Extract from a notebook entry made during the writing of The Find
Choices, choices: the writer’s life is full of them. Current example: do I stick with the third person, limited omniscient point of view which should ideally offer me some flexibility in telling the story, or, since I don’t seem to be actually using that flexibility, rewrite the pages I have in the first person, from Anna’s point of view?
She is in an extraordinary situation, so it would open things up immeasurably if I could get right inside her… And why stop there with one first person? What about two ‘first people’? What about Scott? Could I filter one character’s take on things through the other’s first person point of view or – since they are sometimes not in the same place as each other – would it be better to separate them out? Probably. But how will I deal with that long gap when one of them is out of the story? And suppose I find, later on, when the different strands of the story come together and everyone including all the extras are on set, that I want to use the view points of yet further characters in the same way?
Anything is possible, of course. To pick just a couple of examples: Matthew Kneale in English Passengers makes use of a huge succession of ‘first people’ to tell the story, each picking the baton up from the last; Andrea Levy in Small Island works fluidly with a smaller cast of first person narrators… But the question is, what do I need to do in this novel?
The only way to discover whether a first person narrator(s) will actually work, is to try it out – and that of course, does not mean simply substituting ‘I’ for ‘she’ in 120 pages of text. It means re-imagining the story as told by my character(s) and discovering her/their relationship(s) to it, which inevitably will affect the story itself and even its final outcome. It means an entirely different novel….