Saturday, March 13, 2010

In Defense of 1st Person

Recently I have noticed that there seem to be some misconceptions floating around about the ease with which people write in first person, and because I've (relatively) recently broken the barrier in my own head and started writing mostly in 1st, I figured it was time to talk about it.

Basically, my thoughts in a nutshell: 1st person isn't easy. And here's why.

Okay, so the opinion that 1st is easy is not without foundation. When I start a project in 1st, I can usually figure out the voice a lot faster, because I already have a sense of who the character is-- like if she's a snarky little jerk, the 1st person voice will sound like a snarky little jerk. If she's humorless and to the point (*cough*maincharacterofDivergent*cough*), the writing will be that way. I generally start with a character in mind, so I also start with a voice in mind. Therefore it is often easier for me to get the ball rolling in 1st. And even to complete the entire project.

But here's the problem: when I get feedback about my plot, either from inside my crazy head or from outside of it, my decision to write in 1st person usually bites me in the butt. Hard. Because if someone says "well, I don't think that this part of the world you created is fleshed out enough" and you've stuck the entire story inside a single character's head, whatever facet of that society that is missing has to be experienced by that character, or it doesn't have a place in the narrative. So how on earth am I supposed to navigate my MC to all corners of the earth in order to build my world?

Most of the time, my answer to that question is a blank stare.

Also, while you, the author, may know everything about your story, your MC doesn't necessarily know all those things, and you have to find a way to tell the reader about them without the MC doing the telling, which is EXACTLY as complicated as it sounds. In 3rd person, I could probably provide my reader with whatever information he or she needs to know, depending on how distant my narrator is. But in 1st...good luck.

Telling a story in 1st restricts that story to a certain viewpoint. Your reader lives in your character's brain, so you'd better be damn sure that your character's brain is a tolerable place to live, and you'd better be able to get all the pieces of the story together. Some people solve this with a roving 1st person POV (chapter 1, character 1. Chapter 2, character 2) but THEN you encounter the problem of your second character not being as interesting or likable as your first, in which case your readers might skip or skim the chapters told from that POV (I have done this.)

So...easy? NOT SO MUCH.

In summation: writers? Don't get all snooty toward your fellow men and women. Writing is hard no matter what POV you're in. That's why we're all in this together. know, sort of separately. (Because we're all hermits.)


Related Posts with Thumbnails