My Missing Voice

Who has two thumbs and thought writing a second novel would be a breeze?

bob kelsoHow ya doin?

Everything seemed great. I’d settled on and fallen in love with an idea, I’d roughed out a plot and character journey, I really liked my main character and I knew what world she lived in.

But I got about 2000 words in and faltered. The story wasn’t working, even though in theory it was a solid beginning and a fun introduction to the characters and time frame.

Eventually, after skipping ahead and trying (and failing) to tackle some later scenes, I realised I had the voice all wrong. My characters were great (in my very humble opinion) but the writing wasn’t matching up.

One of the problems I’ve fallen into lately is joining an author’s forum and reading every author’s blog I can get my eyeballs on. Which, for the most part, has been awesome. I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot of insight. The problem is that authors are a very strongly opinionated group – most people with a passion are. And what I’ve found in reading these masses of opinions, is that a lot of very vocal authors hate first person tense, and especially hate first person present. To the point where they said they’d refuse to read a book written in this style.

Now I could, and can, respectfully disagree. And not just because my first novel, The Edge of the Woods, is written in first person present. While I can understand a dislike of it (FPP is much more intimate and immediate, and can allow for a bit too much rambling or angst), I’ve read and enjoyed many books in the same style my entire life. My writing style naturally defaults to present tense thanks to years spent focusing on scriptwriting, and I think the first person point of view can be really effective when we want the reader to see the story unfold at the same time as the protagonist, or when the protagonist has a rich inner dialogue.

However, while I found I could take their opinions on board and not let it make me feel bad about the book I’d already written, I’d let it creep into my brain and stop me from writing where I felt comfortable in the next book.

The current novel I’m working on is a young adult comedy, set in rural Australia in the late 1980’s. I’d already decided to write in the past tense, but unwittingly influenced by these other authors opinions, I decided to challenge myself to write in third person as well. The thing was, my main character is outwardly shy with an active, funny, snarky inner life. Removing the reader from her inner world stunted the narrative. It didn’t work.

But changing it to first, suddenly the story has started to come alive. It’s much more fun, and much easier to write.

My rambling point is not that I intend to be a first person only writer (I have several stories planned in the third, as suits the story and the protagonists character’s), but that authors need to choose the best POV and tense to serve the story and the characters, and that when we come to a roadblock in our writing, don’t throw your hands up and write it off as writers block. Find the reason you’ve stalled and fix it.

And now, I need to figure out how to write a press release.

I’m thinking third person present.

 

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