Announcement one: I did an interview with The Modest Verge. Not only was it exciting, it was also fun and informative. You can find out if I kill bugs or set them free, what I would be if I weren’t human, and – of course – I’ve dropped yet another hint about what Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy) will entail. So check it out here, and follow them on Twitter @themodestverge.
Second: if you follow My Facebook Author Page (I’m only 6 away from 2,000 – please “like” me without judging me on how desperate that just sounded. haha) then you’ve already seen this article by the fantastic Nathan Bransford: Wait. A first person narrative isn’t serious???
That’s what I want to elaborate on today.
I recommend you read what he had to say first (as well as the commentary) but I’ll pretend the link doesn’t work by quoting the line that summed up his rant, “Apparently there are literary agents and professors and all kinds of ostensibly rational people out there who think first person narratives are somehow unserious.” After that, he shares a list of fantastic novels – some of which are on my top 10 favorites list (like The Stranger and Never Let Me Go.) – proving how first-person narrative can, in fact, be serious writing. (On a side note, I don’t like the term “serious writing,” which you can read about here.) But I think that was also Nathan Bransford’s point. Who gets to judge what constitutes serious writing? Isn’t that up to the reader? But I wanted to talk about a few things you should consider when choosing a perspective:
1. Your Story – of course.
This is obvious, right? But I still want talk to about it. Depending on how you write a novel, you might know exactly what will happen in your plot the moment you sit down or you might not. This actually might be a problem to consider. If you don’t know where it is going, your perspective can be harder to choose. Analyze your plot and your characters – figure out who would best tell it, and remember: it might not be so obvious. (Think of The Book Thief’s narrator.)
2. Your audience
Although I try to avoid the stereotypical writing tips as the “right way to write” I think considering your audience is always important when starting a new piece. Doing basic research on what they are more likely to accept might help your novel and you out, but I am by no means encouraging you to change your novel based on what others say is “right.” If your research says you MUST do third-person, but you still feel like you should do first-person, I would say go with first-person. I’m a huge believer on following your gut and challenging the norm, but taking the time to consider your research seriously is always helpful and shouldn’t be completely disregarded. For instance, if you choose first in the situation above, be ready to explain to a publisher why your first-person perspective is worth it, special, and why readers will like it.
3. Your voice vs. your characters
For me, one of the hardest decisions I had to make was in a recent novel I wrote. The character demanded to tell the story in first-person, not to mention that she was the only one who wanted to tell the story. (Most of my stories are told in dual first-person perspectives, so it was unusual for my male protagonist to stay quiet.) Plus, there were events that happened when she wasn’t around, so I would lose them in the narrative (and I was really excited about writing them!) So I tried begging the male protagonist to also talk, but he refused. Then, I tried third-person, and she basically rolled her eyes at me and asked me why I was making her talk so funny. Ultimately, I knew I had to listen to her, and it worked out! So perspective can be chosen by someone other than you, too.
All in all, your perspective isn’t all up to you. (You are a huge part, of course) But your story, characters, and readers – in my opinion – can affect what the ultimate decision will be. Consider your perspective carefully, and if you’re not sure, I would suggest writing the first three chapters in first and then doing the same in third. Ask yourself which one felt more comfortable, which one seemed right for the story, and hopefully the answers won’t contradict one another. If they do, try again by writing a few scenes in the middle of story.
In the end, I don’t think your perspective is going to make or break your novel. Instead, I would concentrate on your writing – that will make or break it (hopefully, make it – because we’re positive over here.) As long as your writing to the best of your abilities, willing to grow, and moving forward, a perspective shouldn’t define you, and it shouldn’t stop you. It should guide you.
But that’s just my perspective on things.