Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who's On First?

SHADOW POINT is written in the 1st person, as is HEAVENLY MOVES. But I purposely wrote ROMEO FAILS in the 3rd person. (Quick Review: An example of 1st person, as you may recall from your 8th grade grammar class, is "I opened the door." 3rd person would be "She opened the door.") Writing ROMEO FAILS in 3rd person was, at first, quite difficult for me because it made me feel remote from my main character: Dorsey Lee Larue, lifelong resident of the tiny Midwestern town of Romeo Falls and reluctant employee of the family business, Larue's Swingtime Hardware. Dorsey - partly by design and partly as a result of writing in 3rd person - is a LOT less like me than the protagonists in the other two novels.

Some might argue that's a good thing.

After a while, though, I felt more comfortable writing in the 3rd person and found my groove. Oddly enough, that "remote" character ended up speaking some truths that neither of the 1st person protagonists ever did. And I certainly appreciated the power that the omniscient narrator had in ROMEO FAILS - I was not stuck with just the main character's point of view. Now, as both a reader and a writer, I do love experiencing the arc of the story firsthand with a 1st person narrator. For those of us who truly love to read, the intimacy of that experience is exquisite. But it sure was fun in ROMEO FAILS to jump from one perspective to another - I was the heroine, the villain, the police chief and even a spunky little tabby cat named Ira, for one scene! (give yourself 10 points if you can figure out the last name of the two cats in the story, George and Ira :-))

When I was initially struggling with writing in the 3rd person, an acquaintance - who also happens to be a high school English teacher - suggested to me that I go ahead and write the book in 1st person, then go back and change it to 3rd person after it was all done. She meant well, but I gaped at her in horror and dismay when she suggested that to me! That would be a completely different writing experience, I knew. Not to mention untrue to my intentions. Plus, I imagined it would be like writing a novel in French, then translating it into English. No matter how good the translation, it just wouldn't be quite the same. Thus the phrase "lost in translation."

As with most things in this life, there are both pros and cons to writing in 1st person or 3rd person. I'll probably try writing in the 3rd person again. (in fact, I already have in the short story
LUCY FRENCH'S HELL) I guess the protagonist will let me know which voice she or he needs to use.

So, are more books written in 1st person or 3rd person? I don't know. (and neither does she!) I love a good story, regardless of who the narrator is or other stylistic considerations, but if I had to pick, I'd say I prefer reading a story in 1st person. I've read, however, that most works of lesbian fiction are in 3rd person. My own experience as a reader backs up that theory.

I wonder why. Do readers prefer that? Do writers prefer that?

Just as a practical matter, I must say a story written in 1st person makes it much easier to differentiate between two female characters who are having a conversation when one is "I" and the other is "her." (as opposed to two shes) If you're writing in 3rd person, you either have to use both character's names all the time to make it clear who is speaking - and that gets annoying real quick - or use other tricks, like identifying one of the speakers as the taller woman, the older woman, the city girl, the brunette, etc. Which is also annoying (to me, at least) in the long run. And heaven forbid you have three women in a conversation!


"What?" she said.
"How dare you question me!" she replied.
"Now you two stop squabbling," she interjected.

Who's on 1st???

Well, SHE is, we know that much!


Wait... I just realized... is it Saturday night and I'm blogging about grammar stuff? Because only a super cool person would do that, I hope you know! Well, in any event, I/me/we/she bid you adieu for now, dear Reader!

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