Wednesday, October 12, 2011


First person. I love it. I read it. I write it. I am picky about its execution.

I'm reading a book now where the heroine says "my gray eyes..." repeatedly. I don't know about you, but I never think "my blue eyes scanned the room." If you and I don't think it, then it has no place in a first person narrative. On another note, my mentor, Jess Granger, made the comment, "The eyes did that all by themselves? Creepy." Yep. That's also a case of autonomous body parts. And yeah, I am their queen. I still struggle with the concept. 

(I'll be honest, that didn't even occur to me until Jess pointed it out. Shh.)

So, here are a couple of thoughts.

Writing first person is like driving a car.

You're in the driver's seat. Your hands are on the wheel. All directions and courses of actions are yours to decide.

Rolling with that analogy, you peer through the windshield. You see the world through that layer of glass.

You don't stand outside the car. Remember you've had this vehicle (your body) all your life. Unless you're vain, yeah, you turn a blind eye to the dings and rust spots. You know your flaws. Sometimes you even work to avoid noticing them.

First person is a vacuum. You're inside that car with your thoughts. You're rocking along to your favorite tunes on the radio and that makes you less attentive to what's going on around you.

Everything you hear while in the car is muffled unless you lower your window (pay attention).

I could go on forever with this, but I'll try and control myself.

First person is one character's journey. It's flawed. It's told from one perspective, which means that perspective is colored by that individual's beliefs, hopes, dreams, pet peeves, childhood--all of it. People are more than the sum of their actions, they're products of their environments.

While writing in first, lose as many filters as possible.

Not "I saw him coming toward me and waved."

But "He strolled past me and the wave I'd intended died on my fingertips."

Sloppy example, but you catch my drift.

The first is bland. You know a guy is coming toward the narrator and she's waving. The end.

The second example shows us the guy is laid-back, on his way somewhere and unconcerned with how soon he gets there. The narrator intended to wave at him, but I'm guessing if he strolled right past her, he didn't notice her. She probably shoved her hand into her pocket, wishing she had the nerve to call out to him and give that wave, but that's another lesson. One on tension, which, IMO, carries a story. ;) 

Thoughts. Do you read first person? Like, love, or hate it?

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