I’ve written what I would consider successful first-person perspective stuff for the first time in years. The shift has to do with the Thought Verbs post that I put out just a few days ago. Something in that way of thinking about writing spoke to me in a way no other advice has in a very long time. Even authors that we’re not particularly huge fans of can have decent advice. And this was something I would suggest to anyone who sets out to write a piece of fiction.
Writing it in present tense has also helped some. The immediacy of the actions happening carries more force in the story and it leads less credence to this idea that the narrator is withholding evidence when they don’t tell you how something turns out in the end. See, I’ve always had a problem with the idea of past tense in a first person novel when some event is not explained as it happens, but as the person finds out. It’s important that we’re not spoiled for the sake of the book working. But if someone were retelling a story in real life they would probably slip hints in to let you know it’s all okay.
That was the main disconnect for me. Which says a lot about what I want from my writing. I don’t mind first person, but it should make sense in the context of the world or in the context of the person’s mind itself. That’s all I ask. It’s rare that we see realistically written first person novels (Realistic in that if someone were to do a real-life first hand account it would turn out like that novel).
Just to give an idea of what I’m working with here I will post an example of my trying to write before I changed styles and after I changed. Here goes.
The telltale smell isn’t there yet, despite the hundreds of bodies crumpled along the grassy hill. There are too many bodies for someone to cover them with those white privacy sheets or whatever. I don’t have a chance of effectively navigating my way toward the investigators, so I wander along the edge of the hillside between me and Lake Travis.
Annemarie’s footsteps shuffle along behind me and I can tell by her silence she’s staring at the same thing that I am. We’re both too young to remember Jonestown, but from the pictures that the news had on the comparison is well deserved. The 9/11 attacks took place while I was in junior high. That’s my frame of reference. I turn my back on the massacre; I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but staring out past the police tape seems a better choice than looking at them.
I’d rather endure this than walk out and have him catch me. My pride couldn’t bear it. This is, like, my go to drug. I’m a super-special-awesome stalker. I will stalk the shit out of you. I’m a girl. We tend to nurture our stalking skills in high school. Usually, that’s also when we nurture our charm or our looks. So, when we “accidentally run into you” in the hallway for the third time we’ve missed a button or figured out how to tell a funny joke in the interim. And you do that little laugh and lean in close and notice the smell of the perfume (that we had to practically thrash around in a tub of). And then the stalking becomes dating.
Men don’t always figure out how to nurture their looks or their charm. So, sometimes, in men stalking becomes kidnapping which becomes twenty-five to life.
Most people would agree the second one is just a better go. I’m much happier with it and I plan out doing a lot more of what I have been.