I would never do that…

1148653_60250400The big trend, especially in YA fiction, is first-person present. I’m resolutely a third-person past kind of writer, although I’m wondering whether a YA novel bouncing around in my head might prefer first-person present. I much prefer my usual, but I’m flexible if the story requires it. Substances demands an appropriate structure (and vice versa). I don’t plan on jumping on any bandwagon, though, and making all my YA that. Trends change. That’s why they’re called trends.

However, I’m beginning to realize one of the biggest reasons I really don’t prefer reading first-person narratives. First-person, by its very nature, puts the reader firmly in the mind of the protagonist. You put yourself in the protagonist’s seat. Presumably, you must identify adequately with that protagonist, but I notice my first-person woes become even more acute when the protagonist is a cipher – an aggressively average, passive character without much personality.

In a first-person narrative, I am much less forgiving of a character’s idiocy than in a third-person narrative.

The biggest issue is that first-person makes me assume the “I” statements thought by the protagonist, but if I’ve already figured something out or if I see that something is a stupid idea, I start yelling at the pages that “I” would never do that.

Whereas in third-person narratives, I’m perfectly willing to accept that a person – not me – could be idiotic about some things. I, the reader, can figure things out and notice patterns and clues, but it’s conceivable a third-person protagonist does not. After all, the author is giving me the clues, not necessarily the protagonist. No one’s perfect, and sometimes a character won’t make the appropriate connections or acts like an idiot … like normal people.

Heck, I’m idiotic about some things. Everyone’s idiotic about some things. As long as no one’s trying to make “me” idiotic about things I’m not idiotic about, I’m okay with it. Hence, why first-person narratives are actually harder than third-person narratives, even though they seem like they should be easier (and also tend to read a bit more juvenile, I’ve noticed).

Now, I’ve read plenty of good first-person fiction. This is not an indictment against all first-person. Just something that I’ve noticed as I’ve been reading lately. I also notice that a first-person narrative told from the point of view of someone who is very different from me or has a strong enough personality, I reach the same level of idiocy-forgiveness as third-person narratives. Don’t jump on the bandwagon unless you can handle the responsibility.

My brain tends to work on a third-person writerly level. I think I’ll keep my authorial distance most of the time, thanks.

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2 Responses to I would never do that…

  1. Nicole Bross says:

    My current WIP is first-person past tense, and I find it overwhelmingly easier than writing in the third person, at least with this story. I’m deep in the head of the main character though. As a reader I agree with you – first-person narratives have to have a strong main character in order for them to be readable, but if done well I find those stories are what I really get immersed into.

    • I’ve been a third-person past writer ever since I started writing seriously. It comes to be much more easily, perhaps because I have more control over it. Whereas in first-person the protagonist takes over, and geez, then anything could happen!

      No, really, I think I just think best when I can be simultaneously immersed *and* detached from my characters. It gives me a much broader scope to work with, and I’ve always liked that.

      But that’s all usually personal preference. 🙂

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