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Slight dilemma…

I must (scandalously) admit that I haven’t actually properly started re-editing Tacita yet. (I need to be in the right mood, and I’ve been away on holiday, etc etc etc; material for a different post that I won’t be writing.) What I have been doing, though, is thinking about Tacita, and when I think of something that I know I must change, I put it in a document which I have been working on for a while. So far it is five pages long, and the more I add, the more I tell myself to change, the more I run into a slight dilemma.

That is, the question of first or third person. As you may already know, Tacita is written in first person. My reasons for this were that I could get into her head more, and reveal her emotions, thoughts and feelings at each turn, and I think that I was far more comfortable with writing in first person back when I began the novel. I was sort of thinking of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: she narrates the story, and everything is in her perspective. And it works in those books, very well. It used to work well in Tacita too, when it was a simple little story sprung from the mind of a 13-year-old.

But as I think of different things to add, different layers that I want in the novel, Tacita becomes an increasingly more unreliable narrator. For example (and I shall talk vaguely here), there is one character who is originally introduced as the antagonist/villain, but is pretty much a red herring, and it is up to the reader to discover that another character is the real villain. I never explicitly say that this character is the real villain, there is no “big reveal” in which they are like ‘HAHA, IT WAS ME ALL ALONG!’ (they are the villain for way different and more subtle reasons than the red herring ‘villain’ character), but I have found that with Tacita as the narrator, it will be very hard to show this. I could go the cliché route of having her eavesdrop on conversations revealing certain things that will lead the reader to find out that this character is the true enemy, but that is SO overdone, and would make the novel ridiculous.

So what do I do? I could solve this problem if Tacita were in third person: there would be chapters focusing on this character, and through their actions the reader would see that they are truly evil. I could do a lot more if Tacita were in third person, really, but come on. Like, that is a BIG change. As well as all the other stuff I have to improve on, I would have to go through every single page (every single word of approximately 80,000) and change ‘I’ to ‘she’, ‘me’ to ‘her’ and so on. And it wouldn’t be just that. Certain parts which made sense in first person but not in third would have to be changed; scenes would have to be rewritten, or even cut, because they were pretty much Tacita thinking to herself (and were fine in first person), and I would have to add loads of new scenes, most likely new chapters, in which to write about the things I wanted to write about. Changing Tacita from first to third person would be a BIG UNDERTAKING.

But it makes sense. An annoying amount of sense. I would have so much more freedom to develop the novel in third person, and I could still have passages on Tacita’s feelings, thoughts and emotions. She would still be the main character, of course, but I could hop around and have chapters on other characters, in order to develop them more. I feel like one problem with the novel is that Tacita is the only well-rounded character, and all other characters are only as developed as she narrates them– I have PAGES of backstory for everyone, but of course, being the unreliable narrator, it’s not as if she has knowledge of all of this and can add it to her tale at will. Her mind is focused on her goal, and herself, completely and utterly; she has no time for anything else. That means that side plots have to be to do with her, and they seem woefully irrelevant compared to what really consumes her mind (you know, becoming a gladiatrix and whatnot). In third person, though, I can have a secondary plot completely unrelated to her, and it can be interesting and intriguing in its own right, and I can develop it without having to somehow (unrealistically) put her in its vicinity so she can narrate it.

Another reason why I am considering switching to third person is that all my writing in the past year or so has been in the third person. This means that I am a lot more confident in that POV now. Before Tacita, I was more confident in first person, since most of my stories were in this POV. Therefore, it was natural that I would write Tacita in first person. Now that my writing skills are probably better in third person– although I don’t know for sure, I haven’t written in first person in well over a year– I feel that Tacita would be far better if written in it. My problem with third person before was that I did not know how to effectively reveal characters’ emotions without them explicitly narrating it (and not falling into the trap of saying “she felt…”), but with practice I now know how to, and I can actually do it well. If I changed to third person, I would not have to sacrifice any character development with regards to my main character and the long reflections she is prone to go into throughout the novel.

At this point, though, you may be thinking, “what about mixed perspectives? Why not some chapters in Tacita’s POV, and some in third person to reveal these mythical extra layers you have been going on about?” I’ve already thought about this, I assure you. But in my personal opinion (feel free to disagree), I don’t really like that kind of novel structure. From my experience of reading novels written like this, it almost makes the story cheesy, and just generally weird. It sort of ruins the flow a bit, I’ve found, and can be irritating when a plot point/twist has been revealed in the third person part, but the character who is narrating the first person part does not get it for ages. The reader has to deal with pages of the character going “ooh I don’t know, this is such a mystery”, but they know, and have known for a while. I’ve also had a look around the internet, and various writing blogs, and from what I have read there is a general consensus that first and third person POVs in the same novel are hard to pull off, and rarely work. I don’t want my novel to be top-notch, excellent and well-written, but let down by its structure of alternating first and third person chapters. So, for me, this is not an option.

As you can see, I am doubting my novel a LOT, and considering making a MASSIVE change to it. I’m not sure if it will be a change for the better, in the opinion of readers. In my opinion (arguably, the only one that matters here ;D), it would provide so many more opportunities for extra good stuff which would make the novel more well-developed and exciting. But it’s such a job. SUCH a job. My mind is at war right now, so I am asking for your thoughts (which I value very much).

So what do you say, first or third person? (I know you don’t know specifically what good stuff I will add if I go to third person, so may not be inclined to vote for it, but trust me on this, there is a goldmine of good stuff I have planned if I go for it.) You can even tell me your reasons, if you so desire.

In advance, thank you very, very, very much! Of course, when I decide, I will make a post about it. Stay tuned. 😉

Your blogger in distress, Jaz

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One comment on “Slight dilemma…

  1. Jaz, you are quite right that writing in the third person will allow you to create a much more rounded story. All of the other characters can be doing and saying things that are relevant to the plot but UNBEKNOWN to Tacita at that point in time. The gradual awareness as she finds out what’s happening/happened can have a spectacular effect on her reactions and subsequent actions.

    For those, relatively few, sections where you feel that she must speak in the first person, you could have whole chapters given over to her, with such chapter openings as “Tacita’s mind was in turmoil even as she woke. ‘What danger did I open myself up to last night by getting into that argument with the centurian? Did he suspect that I had deliberately provoked him so as to find out his own true allegiance?'”.

    I’m no novelist, as you can see, but I think you can mix first and third persons in a similar fashion..

    Anyway, good luck. I thought that your blog was very well thought out and presented.

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