Tuesday, October 17, 2006

1st Person again

Argh, my cough is worse. Damn, damn. Well, if I end up hacking my way through the first day or so of Surrey, y'all who are there will have to forgive me. {sigh}

This morning my oh-so-helpful daughter informed me that I couldn't wear this v-neck sweater without something under it, because "you can't let the people at work see your skin." Hmmm. I guess she's getting the privacy thing finally, but carrying it just a little too far. The pendulum.

This week Diana Peterfreund is speaking in defense of 1st-person POV. I've had to fight this battle myself a few times, and I'm not even published, so I understand exactly where she's coming from.

What is it that bothers people about 1st person? Well, this is what I've heard:

1. It's too close to the character; you never get a break from that one POV.
2. The MC is hyper-aware, noticing things she shouldn't, particularly about herself.
3. This POV creates the need for contrived scenes to explain things that happen when the MC is not present, or to force the MC to be present when she shouldn't be.
4. It's difficult for most writers to stay in 1st person, so slippage occurs.
5. There are too many "I"s.

Hum. Well, I have to say that 2-4 can be handled by a skilled writer so that they're not a problem. Yes, it takes more work perhaps, and a more careful read, but it can be done. (Actually, I've seen these problems in 3rd person too; just maybe more often in 1st.)

5? There's not much you can do about that if it bothers someone. They'd probably likely be bothered by too many "she"s too. But you can pay attention to sentence structure so you don't use the same structure 40 times in a row.

As to 1, I think that's just a matter of whether the reader can like and identify with a character. Of course not everyone is going to identify with your heroine/hero, or like them enough to spend many hours with them. But let's face it: not everyone is going to like your book anyway. Seriously. If you've done a good job, though, you'll be able to connect with enough readers to make it work.

Any other objections you have to 1st person? Objections you've seen that I haven't mentioned?

Medieval Word of the Day: forslow: To be slow or dilatory about; to lose or spoil by sloth; to delay, neglect, omit, put off.


Cindy said...

Dear Susan:
On the contrary, I wanted my new WIP to be in 1st person, but it isn't. I thought it would help me to be deeper in POV, to write that way for a while, but alas, I have two protagonists, and I didn't want to get too complicated.

I'd never really considered the points you made, though. I can't say I've ever noticed them in my reading, but it's something to think about!

sara said...

Sorry about the cough! Fingers crossed that it'll pass for Surrey.

My WIP is also in first person but, strangely enough, I haven't had anyone throw all those reasons at me yet (comes from too few people have read snippets, I expect). I have seen them floating around elsewhere though.

Personally, I get annoyed with BADLY handled first person, but it's not so much because of the reasons you state (I mean, yes, some of those things are annoying but they don't strike me as occurring mainly in first person, though I know that's a common perception). Instead, what often bothers me in first person is that people who write Mary Sue's often end up writing in this POV, and frankly, I usually find such characters extremely annoying. This doesn't really have anything to do with the POV itself of course. In fact, I love well written first person and am partial to intimate limited third person as well.

/Sara E.

Gabriele C. said...

Personally, I write multiple and omniscient, but I don't mind reading first person POVs. Cornwell does a good job with it in his Arthur trilogy and the Saxon books, fe.

In one case I loved the books despite the fact I didn't like the first person narrator very much (she was best as observer, annoying when speaking about her feelings, and a bit of a Mary Sue), but I loved the world, some of the other characters, the writing. I mean Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel trilogy.