I thought I’d start to blog about what I learn on my writing journey. Every Friday I will post a topic about an issue I have encountered. As you may know, English is not my first language. Some of the things I have learned may be pretty obvious to you, but some may surprise you, who knows!
Who tells the story?
Today I thought I’d start with the beginning. Logic, it seems, but not always so. I suppose most people start writing by putting their pen to the paper (or fingers on the keyboard) without giving it any further thought. They write and then sit back and look at it (or not). But the first thing that you should be thinking about is ‘who is telling the story?’
Most stories are apparently told in the third person; the all-knowing ghost hanging around in places where things happen and telling the reader what it sees, who does what and how these persons feel. It gives you, the writer, the opportunity to view things from different people’s perspective, which is a great advantage if you want to tell ‘the whole story.’ You can move about, so to speak, from one side to the other side of the planet in a flash, which is great.
When a story is told in the first person, i.e. the reader is inside the main character’s head during the whole story, you are limited in what you can write. You can’t let the reader know what is happening in a location that your main character, the first person, is not. Not even when its just a few meters away, like in another room. This can sometimes be a real burden if you have a story with multiple happenings and persons in different locations at the same time.
What I find attractive about writing in the first person is that you can give the reader a much deeper insight into the thoughts and feelings of that character, so the reader gets to know the reasoning of why this character acts the way they do. Of course, when you are a good writer you can do this in the third person for all your characters, but it takes a lot more effort to get into every character’s head though and so can be more ‘exhausting’ for the writer.
I started writing my competition story, ‘Choices,’ in the third person. When I sat back and looked at it again the next day I realised that what I had written was only what my main character was experiencing. It felt wrong. Probably because I had written two novels in the first person already and am now ‘conditioned’ to it. So I changed it all to the first person and thought it was much better. Let’s hope the judges think so too.
In the end it doesn’t matter which form of writing you choose, as long as you’re comfortable with it and the story ‘flows.’ It does help to figure it out before you set a pen to paper as this saves you a lot of editing afterwards!