either overcrowded or abandoned. He has just lost his partner and mentor and is making a go of it on his own. He owes money, his friends don’t trust him, and his confidence is shot. He poaches a job from another collector and is soon in over his head. That’s the setup. Seems obvious now, but it took me a while to figure out that it’s a personal story. It centers around this character and not really the events themselves. The story is Creighton’s story, not a sweeping account of the great battles of the Nextor System. I made that up just now. Gold, right? Gold.

There are enough writing advice blogs and twitters out there and I never intended this blog to be anything more than an account of my progress and decisions. But if you’re banging your head against your idea and the word counter is laughing in your face, try a change of narrative voice. Worked for me.

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