Rewriting short stories and switching between one point of view and another sometimes feels like interviewing narrators. Most are outsiders, wise and all-knowing like the teacher that read to you at the end of the school day. Some are the characters themselves, blinded by their own emotions and stumbling through a plot they have no clear vision of because they’re the ones driving it. Once in a while you may even open a book to discover you’re the one telling the tale as you read it, asked by an author to become a different person and experience events with all the insight of an amnesia suffer.
It’s hard to know which one to choose because all have their selling points. First person gives the reader an instant connection to the main character, allowing them to see a world through the eyes of someone born into it. But it’s a narrowed view, causing extra work for the writer. On top of everything else, they must communicate extra information in a subtle enough way to ensure the reader understands events even if the protagonist doesn’t.
In third, there’s a lot more room to manoeuvre. Whether omniscient or limited, a distanced narrator can reach out to which ever part of the story they please. The balance between action and introspect can involve several different characters and never break the flow of the story. The downside is dependent on skill level, on ‘show not tell’, on the tiny details that can mean everything later on.
Second is something I’ve tried only once. It’s a daring move, one which doesn’t suit many stories. It’s a perspective a reader isn’t used to and may shy away from. It’s like blindfolding someone and leaving them to walk through a maze with only your words for direction. A friend may well rise to the challenge, but the trust of strangers is hard to earn, and that’s who readers are, at least at the start. It is attention grabbing, however, and done right can earn a place in literary history.
I’ve been experimenting. My novel (soon to be a serial which I’ll host on this blog) has two main characters, but one is caught up in memory while the other works to solve the problems he creates. I found that my usual third person (limited) style simply didn’t suit the former of my main characters, Michael. I was writing about a man lost in a place that was hazy and distant, a victim of constant deja vu with no idea why. But as an outsider, it didn’t flow. I was conveying thoughts with no real connection to the reader, and as the introduction to my novel, (one which has to convince readers to keep coming back every week), begins with Michael I needed that link.
First seems to have given him the voice he needs, though I’ll confess to not reading many books which switch from one narrating style to another. Oh well, nothing like delving into new novels (for science, I mean, research!) at midnight. If you have any recommendations, please feel free.