If you’re not first, you’re…third?

Sorry for the failed attempt at a clever title. As much as I like ‘Talledega Nights’, trying to borrow whimsy from it is probably an idea that looks better on paper. But that’s what happens when you’re sitting in a waiting room, trying to pass the time. With that said, let’s get down to business.

The word count meter hasn’t moved much on the first story in my new universe. The dreaded false starts abound.

I’m up in the air about the POV I want to use. First person is a lot of fun to write, if you have a great character with a great voice. You get to know them, intimately. It’s a window into who and what they are and how the deal with the events of a story internally.

Third person is the more traditional way to tell a story. You get immersive details that suck the reader in. As an omniscient, you get to see things behind the scenes that characters don’t. You can fear for them, knowing what they will encounter.

I’ve read great stories in both POVs and like them for different reasons.

It’s hard to say which I’ve written more of. I’ve not written too many in first person, but then there’s this blog. Though blog posts aren’t necessarily stories, they’re almost always written in a first person POV.

The dilemma comes from the novel I want to write for this character and this universe. It’s intended to be a sci-fi adventure/thriller, with lots of conflict and a layer of conspiracy. Not a humorous book, in other words.

The main character is a smart ass, for lack of a better word. When I write him in first person, every bit of that comes out. Also, I think I write shorter fiction better in first person. My intention is to introduce this character and universe in a few shorter works that I see as great first-person POV stories. I worry that changing to third-person for the larger novel adventure (which is the only way I see it working) will turn off the audience that liked the short stories.

So can a smart ass character/universe be first established in first person in short fiction, then come out in third first in the large, epic story successfully?

These are the things that keep me up at night. Well, not really, a low-grade insomnia does that.

(Composed on wordpress mobile, please ignoe any typos)

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


About Thomas J. rock

Writer of Science Fiction

Posted on January 25, 2012, in The Daily Grind and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I really enjoyed Mike Shevdon’s Courts of the Feyre series, and that goes from first person to third, though all in novel format. I’m not sure what you mean by starting in short stories. Like Hugh Howey did? I think that is your answer, though I was disappointed about the changing of characters, especially in Shift Omnibus. I like the idea of first person, because I also have had more success displaying voice in first person. I’m learning to do that in third, it’s just been harder to learn how to narrate in that character’s voice. Advice there being, describe as they see it.

  2. I must have sub-conciously omitted some of that post. Did it on my phone in a waiting room. What I meant by “starting in short stories” was I thought about starting this character/universe in a series of shorter length works, some of which would have a some elements that tie in with the big novel adventure. This would help with the worldbuilding and lay a good groundwork for the novel, I think.

    I see the first-person POV working really well for the shorts, but I think the novel, as I envision it right now, may be too big for that. I wouldn’t want my audience to fall in love with the character first-person voice, and then change it up by going to third for his big adventure in the novel.

  3. If you have a really interesting story, I think you can pull off the first and third switch. If you start this out with short stories, do you think that will discourage readers who don’t like short fiction from picking it up? I know you are a self-pubbing champion, but how would this work as far as printing it into Book One? Short stories at the beginning? Would it be that jarring to include first chapters that are spread out across time or whatever you’re imagining in the short stories?

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