And I’m not talking about Adam or Cain. I’m trying to decide if my new book should be written in first person or third person.
For the non-writers, first person is when the book is told from the “I” perspective (“I paced the hall”) and third person is when the book is told from the “he”/”she” perspective. (“She paced the hall.”) For the most part you don’t see second person, although I’ve written it (“You pace the hall. Look in the mirror to find a grey hair. Pivoting, you stalk back to the kitchen.”) And I’ve talked about the one time I’ve encountered a first-person plural narrator.
One agent said about the string quartet novel that it’s a lot of everyday stuff, and on balance, I believe that’s true of that particular book. The tensions emerge from the interplay of the characters, not from external stressors. So in the planning stage for another book, I devised a compelling external question that will cause a lot of plotting and a lot of non-everyday living.
I’m using Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake method for this, a departure for me because I do all my planning in-head. But I’ll try anything once. I’ve just finished step four (a one-page synopsis) and realized this is the place I’d normally start writing. I don’t use an outline, but I get to know the characters intimately, know the conflict and the major steps on how it’s going to get resolved, then turn them loose.
I’m not starting yet — I’ll give Ingermanson’s method a shot. What’s stumping me now is whether to tell it in first or third person. Do I want to be in my MC’s head? Or do I want to see her from outside herself?
First person appears more intimate, but readers don’t trust a first person narrator as much as third. You actually get closer in third. But if a lot of this is intuition, I don’t want to be telling too much. (“Her spider senses were tingling!” — hah) and intuition is easier to show in first person. (“No matter how often I tried to pay attention to Martin, my gaze kept returning to the bookshelf.”)
I want to write in third simply because I haven’t in so long. The book feels more like first.
Oh, decisions. If you’re not a writer, you never realized we angst about things like this, but a tiny decision here changes the flavor of the whole book, like beginning a soup with beef stock instead of chicken stock. I know a writer now who’s rewriting a book from one person into another, and she says it’s like writing a different book.
I may do a few pages in each flavor to get a sense of how it flows. The result will, I hope, turn up one version that feels just-right in how no one could possibly imagine it any other way.