First Person vs Third Person- A few notes to myself

I admit, I’m behind on my 90 Days to Your Novel by about a week. Here’s why: I had over 14,000 words when I started 90 Days, all of it in First Person. I love First Person- it makes me feel connected to the narrator and allows his voice to really come through. But now that I’m filling in bits and pieces of my outline and discovering new things about my characters, I’ve realized that a fairly large portion of the book will take place outside of the view of my narrator. At first I hoped I could accommodate that with clever “here’s what happened after I left” dialogue between the narrator and his love interest, the female protagonist, but now I realize there are certain things that she simply wouldn’t tell him. Those details are somewhat important to the story as they offer a glimpse into the antagonist’s psyche as well as his motivations, which otherwise wouldn’t be apparent.

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing scenes both ways to see how they work and I’ll admit to being completely undecided.

So…. my choices are, 1) Keep it in First Person, keep my narrator in the dark, and then use my antagonist to spill the beans about the protagonist’s activities to the narrator at a later time. (That would be just like him to rat her out and cause mischief, but this option is at the expense of depriving the reader of a behind-the-scenes look into the antagonist and his inner workings), or 2) Re-write the whole thing in Omniscient Third Person and let the reader experience events as they unfold, learn about the antagonist, and understand his struggles which wouldn’t be as obvious if they were seen through the eyes of the narrator.

In my mind, it boils down to this. In option 1, the book is about two characters, the narrator and the protagonist, and they are driven apart by an antagonist who is painted in a fairly bad light because his actions are interpreted through the narrator who hates him. In option 2, the book is equally about three very different characters, all of whom have their own struggles to overcome with conflicting motivations. I’m more comfortable with option 1 since that’s the path I’ve been on for months, but I can see the merit behind option 2. What to do… what to do…


What have you Dune to me, Frank Herbert?

I decided to take up Audible on their 30-day trial the other day and chose, as my inaugural audio-book, Dune by Frank Herbert. I’m ashamed to say I never read it, despite being a self-professed science fiction freak. I know, I know, how could I not have read Dune, one of the greatest sci-fi book to ever grace the shelves of nerds and geeks alike? It just never happened but no time like the present, right? It also didn’t hurt that Dune was one of the more expensive books available on Audible and I wanted to make sure I was getting the most for my free book credit during my free trial (which, since it was free, meant I hadn’t actually paid anything). But mainly I chose Dune because I’d heard the book was fantastic.

Welllll, fantastic doesn’t do it justice. I just started Book II and am absolutely in awe of Herbert’s writing. It’s incredibly detailed, beautifully written, and wonderfully paced… a real page-turner. (Wait, what would be the audio-book version of ‘It’s a real page-turner’? Hmmm…. But I digress…)

Herbert’s writing was so fantastic it brought tears to my eyes.  Seriously, I started crying. Not because it was so good, but because my own writing was so bad by comparison. As I listened to his words all I could think about was how perfect his metaphors were, and how crude my own seemed. I began to hate Herbert and his stupid Dune for showing my writing for the hideous monster that it was.

And then I did a little research on this Herbert fellow and found out that he had a hard time getting his book published. In fact, he got rejected. Frequently. When he finally found a publisher, it was Chilton. As in the Chilton that specializes in automotive maintenance manuals.

The first edition of Dune was published by the same company that puts out car manuals. For some reason that made me feel better. I know it’s counter-intuitive; the logical conclusion should be: Oh my God, if the incredibly-written Dune got rejected nearly twenty times, what hope does my little novel ever have of being published? But I don’t see it that way. In my opinion, the real take-home message is Don’t ever give up. You KNOW Chilton had to be low on his list of potential book publishers; they print car part manuals for goodness sake. But Herbert didn’t give up when he got to their name on the list. He sent his manuscript off anyway, automotive manuals and target audiences be damned. And the effort paid off.

So thank you Frank Herbert for not giving up. Your words are brilliant and I stand humbled and inspired by them. I admit that next to your books I feel like a child coloring in a paint-by-number while a Monet or Picasso hangs over my head. But I suspect your first draft wasn’t much prettier in the very beginning. You stuck it out, polished it up, didn’t take no for an answer, and now I have Dune on my iPhone whispering in my ear as I do laundry. Thank you, Frank Herbert, for showing me how it’s done.