Someone asked me how my novel was coming. You know, the novel I’ve been working on for like 4 years. The one that I resolve to finish EVERY New Year’s. So I swiftly changed the subject to avoid having to talk about it.
But then I went and checked on it. If word documents could collect dust, this one would be inches deep. So I theoretically blew the dust and cobwebs away, and stared at my novel. It’s finished. I mean… there’s an end, but it’s not finished, you know? I need to read it 400 more times. And change a word here and there. And then pack it away again for another year.
So last time I had worked on it, I changed it from third person to first person, but when I opened up the file this time, I saw that it was third person (apparently, I had abandoned the first person revision about 1/3 of the way through). I know it’s a tough change to make, but I really think it would be better in first person. How do you decide point of view for your story? I know there are books out there on the subject, but they have never been much of a help to me, because for me, it comes down to “feel”. It “feels” better as a first person story.
For example, I HATED that the twilight books were written in first person. It rubbed me the wrong way from the opening lines. I don’t know why, but it really did. But some stories need to be more personal, and I think that’s where first person comes in. How do you decide?
I have written and rewritten and rewritten (and am still rewriting!) this beginning literally tens of times. I switched it to a snappier, more eye-catching first sentence (then back to the normal one); I switched it from third to first person; I started the story by foreshadowing a theme (then deleted all of that); AND I constantly question whether I need to start the story later (like… a month later into the plot). But here’s how it is now, which is remarkably like the FIRST DRAFT I EVER WROTE FOR THIS STORY!
Revisions are frustrating.
What am I doing here?
I check the clock on my computer monitor: 10:16. Too late to still be at work.
I lean back in my ergonomically-approved office chair and rub my eyes, run my hands through my already messy brown hair.
Papers lay like scattered leaves, dead on my desk. The obituary can wait until morning, I tell myself, and I shut down my computer. I stretch, letting the aches of the day fall from my bones, and I half-heartedly straighten my notes.
My cell phone rings, cutting through the wintery stillness in the office building. It’s Jake, my best friend from childhood and old college roommate.
“Dude,” he says. It might as well be my name: Dude. “Where are you? Come to Rusty’s Pipe tonight.”
“Dude, I’m at work,” I say.
There’s a pause. “Gray, for someone who hates his job, you sure do find interesting ways to spend your Friday nights.”
“I don’t –“ I lower my voice, even though I haven’t heard a sound from the surrounding cubicles in hours. “I don’t hate my job.”
oh… I don’t know about the present tense. No! It works! I have to keep the entire story in mind. It works! But I’m deleting the “ergonomically-approved” description. There’s a less boring way to describe the boring.
I just read a really good book that was written by a female, with a main character who is male, written in first-person and present tense. It made me feel better. That story was Split by Swati Avasthi, by the way. Incredibly well-written and well-developed. Characters are multidimensional, multi-layered. Really good story.