Finding Your Voice: Writing in First Person
Stories, no matter the topic, setting, or themes, can either be displayed one of two ways. Or, three of two ways, depending on how open-minded you are: First person, third person, or the rare and little used second person. Considering that second person tends to be used solely for self-help and build-your-own-adventure books, it isn’t ever really listed as a narrative option. Therefore, we will kindly acknowledge its existence and move on.
We are now left with first and third person. For those who failed to imprint this information in their brains in middle school, first person takes the form of ‘I’, and third takes that of ‘he’, ‘she,’ or ‘it’. That’s the simplified version, anyway. In storytelling, it means you can either write from the perspective of one specific person, or describe what is happening to one or several characters. Both ways have their advantages. As always, it’s best to choose based on what the story itself needs. How best would the story in question be told? Through the view of one person in particular, or via an all-encompassing narrative?
When you work with first person, it is amazing because you can contribute to the style of the writing based on the personality of that character. Where they were raised, their age, their opinions all influence the voice they use to describe what is happening to and around them. It can make for truly engaging and fascinating reading. It can also provide a measure of authenticity. For instance, the plight of a farmer in the Dust Bowl with him telling the reader what is going on, using his own words and emotions. This allows for slang, dialect, regional terms, and simple, raw feelings.
Third person, on the other hand, caters to ever-tempting god-complex that we writers love. As the all-knowing narrator, we are gifted with that insight into the story and future of the characters that could only exist if we had made it all up ourselves. Which, of course, we have. A character in first person only knows so much. He or she can reveal the extent of their knowledge, which can be much or next to nothing. The almighty Narrator, however, knows everything. The Narrator knows what the girl at far end of the ice-cream parlor bar did every summer of her life, and what she might have done in the summers of other lives, even though she was only mentioned twice in the passage, and never again in the whole book. The Narrator knows the deepest, inkiest secrets of the dankest, gloomiest forest on the map of the quest of the hero who has no idea what’s in store for him, but wants to try anyways.
Being the Narrator is helpful when wanting to relay pertinent information to the reader. It assists in establishing an overall atmosphere, by explaining and describing every person, place, or thing your main protagonist comes across. Or, perhaps not. As the Narrator, you are at liberty to reveal only as much as you see fit. Whether it is to benefit the story, or to tantalize the reader, the decision lies with you.
When choosing which style is best to write in, I personally consider the tone in which the story itself would best be told. Remember, it’s all about the story.
Milo Hestler is a lonely, unusual, fourteen-year-old girl. She is constantly moving from home to home with her oblivious parents. The only friend she has is her conscience, whom she has named Bob. Her only comforts are cooking and listening to hip-hop.
When her family moves yet again, Milo is bullied mercilessly by her classmates. Such treatment prompts her to travel to Australia for summer camp. During the plane ride, Milo awakens to find the plane deserted and about to crash.
After parachuting into the ocean, she discovers she is near an island. Milo passes out, and upon waking, learns she was rescued by a boy named Simon, who is cute, but can’t speak English. Not able to understand him, she accidentally says yes when he asks her to marry him.
He leads her to a small town on the island, where they locate someone who can translate for them. Milo is outraged to hear that she is engaged to Simon and wants to call it off, but learns that this island has rules that cannot be broken. She must go through with the marriage against her will.
After learning about the trick he played on her, Milo hates Simon, though it is obvious that sixteen-year-old Simon really likes her. What will happen next on The Island of Lote? From her earliest memories, Emily Kinney has wanted to be a writer. She lives in Maine. “This book is just the first of many to come, rest assured.” Publisher’s website: sbpra.com/EmilyKinney
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Genre - Young Adult Fiction
Rating – PG
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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.