Tag Archives: first person

Challenge Your Writing

12 Jun

Challenging your writing is important, but what does that mean?

It means trying something new—attempting a project outside your box of comfort—or switching everything up entirely. Challenging yourself can be a big or small adventure. You can try a new genre in a short story rather than a novel, for instance. But pushing yourself to try a new genre, tone, perspective, etc. can only benefit you. As an example…

I mainly write YA SFF, and I have done so for ten years now, but recently, I set out to write a historical novel. Not only that, but it is my first serious project written in third person. Why? Because I’m challenging my writing…and myself.

Challenge: Try a new utensil. If you normally type your books, try a pencil. See if that changes your perspective.

You see, I’m comfortable with first-person science fiction and fantasy. Almost too comfortable. I find myself flying through drafts and ideas—and I love that, don’t get me wrong—but I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something more. A hurdle. A bit of fear. A semblance of discovery. By challenging myself, I can learn more. I might even fall in love with a new style, genre, or voice. The possibilities are endless.

It’s easy to write with your strengths, but what about overcoming your writing weaknesses?

I struggle with romance, for instance. Though I love first-person, I find it a bit narcissistic, so concentrating on feelings on top of the I, we, me, etc. has always been uncomfortable for me. So, I thought, What about third person? I had no idea if third person would help me overcome this hurdle or not, but hey, I set out to try…and sure enough, I learned a lot about myself and about writing those more emotional scenes. In fact, I look forward to learning even more about my writing through this challenge, and I look forward to future challenges I set out to overcome.

Granted, challenges come with…well, challenges.

Normally, I would be 60,000 words into this first draft, but I’m currently sitting at 42,000…and it’s a messy 42,000. (A really messy 42,000.) But I’m also in love with the mess.

I have never been so unsure of my writing in my life, but I still believe in the manuscript. I still believe in the challenge. And even if I never finish this book, I already succeeded at reaching my original goal: Learning something new.

Constantly challenging myself helps me learn more about my writing and about myself. So I challenge you to set a challenge for yourself today.

Try a new genre. Write from a new type of character’s perspective. Attempt a different perspective entirely.

Just go on an adventure. Make mistakes. Overcome obstacles. Try again.

You might discover something amazing.

~SAT

 

Advertisements

First or Third Person? Present or Past Tense? How Do You Decide?

5 Jun

So you’re writing a book…but your book requires some decisions. Your narrative needs structure. And there are a million options to choose from. So how do you decide a perspective and a tense? What is the best combination for your book?

Let me start out by saying that making the choice to write in first/third person or past/present tense is different for every writer (and often every book). This decision might also differ from what an author prefers to read. For that reason, I wanted to look at this discussion from two different perspectives—as a reader and as a writer—and how I decide, so that you might be able to see how you can make that decision for yourself. Of course, there are a lot more options and specifications than I’m going to get into today. Consider this the basics.

First or Third Person

As a reader…

I love both first and third person. I honestly can’t say if I favor one over the other. As long as the novel is written well, I love the story, though I probably prefer third person for multiPOV stories, only because nailing numerous (and immediately recognizable) voices in first person is basically impossible. (Which I’ll explain below.)

As a writer….

I tend to write in first person. In fact, all of my currently published novels are in first person, though they are also in multiPOV first person…which I just called “basically impossible” above. (Because it is!) Both of my published series are written this way, but none of my recent, unpublished projects are, because UGH. First-person, multiPOV is hard! Nailing a unique voice for each character while staying in the moment is a constant battle. Right now, I’m writing my first third-person book, and I’ll be honest, I think I’m in love. Why? I have an unpopular opinion about first vs. third person. Strangely, I think third person is more intimate than first. Most would argue me, and I totally get it. The average first-person book truly gets into someone’s mind and feelings. But I feel so NARCISTIC in first person (with all the I, me, we, etc.) Because of that, I tend to avoid discussing feelings on top of a first-person point of view. But in third person. Boy, in third person, I feel like I can let those emotions fly. 

Present or Past Tense

As a reader…

I HATE present tense. LOATHE it even. I know. I know. That’s been the favored tense in YA since The Hunger Games. But it drives me nuts. While many have described past tense as sounding like someone telling a story (as if it had already happened), I actually find present tense to feel this way. “I jump over the fire and land on my feet!” sounds like something your uncle shouts around a campfire while telling his college-glory stories. I just don’t like the way it sounds. Present tense makes me feel like I’m being talked at rather than coaxed along. Past tense, however, helps me disappear into the story. That being said, some of my favorite books are in present tense. Don’t get me wrong. I’d never put a book down solely because of present tense, but it will make it a little bit harder for me to enjoy at first.

As a writer….

I write in past tense. In fact, I’ve never written in present, nor do I have the desire to. (But never say never, right?)

So how do I decide what to write in?

Honestly, I don’t.

When I set out to write a book, the POV and tense happen pretty naturally. Granted, there are some exceptions. For instance, I wanted to have Noah and Sophia tell my now-unpublished book, Take Me Tomorrow, but Noah—well, to be frank—is on drugs, and he doesn’t make a lot of sense (or he makes too much sense). So, he was cut out. It turned out to be Sophia’s story anyway. And though I tend to write in first person, my current project is in third person. (It’s actually my first serious project in third person.) Why is this one in third person? I have no clue! It just sort of happened that way. But I’m glad it did. The tone suits it perfectly.

Keep in mind…

First/third person and past/present tense are not the only options out there, and, quite frankly, these are just shells of your options. In third person, for instance, you have to choose between limited third or omniscient third (all-knowing). Then again, who says you have to decide? Some books combine different types of structures to write a book. RoseBlood by Anita Howard had third-person past for her male protagonist, while her female protagonist was written in present first. That way, you could immediately understand where you were and who we were reading about without stumbling. Your book’s options are unlimited.

So how should you decide?

Listen to your gut. Even if you write an entire series in first person and then realize it needs to be in third, I say go for it! Everyone’s writing journey is different, and though there are always trends to consider, nailing your voice is more important than trying to hit constantly-moving goalposts. There are pros and cons and limitations in both perspectives, but I tend to choose perspective/tense based on what the characters tell me to do. It happens overtime. I might not even know until I’m knee-deep in outlines. It might change, too. And that’s okay! Change happens at every process. Write how the book demands to be written. Try first, attempt third, experiment with both, and you’ll eventually find that natural point where you can’t turn back, because the words are endless. But that’s just my perspective. 😉

~SAT

It’s All About Perspective … Or Is It?

29 Jan

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:

I thought this was a good picture for “perspective.” Bogart likes art as much as me, but his kitty perspective is probably different than mine.

I thought this was a good picture for “perspective.” Bogart likes art as much as me, but his kitty perspective is probably different than mine.

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 youre 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.

~SAT

Donate to ShannonAThompson.com

Donate to ShannonAThompson.com

%d bloggers like this: