Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Limiting Perspectives

Over the last couple of years, I've grown more and more fond of telling stories in a first person limited point of view.  I've done two novels this way - Wrongful Death and Homecoming - and I've enjoyed the way they were written.  A first person perspective allows me to feel as if I'm in the story, so that makes it more fun to do.  However, that doesn't mean that such things are without drawbacks.

First, telling the story from a first person point of view eliminates some of the suspense.  There's never any real danger in the storyteller dying since the only way that could happen is if the story were to suddenly end without resolution, a result that the audience would never tolerate(few writers would tolerate it either - we're as interested in knowing what happens as the reader).  While few main characters may ever be in real danger, writing from something like third person omniscient at least keeps the possibility open, thus keep people wondering.

First person also limits the feel of the story.  Yes, it can put the reader in the character's shoes, but it keeps them from trying on anyone else's shoes.  You get to see how the storyteller affects others, but not that effect from the other person's point of view.  It's one thing for my main character to break up with the love of his life and watch her skulk away; it's quite another to see the breakup from her perspective and really feel the agony in her heart.

It also limits foreshadowing.  Sharing salacious info helps set the mood, but a first person perspective means I can only tell you what the main character sees.  The questions about what is happening are limited to how the storyteller perceives them, but with a broader perspective, I can move outside that box.

These things are what have kept me from doing more first person stories.  As the writer, I might know where the story is headed, but I sometimes want to take the audience along, and sharing certain insights feels almost like a dirty secret between the reader and I.  With first person, only I get to know that secret until the main character discovers it.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm sure I'll do more first person stories, but I'm beginning to become more selective in when.  Such things need to really take the story from ho-hum to OH MY GOD.  Otherwise, it's nothing but pretension, and we writers have enough of that as it is.

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