Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 17 - 1103 Words and Shifting from First to Third

Today's session went much better. I think I actually made the bad stuff from yesterday unnecessary, although I haven't cut it yet.

But I have a tough week ahead of me with obligations everywhere. Even so, I did write something to kick of the series of ruminations about Point of View....

The thing about first person is that certain decisions are already made for you. You never have to worry about which point of view is best, and there is no question of the voice. Once you have your character's voice, you're stuck with it. Which means that instead of futzing around trying to decide which point of view to use or how "deep" you should get into the character's voice, you can dig right in to resolving the problems of using that particular point of view and voice.

I love first person, at least when you've got a great narrator. It just flows. If the person is a great observer, and has a little charm or blarney, all you have to do is edit.

But not every character is a good narrator, and not every story can be told from a single character's point of view. But when you to go to third person you have a lot of choices, and I think that's one of the reasons beginning writers run to first person, even when they don't know how to write it.

And here I want to talk about Robert Crais. While he writes a lot of books in third person, his Elvis Cole series is written in first person. Cole is a pretty classic hard-boiled narrator - smart and reflective enough to tell a good and detailed story. Wise and honest enough to reveal his flaws and weaknesses.

But in the later books, Crais started adding little external scenes that were in third person. These weren't just random scenes. He used them structurally; A prologue where we see a crime or background incident that leads to the story, or short bits from the point of view of the mysterious crook that runs like a thread through the book.

In third person thrillers, these are long standing techniques, and I think that's a part of why it works for Crais even with his first person novels. He doesn't just conveniently swap point of view. He uses it consistently, as a framing device.

Established novelists can get away with all sorts of experiments, of course, but this is not really an experiment - it's a new use of something established. Because of that, I think it would be acceptable from an unknown too. (Not that I am going to use it.)

Running Total: 20793 Words.

20793 / 70000 words. 30% done!

In Today's Pages: George offers a bribe. Rosie proves he's fluent in Karla-speak.

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