Finding Your Voice: Writing in First Person, or Third or both
by Henry Mosquera
When I started writing “Sleeper’s Run,” I began doing so in the first person. Certain aspects of the plot aside, I wanted to write a subjective story in the present tense. Why the present tense? Because I wanted to establish a sense of urgency that befitted the relentless pace of the plot, so the reader always feels as if the story is unfolding right in front of their eyes along with the protagonist.
Some people have a problem with first person narrative, preferring the true and tried third person, past-tense approach. I did a few drafts of Sleeper’s in this fashion, and frankly, there was something amiss. The story had lost its humor and its humanity. There is just something about seeing the world through Eric Caine’s unique eyes. One of the great things about novels is a character’s ability for internalization. That inner dialog is one of literature’s greatest assets.
The change in narrative from first to third in my novel was a conscious choice to always give the reader the best point of view of the story. It’s not a new concept, but one that works pretty well in my novel. So much so, most people don’t even notice that it happens. And that’s the real trick. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, so to speak. There is a part of me that’s always trying to push the envelope. I don’t believe there are any more original stories out there, but there are a million ways to tell a story.
Granted, there’s a method to the madness. I stick to certain rules and what I do is always in pro of the plot. That’s a maxim for me, “does it enhance the story?” If the answer is no, then it goes out the window. My main objective is to submerge the reader in the book and never let go until the end. The switch to third person happens a few times to show us what is happening away from Eric Caine. It also shows up at the prologue and epilogue to symbolize something. I’m not about to give it away, but there is a reason for it.
And that’s the main issue, intent. Because I’m an indie author, some people think it’s an accident, lack of knowledge or what have you. I can assure you everything in my work has a reason for its existence. You’d be surprised at the level of consideration that went into each and every aspect of my novel. Do my choices work for everyone? Not likely. But I think it’s worth testing the boundaries. How else can you find your own voice? It is those things that set you apart from the rest that becomes your own signature.
That’s why I’ve never been a big fan of “studying” other writers. Even though my editor asked me to and I begrudgingly relented, I think you will inevitably start copying those writers with whom you feel a kinship. Then you run the risk of becoming a poor man’s so-and-so. If you like how a certain author writes, then go on and read him or her. Don’t settle for a copy. Sure, it could help you become a better writer, but you won’t find your own voice by imitating others.
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Genre – Political Thriller
Rating – R