Friday, June 13, 2014

Ann Benjamin's Thoughts on Writing in 1st Person vs. 3rd @ABenjaminAuthor #AmWriting #WriteTip

As an author, I’ve written in both first person and third person and I feel (hokey as it may sound) the book and your characters will really help guide your decision.  Also, the genre.  For example, if you choose to write in the Young Adult genre, you will find that many of the recently popular books will be predominantly in first person.  It doesn’t mean you can’t write in third person, but it is what many readers are used to.  Having written my first four books in third person, I deliberately chose first person for my additional young adult endeavors.  They began that way and ended that way.  By reading up on books in your intended genre, or by studying novels by favorite authors, note what choices they have made.  Chances are, the decision was intentional.  For example, take Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games.  Her first person present tense puts the reader right in the middle of all that goes on.  How different would the book be if we didn’t know what was going on in the protagonist’s head?
For my recently published Room 702, I knew the novel was always going to be third person.  There are simply too many characters to go into ‘I.’  I decided to limit the omniscient perspective of the room by limiting the action the reader could ‘see’ by containing each chapter to just the hotel suite.
Another (unpublished) novel of mine began as third person, but after thirty pages, I realized the manuscript didn’t ‘sound’ right and switched over to start writing in first person and the words and ideas simply flowed better.  Of course, that meant some clean up at the beginning of the book, but the change was worth the investment of time.  A sequel to this book also seemed strange to change voices, so I kept it in first person.  In my own writing, I feel flexible to write in the voice and tone that seems best for the book.  Personally, I don’t feel locked into one voice or another.
So, what’s best for you?  I think it’s important to do your research.  What do you, as a reader, respond better to?  What engages you?  I think if you are going to attack the subject of writing a novel, it’s important to yourself and what motivates you.  Additionally, who is your protagonist?  What is he or she like?  Is there a large supporting cast?  Where does the action take place?  Is the focus on the struggle of one person or many?  What does your reader have to gain from staying with one person ‘on screen’ than seeing the vantage point of multiple storylines?
In addition to looking inward, have you engaged externally with a writing community?  While you might not have access to a critique group, how about a book club?  Most readers would be happy to chat about what they enjoy reading and books that haven’t hit the mark with them.  Additionally, there are many different forums online.  With a simple Google search, you should be able to connect with other writers in your genre.  By sharing a simple version of your story, it would be easy to collect tips.
Finally, it doesn’t hurt to go back to basics.  While there are numerous books on the subject of writing (and which voice to write in), I thoroughly enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing as well as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.  Chuck Wendig also has a lot of fantastic stuff to say.
Whatever you decide – best of luck!

One hotel suite. One year. Many stories. The Winchester Hotel is an active property in Beverly Hills, California. Luxurious and discreet, it is a perfect location for business meetings, weddings, affairs, and other important life events – including the death of an A List celebrity. Told from the omniscient perspective of the room, the reader has a front row seat to the drama that unfolds in the suite. Although each chapter is unique, the characters’ lives intertwine in a way only possible in a major metropolis like Los Angeles.
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Genre - Contemporary
Rating – R
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