An observation I’ve made recently:
Back in high school, I routinely turned to first person for stories, especially comedic works. I had a knack for exuberant characters. Dialogue was my first strength as a writer, so a rambling first person narrator was pretty much up my alley. (Like my short story “The Deadliest Sword,” which is a strange meta-story about first person narrators and one of the earliest appearances of Fred Milish, of Trouble on the Horizon fame. I’ll have to dig it up and post it. Remind me.)
(Update: Here it is.)
After high school, though, I tended to avoid first person, simply because I was excessive. I was learning to cut words and hone descriptions, and I didn’t trust myself to do it well in first person.
Novels started after this era, like The Unremarkable Squire, focus on third person. Actually, The Unremarkable Squire is quite the distance from my early comedic first-person work, avoiding even third-person insights into the protagonist’s thoughts.
I returned to first-person writing in The Story Project, but that was written as a series of fictional blogs, so the conceit helped me focus the writing style.
Then came The Isle of Gold, which I began in third-person, but it just didn’t work. It was a story that needed to be “overdone,” so to speak. The romantic adventurer need to express his thoughts on beauty in superlative, personal language. That was half the point of the novella. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (ask my brother), but I love it.
And now I’m writing The Well’s Orphan, a new book for the Children of the Wells webseries. I planned it in third-person, even making notes to myself how in certain chapters it needed to be detached third-person. And then, days before I started writing, I switched.
It’s a little frightening. This story needs to be tight and emotive. It needs to drag you along and get you to empathize with a character not everyone likes–Calea Lisan. I like to harass Natasha about how all YA books are first-person present tense just because it’s “cool,” and now what am I writing? An entire novella in that style. (Sure, I wrote half of The Select’s Bodyguard that way, but I still reverted to my traditional third-person limited for the other half. And Bron is, so to speak, a bit over-the-top in his single-mindedness.)
So, how do I write from inside the head of an overly-intelligent, emotional injured, socially brutal, philosophically hopeless twenty-something female scientist/magician?
I’m trying to figure that out. Stay tuned.