For the first time ever, I’ve felt compelled to write in 1st person. Now, I have written in 1st person, but the last time was over a decade ago. I hadn’t been writing just too long and was all about experimenting with different techniques and styles and what not. I started writing in third exclusively after that last foray into first person because I love multiple viewpoint stories and it seemed to work well for me as a writer. But I admit, what I personally like best is not always what’s best for the story. Fast forward some years. Tried my first third person limited to one POV story (seriously, the first time) and it was awful. I blamed the POV. I thought it needed to be in multiple viewpoints because that was my thing and I screwed it up by trying something different. But maybe, just maybe…the problem is that it needed to be in first.
You might say I have intimacy issues and the thought of being that close a character freaks me out in a way I’ll probably never fully understand. It makes me feel trapped. It brings to mind horrors of all the first person stories I’ve hated because I couldn’t get away from the character and I didn’t like them. Or the character didn’t know what was going, therefore, I don’t get to know what’s going on. I don’t like being kept in the dark!! And I don’t like being kept in the heads of whiny folk either.
Fast forward a few more years. Enter Petra. Teenaged-Badass non-ninja with mutant abilities. (And in-arguably one of the strongest personalities to cross my path.) I thought, “Awesome!” I’ve never had a main character like this before! And I couldn’t wait. But when I started the story (3rd person limited), I immediately felt like something was wrong. Plot? Needed a bit of work. Fixed it. Now it was good to go. Characters? All awesome. Everyone was so chatty in their interviews, I just I figured my problem was that I couldn’t decide on my secondary POV. How do you decide when EVERYone is cool? So I asked Petra for her opinion in a conversation that went something like this.
Me: (anxious) Problem.
Me: I don’t know who to pick for the secondary POV. Adrian’s POV doesn’t seem necessary.
Petra: I agree.
Me: I’m thinking mostly you with a few side scenes from Marat or Dimitri’s POV?
Petra: No, no. Give me the reigns. I’m telling the whole story. You don’t need them.
Me: A limited view point? (to myself – “remember what happened last time”) No, no, no. I don’t do that.
Petra: (calm as a clam) Trust me. I got this.
Me: No, you don’t understand. I suck at that.
Petra: (still calm) Really, I got this.
Me: Um…okay…You’re interesting enough. I guess I can give it a try.
I go back to the story (3rd person limited with the intent of having only one POV character) and start feeling nagged again. I kept feeling the urge to write in 1st person and naturally fought against it. I hadn’t done it in so long, the mere thought of doing it made me want to scream.
Me: Erg! Why isn’t this scene working?!
Petra: Let me tell it.
Me: Um, no. I don’t write in 1st person. (throat starts to close up) I don’t like it. It’s too limiting. (starts having a panic attack)
Petra: (pats me on the back to calm me down while rolling her eyes to the ceiling behind my back)You might as well. I’m already telling the whole story anyway.
It was literally an all day dilemma that started with me bugging my siblings. Then, I moved to the writing forums. Sifted through some posts. Asked a question. Got some great answers. Finally decided there was only one way to make a final decision. I needed some feedback. But where was I going to get feedback at 10 o’clock at night? (And I wanted immediate feedback because I’m just impatient and crazy like that.) Finally, I broke down at 11:00 that night and posted a 500 word excerpt of my opening chapter in the two POVs on the Share Your Work boards. (A part of the AW forums I’ve been avoiding like the plague because the thought of strangers giving me feedback on my raw materials made me nauseous.)
The results? Unanimous vote for 1st person. I survived. Petra wins.
Because ultimately, interacting with other writers helped me realize that 1st person was a better fit for her voice. Sometimes doing what’s best for your story IS what’s best for you as a writer. I just couldn’t keep writing if I was going to have to fight with Petra the whole time for narration rights. (I can’t recommend writing communities enough.)
Me: (after a ten minute freakout) I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but congratulations. I’ve agreed to write your story in 1st person.
Petra: (excited but keeping cool on the outside) I knew you’d come to your senses.
Me: I have mixed feelings. I’m excited for you, but really worried for me.
Petra: (big smile) Don’t worry, girlie. I got this. (I leave the room and she pumps her fist into the air)
Needless to say, things started going MUCH better with her story. ^_^ Also, surprisingly (to me anyways), the nervousness faded. I had been struggling with a couple of scenes (which started the whole “something’s wrong” thing-a-bob). Now suddenly the scenes are fine and I don’t feel blocked anymore.
Excuse me whilst I channel William Wallace: “FREEDOM!!!”
I’ve always considered myself open-minded as a writer. Apparently, I wasn’t as open-minded as I thought. Ah, the life lessons you can learn while writing a book.