Third Person or First?

by on April 7, 2010

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….

Leave a Comment


Warning: call_user_func_array() [function.call-user-func-array]: First argument is expected to be a valid callback, 'tl_spam_free_wordpress_comments_form' was given in /home/kathypag/public_html/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 524

Protected by WP Anti Spam

Previous post:

Next post:

var a = document.getElementsByTagName('a'); for(i = 0; i < a.length; i++){ if (a[i].href.indexOf(location.host) == -1 && a[i].href.match(/^http:\/\//i)){ a[i].onclick = function(){ _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outgoing_links', this.href.replace(/^http:\/\//i, '')]); } } }