Isn’t it funny how we can go almost our whole lives thinking we dislike something, only to discover we like it quite a lot? For 20 years of my life I thought I didn’t like cheesecake. Then one day I gave it a shot. Guess what? I now sing ballads with my little sis about our love for cheesecake. Give me a slice and you’ll have a very happy Christine.
I tend to do this a lot in life. A few years ago, if you asked me do I like sci-fi, I would have made a face and given you an emphatic, “No.” But now? Sci-fi is cool! Now, I’m still picky with my sci-fi. I’m not a Star Trek sort of gal (sorry, trekkies) but at the mention of Doctor Who I’ll squeal like a 4 year old in the toy aisle of Wal-Mart.
My tastes in things have broaden greatly as I’ve gotten older. Used to my reading material was strictly fantasy, but these days I’ve been apt to pick up some different genres now and again. (You still can’t beat fantasy though.)
Last year I wrote a steampunk, time travel story. The first non-medieval, fantasy story I’ve ever attempted. (With the exception of this modern story about a girl and her horse I wrote when I was 9 but. . .) It’s strange enough for me to veer away from fantasy with reading, but to write something different? Absurd bits of absurdity! And NOW I’m writing a superpower, dystopian, sci-fi novel. Which brings me to my main point. . .
This book I’m writing, Fallen Matter, is set in first person, as I mentioned in this post. I also mentioned in said post how I’ve always detested first person. Detested it! I’m always so disappointed when I find an intriguing book only to discover it’s in first person. I’m not sure what puts me off so with first person. It feels so. . .limited. You can only ever see through the point-of-view (POV) of one character. I’ve always enjoyed multi-POV books, seeing a broader picture. FP feels confined, I didn’t like that. I knew I would never, ever, ever write in FP.
Then Fallen Matter happened. I first got the idea for a prologue for it, and the words kept coming out in first person inside my head. No matter how hard I tried to force it into third person, it just wouldn’t do. It demanded to be FP. So, with a huff of frustration, I resented and started writing.
“Huh, this isn’t so bad.”
The words flowed so freely. I wasn’t confined, I was soaring through the infinite human brain. I didn’t feel limited at all as I began my story. In fact, being able to be right inside the mind of my main character gave me a chance to picture her circumstances exactly as she did, to feel her pain and confusion, and describe it far more accurately than if I was writing in the disconnected way of third person. I was seeing the world through her eyes. I was her.
Intimate. That’s what writing in first person is. There’s an intimacy there that I’ve never experienced with third person. You and your main character are of one mind—feeling, seeing, experiencing all the same things. With my other characters, I feel sorry for them, I cringe when they get hurt, tear up when tragedy strikes them, but it has always been like viewing their adventures through a screen. When I write in FP, it’s as if the adventure is happening to me. All the pain and sorrow strikes me. And as such, my writing has far more feeling behind it I think.
That very thing I vowed to never do, is the very thing that has improved my writing. Isn’t life funny?
Now that I’ve personally experienced writing in FP, felt that deep connection with the character, I’ve discovered FP is actually really nice in all forms. The unthinkable happened the other day. I picked up a book I had bought at a secondhand bookstore and really knew nothing about, cracked open the cover, and glanced at the first page. Then, I saw. This book was in first person. And you know what my first thought was? “Oh, cool. I can’t wait to start reading.” WHAT? Can it be so?! After my thought, I realized what I had done. Normally, I would have groaned in disappointment, but instead I was genuinely excited. It happened. I learned to like FP. Shock of all shocks! Who was this girl enjoying FP?!
I haven’t completely converted though. I do think I still prefer third person a little bit more. You still can have that deep connection with characters. Most books are still written from a specific person’s POV, whether in TP or FP. But there’s just something special about really seeing the world through their eyes. Still though, TP is great, and I think I’ll always love it more. At least for reading, it’s yet to be determined if I find writing in FP more enjoyable. I think a good dose of both is best. But for right now, I’m very, very much enjoying FP.
So take it from me, folks, the girl who has always been far too frightened as well as stubborn to venture out from her handful of interests. Try new things. You might be surprises.
What about you? Do you prefer third person or first person? A little mix of both?
(The post title is kind of the main quote from Fallen Matter because the MC has no memory and can’t figure out who she is. I thought it was fitting.)