Thursday, September 15, 2016

Three Starts

I'm writing something new, something I hope will launch a series. I've spent a lot of time pre-writing. I have an outline I like (you know me and outlines: it's a starting point and a safety net). I have characters I would enjoy growing over years, a husband-wife team.

What I'm toying with is the point of view, usually something I never second-guess. I've written a present-tense, first-person opening, and I've written a third-person, multiple-POV opening — each running close to 40 pages — and now I want to try a first-person, past-tense voice.

I grew up reading Robert B. Parker, Ross Macdonald, John D. MacDonald, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, and others writing in that vein. As a reader, I enjoy the walk-behind-the-character-and-view-the-world-through-the-speaker's-eyes vantagepoint. It offers an intimate relationship with the speaker and just maybe with the writer. I'm reading Philip Roth's Exit Ghost right now and pause every few pages to reread a passage. The plot isn't pulling me along; however, the narrator's voice and Roth's turn-of-phrase is providing any and all narrative tension.

Also, it's difficult to separate plot from character when we're dealing with first-person protagonists. The plot is limited by the knowledge and capabilities of your speaker, and when you feature the first-person voice, you must allow readers an in-depth knowledge of your character's limitations; you must play fair with readers, far more so than when writing in the third-person voice.

You've got to show your hand often. I enjoy this type of writing — exploring the depths (and shallows) of my characters. I like that it's akin to acting — stepping into voice and playing the part for a few hours a day. Third-person doesn't provide me the same type of experience.

So I have two partials sitting on my desk and will write the same book from a third vantage point now, the first-person past-tense. It's all a unique and fresh writing experience.

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