Most of my reading of late has been by authors, Jim Butcher and Kevin Hearne, who utilize the first person point of view in their urban fantasy series’. I enjoy the intimacy that this POV provides into the protagonist. I feel like I know these characters. I truly feel like I’m in their heads and feeling their pain. Usually, I end up screaming at them, sometimes out loud, that they should do something different because they obviously are too stupid to see what’s coming. My wife tends to look at me with disgust and shake her head when I get too loud. Anyway, I had not given much consideration to writing in first person for my fiction until a few weeks ago. I have written a few first person experiential vignettes but always looked to third person for my fantasy work.
During a writer’s group timed exercise I just started writing in first person. To say it was different would be a gross understatement. I had to keep telling myself to stay out of the secondary character’s heads. My protagonist would have no idea what the other individual was thinking except by watching and listening to other character’s reactions. Why I have not looked at this before is beyond me.
As I began to evaluate the exercise, it dawned on me that first person is a natural vehicle for a fantasy writer. When we fantasize, don’t we tend to put ourselves into the fantastic situation? We don’t know what the outcome will be and we certainly don’t have all the information of the universe at our disposal. We have to react without knowledge of other’s motivations.
The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of taking one of my favorite characters, jump into their body, and take it for a spin without regard to what I think I know about their world. I did create it after all.
First, I plan to take my original exercise piece and finish the scene the way it was playing out in my head when I wrote the opening. It is somewhat different from how my fellow writer finished it (see Dual Writing Exercise – Part Deux).
Then, I think Yursi Sonal, my protagonist from a short story and several flash pieces, will become my experiment. Don’t worry, she won’t mind. In my world, she trusts me. 😉 I have another short story idea for her that I will try with first person.
So, before I plunge headlong into this without a care in the world, I have a few questions for those of you who are intimately familiar with this POV. What are some of the major issues that you have struggled with? E.g. Exposition of information the protagonist needs to know, continuity of antagonist’s motivations and actions, internal dialogue, etc. Do you prefer writing is first or third person? Why?