Adventures In 1st Person Land…

b41c0-grandopryhotelflorida
beware of alligators (seriously…there were alligators in this pond…and they kind of looked like tiny dinosaurs)

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.

Anyways…

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.
Petra: Solution.
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.

13 Responses to Adventures In 1st Person Land…

  1. I like writing in first person, but haven't done it recently because, as you said, I don't always want to stay with one character throughout an entire story. But actually, my real problem with first is that the character always ends up too similar to me. Maybe I haven't met the right character to put into first person quite yet.

  2. I've had that problem with even single viewpoint stories in 3rd person. I think we need a character that we can relate to, but not someone who's too much like ourselves…unless someone wants a bunch of autobiographical-like books running around.

  3. I've done a few shorts and experiments here and there with 1st person, but never a major project. One of these days I might attempt it…maaaaybe….Good luck! I hope it's smooth sailing now that you've made the decision!

  4. I love first person, but only employ it on certain stories, ones that I know I can get away with using one person's POV for the whole thing. One of the projects I'm working on is first person, and its great fun! But a couple other projects I'm working on….man would they fail if they was third person!!!

  5. I hardly ever have stories come to me that wouldn't benefit from a second POV. But I know what you mean, I've ruined more than one story because I wrote it in the wrong POV!

  6. Hi Krystal!It's great to meet you via Randi's bloghop. I think 3 Up is going to be difficult because there are so many good things to say about what I've read so far on your blog. But I'll try to keep this relatively short. Ahem. (; First, I think it's great that you had the courage to listen to your character and try out a new POV. It's not always easy but having a breakthrough like that is wonderful for a writer and for the story. I'm sure you felt energized after that and the story just took off. And as an aside, I'm wondering about your mc's name, Petra. I think it's lovely and I’m wondering if there is any connection to the stone city in Jordan… Anyway, (I have a tendency to ramble, sorry!) from the character interview, I can tell Petra has great voice, confidence, and spunk. I like those kinds of characters and I bet she has a fantastic story to tell. Anyway, keep at it. You’ve been writing since you were a kid and it shows that you were made to be a writer–an excellent writer. Wow, look at this crazy long comment. Hope you don’t mind me stalking your blog from now on. (; Also, I can't leave without saying, I think Hamlet is a great name for your cat. I bet he's a super writing companion, when he's not sitting on the keyboard. At least, that's what mine used to do. (:

  7. Hey! Welcome. I don't mind the long post at all. Lol! Thanks for the comment! You're awesome. ^_^Her name came to me out of nowhere. There's a Russian influence on the story. A stone city sounds really cool though! Lol! Hamlet wishes I would let him on the keyboard or my lap when I'm writing. ^_^ He sits right next to me though. :)I love your Hold Them Close poem, by the way!

  8. Great to finally meet someone who has a 1st person problem! I'm just learning to embrace the fact that some stories are better from that POV. I'd don't think it's so much a fear to get to know the characters (we love our babies 😉 ). By me, it was a teacher's constant hammering that good stories must be written in 3rd – plus, a rebellious side that says 'if all others are writing 1st, I WILL not.' But it's silly. Every story has it's own personality – even in 1st.Petra sounds amazing! It looks like you've got quite the character on your hands. 🙂

  9. Thanks for stopping by! ^_^I definitely have that rebellious thing going on. Lol! I never want to do what I see too many other people doing. But all the POVs have their place in this world. I forget how many 1st person books I've read and loved to pieces. I love Petra. I'm so relieved I'm not the only person who finds her interesting. ^_^

Leave a Reply to randi lee Cancel reply